ACCORDING to statistics, around 350,000 people pass through the Central City of Cape Town daily, and the numbers are growing.
Meeting the gastronomic needs of this workforce are the more than 230 eateries located throughout the CBD. Whether these are the coffee shops that provide meeting venues and casual office space for entrepreneurs or the food trucks, such as Limoncello, catering for the creative sector, or indeed even the more traditional establishments that are frequented daily during lunch time or after hours, the Central City’s eateries are a vital component of the CBD’s labour economy. In turn, their diversity is fast putting this area on an international gastronomic map.
”Thriving world-class cities, whether these are London, Sao Paulo, Tokyo or Sydney, attract eateries of all kinds, which recognise the business opportunity that a diverse workforce represents and, quite simply, supply the demand” says Rob Kane, Chairperson of Cape Town’s Central City Improvement District (CCID.)
Kane makes an example of Manhattan’s financial district in New York City. “The food and beverage sector in the Big Apple has adapted to and caters for its vibrant work force - from high-end restaurants where business transactions take place over lunch instead of in the boardroom to takeaways from Battery Place Market or quick stand-up-and-eat meals from a multitude of sidewalk food trucks that provide tasty, fast street food.”
Dining opportunities in Cape Town’s Central City are not that far off. The booming financial and legal district in the Foreshore, soon to be home to the new Portside and 22 Bree office complexes, offers a prime opportunity to food retailers to cater for this area’s growing workforce. “Internationally renowned fast-food outlet Burger King recognised this opportunity and is now, of course, reaping the rewards of its investment in a strategic location as evidenced by the daily queues outside its doors,” says Kane.
On the other side of the CBD in the heart of the Central City, is pedestrianised St George’s Mall, where the upping of culinary offerings in recent years has helped increase footfall in the area and rejuvenate it. “The beauty of St George’s Mall is that it caters for all Central City pockets from the restaurants outside hotels such as Mandela Rhodes Place and the Taj, to the perennial family favourite Wimpy and now also the much-loved Thursday Earth Fair Market, which is like the CBD’s very own London Borough Market,” says Kane.
Adding to the mix along this mall, is the popular Food Lover’s Market in Newspaper House, which opened last year, greatly increasing the options that workers can choose from along the brick-paved strip.
More and more coffee shops are also opening their doors in the CBD, catering to the rise of a dedicated coffee culture that, in turn, also caters to the new working culture of small businesses.
Rojeanne Koen, co-owner of Bean There Coffee Company says: “We’re noticing an increase in mobile workers and entrepreneurs making use of our roastery for meetings and free Wifi. Our location on busy Wale Street offers easy access to a relaxed environment, and of course amazing coffee.”
More and more restaurants, bars and pubs are also offering “happy hour” specials between 17h00 – 19h00 during the week, specifically to cater for a workforce wanting to wind down after a busy day at the office. “It’s no longer just to Long Street that people head in the evening, but to Loop and Bree Streets too,” says Kane.
In fact, an addition to Loop Street’s nightlife will be Madame Zingara’s latest masterpiece, “Shake your Honey Mumbai”, located at the site of the original Madame Zingara (corner Loop and Orphan Streets.) The proposed five-storey, multi-faceted themed entertainment and dining experience will aim to capture the spirit of India in a restaurant, theatre, authentic markets and retail space due for completion in time for World Design Capital 2014.
Following a world-wide movement to healthy alternatives, eateries in this theme are also on the rise. Orchard on Long, an organic and raw food juice bar on Long Street, recently opened its doors and is already doing well with both the 9-to-5 and early evening crowd.
Owner of Orchard on Long, Tim Spence, says, “Raw food is a huge movement sweeping across America and it’s picking up momentum in Cape Town too. Since opening, we have had a steady flow of customers, ranging from business owners, lawyers and advocates to tourists who love the healthy alternative.”
But perhaps the most unusual eatery in Central Cape Town currently could be the tiny Heritage Square venue, I Love My Laundry, which is exactly what it says it is – a laundry and dry cleaning business, but one with a twist that serves its customers Brazilian coffee, delectable sweets, wonderful Cape wines and some of the best dim sums in town.
“I am not surprised to see so many different eateries opening shop in the CBD. As the business district expands so does the demand for food to suit all palates. We may not yet be in the league of a place like Manhattan where one could eat at a new restaurant every day for a year and never go to the same place twice, but watch this space as the Central City plays serious catch up!” says Kane.