With the sea in one direction and South Africa's wine country in another, Cape Town is well worth a visit, says ANTHONY ROSE.

Lilac mountains, turquoise sea, azure skies and sandy beaches: with its spectacular backdrop, Cape Town’s buzzing metropolis is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines within easy reach of the winelands. Since the Dutch East India Company founded Cape Town in 1588, this ocean city has been an integral part of the spice route. Today the Cape blends the culinary traditions of spicy Cape Malay cuisine with an international style of cooking, using a unique stock of fresh local fish, fruit, vegetables and game.

There’s never enough time to do what you want to in Cape Town. You can visit Robben Island, ride to the top of Table Mountain by cable car, take in nature reserves and, of course, the vibrant, teeming townships – and you’ll still need time to visit the museums and to shop in the many local markets and at the picturesque Waterfront. Other activities to plan in include swimming at Muizenberg, walking at Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno, and watching penguins at the Boulders. The wine estates of Constantia are just 15 convenient minutes from the city centre, while whitewashed Stellenbosch, francocentric Franschhoek and Hermanus are also within easy reach.

Eating Out

Not least because of the weak rand, which allows you to dine like royalty, eating out is a huge treat in Cape Town, thanks to the diversity of cuisines and the plethora of local wines. The Cape Malay culinary tradition is the basis for the spicy mix of Indian and Indonesian food. Classic dishes are the bredie, a spicy stew of lamb or vegetables, and bobotie, an equally spicy minced lamb, onion and raisin mixture with egg. Among leading exponents of the traditional Cape Malay style are Die Waterblommetjie, which offers the likes of terrine of fish masala, or Marco’s African Place which delivers delicacies like ulwimi (ox tongue) and crocodile tail. As a contrast Graeme Shapiro’s The Restaurant in Cape Town offers delicious sophisticated modern South African cooking. In the winelands, Le Quartier Français in Franschoek, 96 Winery Road between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, and Tokara, run by masterchef Etienne Bonthuys, shouldn’t be missed. For excellent informal value, try Steffanies Place at Somerset West, and Die Akker, the bar to see and be seen at.

Die Waterblommetjie, Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town. Tel: +27 21 461 4895
Marco’s African Place, Rosaly Street, Cape Town. Tel: +27 21 423 5412
The Restaurant, Greenpoint, Cape Town. Tel: +27 21 419 2921
Le Quartier Français, Franschhoek. Tel: +27 21 876 2151
96 Winery Road,Near Stellenbosch. Tel: +27 21 842 2020
Tokara, Stellenbosch. Tel: +27 21 808 5959
Steffanies Place, Somerset West. Tel: +27 21 852 7584
Die Akker, Greenpoint. Tel: +27 21 419 0249 or 21 8833 814

Wine Tours

There are many well set-up cellars with wine shops and tasting facilities to visit in the Cape winelands. In most cases, it’s best to ring first to see whether an appointment is necessary. Either hire a car and organise your own trip or go with a specialist wine tourist oufit. Some, such as Vineyard Ventures, specialise in tailor-made, individual wine trips.

Ditours (Diana Schmid),Tel: +27 21 552 6258 ditour@hotmail.com
Vineyard Ventures (Glen Christie),Tel: +27 82 893 5387 vinven@iafrica.com.
Capevine (Annette Stals),Tel: +27 21 913 4580 capevine@iafrica.com

Buying wine

The most well-known, must-see shop is Vaughan Johnson’s wine emporium at the Waterfront. The Vineyard Connection on the R44 opposite Kanonkop is also good.

Vaughan Johnson’s Wine Shop, The Waterfront. Tel: +27 21 419 2121
The Vineyard Connection, Tel: +27 21 884 4360; info@vineyardconnection.co.zas

Places to stay

Places to stay in and around Cape Town range from comfortable, excellent value hotels such as the Protea Victoria Junction Hotel to the luxurious five-star Cape Grace on the waterfront. Just a stone’s throw from the centre, there is a combination of Old World charm with New World food and service evident at the plush Constantia Uitsig Country Lodge. In the winelands, there is a profusion of places to stay, such as L’Avenir Guest House which enjoys a relaxed, pool-side setting.

Protea Victoria Junction Hotel,Greenpoint. Tel: +27 21 418 1234
proteavictoriajunction@travel-2-africa.comCape Grace Hotel, Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel: +27 21 410 7100
Constantia Uitsig Country Lodge,Constantia. Tel: +27 21 794 1810 info@steenbrg.co.za
L’Avenir Guest House, Stellenbosch. Tel: +27 21 889 5001 lavenir@adept.co.za