Buena Vista Social Cafe review

I’m surprised I haven’t done a review of Buena Vista yet, it’s definitely a favourite. Buena Vista is one of those places that you can rely on when you are looking for a bit of a vibe on a quiet night. They have a live jazz band on Monday nights which makes for a great vibe on an otherwise usually quiet night. Sunday nights they have salsa dancing, so that’s also quite festive. However, most nights are quite festive at Buena Vista.

The decor certainly contributes to the ambiance. The eclectic, mismatched, well-worn furniture combines with the abundance of Cuban pictures and prints to create an atmosphere which transports you to another time and place. Seal the effect with a top notch Mojito from the bar. Talking about the bar, Buena Vista is as much a bar as it is a restaurant. Many people frequent the place just to soak up the vibe while they soak up some alcohol.

Others, like me, enjoy the tasty menu as well. They have a selection of tapas which can be had as starters or they make a great main if you combine a couple of them. My favourites are the Chorizo (R29) which is served in a very tasty sauce, chicken cubes (R28) also a great sauce and chilli poppers (R28). The few times I have had the calamari it has been terrible so maybe don’t have that. I must warn you that the tapas are quite large, if you were to order 1 tapa with some ciabatta (R5.50), it would be enough for most people and 2 tapas with bread would be a full meal.

The mains are very nice too. Lately I have been having the Burrito (R37) but I have heard the Lamb Al Ron (R65) is awesome. However, if you are a Nachos fan and you haven’t had nachos at Buena Vista, you should be embarrassed.  They are without a doubt the best in Cape Town. You can have them plain, with chicken or beef mince or lamb and feta! A half-portion is enough for 2 people (I kid you not) and at R39 it’s great value.

They also have some salads and desserts but I have never tried them. The wine list is small but effective. There are probably about 20 whites and 20 reds to choose from and the prices are reasonable. A Beyerskloof Pinotage is about R70 and Hartenberg Cab/Shiraz blend about R80. Not many are over R100.

As one would expect, there are cigars on offer as well as a large selection of whiskies, etc. To sum it up, you can’t go wrong with an evening at the Buena Vista Social Cafe. The unique atmosphere, vibey ambiance and tasty food all add up to a tip top evening.


  1. Dax May 1, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I had some nachos at Buena Vista last night and noticed some changes. Firstly the prices have gone up slightly, the tapas have moved from R29 to R32. The nachos were R39 for a half portion but are now R42.

    We were there on a Wednesday night and they had a live band. Not sure which evenings they have the band on now. They were not great, but live music always creates an atmosphere. Also it’s useful if you are with someone you don’t want to talk to as the music is so loud you can’t hear anyway.

    Lastly, I wasn’t excited about the quality of the Mojitos this time. Hope it’s a once off thing.

  2. Dax February 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I ate here again last night and have to say that as the prices creep up, the quality of the food is creeping down.

    I had the chicken burrito (R42) and it was really not great. It was cold, and it had so much garlic that I couldn’t taste much else. I requested some sauces and drowned it in peri-peri so I could eat the rest. Others who ordered the burrito complained of the same things.

    The chilli poppers and the nachos were still good. But the chicken skewer in sauce tapa was horrid. I don’t know what is in that sauce but it’s so rich as to be inedible.

    I like the vibe at Buena Vista, but you have to be careful what you order otherwise the food will ruin the experience.