Cape Town vs London

Ok, so I’m back from holiday and I have a backlog of things I want to post. Seeing as I have just spent 3 weeks in London, I thought I would post some thoughts on restaurants and food in London compared to Cape Town.

I ate at a variety of restaurants from McDonalds (embarrassingly) to an upmarket steak restaurant. I did not eat at any very fancy restaurants as they were way out of my budget. Talking about budgets, food was very expensive over there. Even when you account for differences in salaries etc, food was more expensive both in stores and at restaurants. This was borne out by the fact that for the average person in the UK, eating out is considered a luxury rather than a lifestyle.

Fast food is as popular as it is here. In fact I heard that Nando’s is currently the most popular fast food franchise in the UK. Pubs and ‘Gastro Pubs’ are still a very popular option for a meal out as the prices are (comparatively) reasonable. Gastro pubs are basically pubs which serve more interesting, higher quality food than a traditional pub would.

Because London is so cosmopolitan, there are a large number of foreign eateries which are very well supported. If you’re looking for Indian, Italian, Chinese, Turkish, Spanish or any other kind of food, you will find a place that serves it. These will vary in quality and price. I enjoy spanish cuisine and sampled several spanish restaurants, some were great (but expensive) and others not so great.

All in all, I would say that the quality of food produced here in Cape Town is of a very high standard compared to London. These standards are matched in London and perhaps even exceeded in some cases, however you will pay an enormous price premium at those restaurants. They are not accessible to the average person. The average meal in an average restaurant is not fantastic.

We are very fortunate that in Cape Town we can enjoy top quality food at accessible prices in wonderful locations. We should remember and appreciate that.


9 responses to “Cape Town vs London”

  1. So right you are Dax, we almost over-deliver in the sense that visitors are blown away by the quality but because they pay so little I am not sure they put it in the same category. You did not mention what the service quality was in London?

  2. I didn’t say anything about the service because there wasn’t any!

    Most places expected you to place your order at the bar. I did have very good service from the waiter at the most expensive restaurant I went to, but the waiter was from South Africa!

    Another place I went to it was the waitresses’ first night, so can’t judge that. The remainder of my experiences were not very impressive, not any better than here, that’s for sure.

  3. Scissors

    How right you are! We spent 2 years in the UK on a working holiday visa and returned at the beginning of 2007. I think we ate out about once a month if lucky, including breakfast and we weren’t earning that bad salaries. On the positive, the experience turned me into a pretty good self-taught chef. Oh the joys and luxuries we take for granted in SA. Sadly, I think after having been back in SA for almost a year now we might have started taking for granted again the lifestyle we are able to lead here- but your article reminded me of how lucky we are.

  4. We have a guest house and without fail the foreign visitors and in particular the English rave about the standard of food, saying that that quality is only found in very expensive restaurants back home and of course as they are getting R15.00 to their pound our prices are as attractive as the food. They also find the standard of bed and breakfasts in S.A. are generally far superior to the English B&B’s.

  5. welcome back, dax! interesting to hear about your views on london vs cape town. i spent a good few months in and around london last year (in between backpacking). the fact that i was staying with family made it manageable – because my god is it pricey. i ate out well (the standard was very high), but was generally not the one paying, so didn’t feel the bite of it. you can find some pretty good lunch specials about – but dinner meals were generally way out of my league (picnicking in the park was a good substitute!).

    i hear you on the service thing… but i guess if i had to live in grey grey and more grey 25/7, i’d be grumpy too 😉

    luckily, we have plenty of fabulous (sometimes reasonably priced) restaurants right here – and our waiters, on the whole, tend to have something resembling a sense of humour!

    good to have you back on the wires.

  6. angelique

    mmm, might be more interesting to compare cape town to paris, or milan or buenos aires or barcelona. the english will eat an old shoe if it’s been fried. it’s not like food is an important part of their culture …

    it would be a sad day for us if you found better food in an average london restaurant than in an average cape town restaurant.

  7. Comparing culinary CT to major cities around the world would indeed be interesting. If anyone is prepared to sponsor me, I’d be more than happy to do the research 😉

    I love spanish food and enjoyed eating in Barcelona. What I like is that even basic inexpensive foods are tasty and interesting. Basic things like tortilla, croquettas, jamon, chorizo, etc. which people eat every day are wonderfully tasty and homely. Barcelona is also home to El Bulli, voted top restaurant of the year, several years running. So, while I haven’t experienced the fancier side of spanish cuisine, I assume it is up to scratch.

    When I was in Paris, I was on a shoe string budget (a lot of Rands = very few Euros) and prepared a lot of my own meals where I was staying. I did enjoy the traditional croissant & coffee breakfasts and the baguettes with cheese, etc for lunch. French cuisine has earned it’s place in the culinary world so I’m sure there are plenty of fantastic restaurants to choose from.

    I haven’t been to Milan, but did spend some time in Rome. I found out that I’m not a big fan of gnocci and that pizza in Italy is not as good as it is here. But proper Italian meals, consisting of several courses, are a treat. Freshly made pastas with flavourful sauces, buffalo mozzarella in salads, roasted meats, etc. Wonderful stuff.

    As you can see, there is space for a lot more research. Sponsorship anyone?

  8. dax…this is but obvious – what with the earning levels of those who live and work in london…and the SA rand is worth &^%$! it is going to be more expensive…but i think the quality is just as good…if not better 😉 You dont have as many snotty grotty cholera infested hands coming into contact with your food in the kitchens…not to say you dont find your dodgy restaurants…but generally, i think the standard is high…for those who can afford it… 😉

  9. Dax, not that I’m an expert by any means, but I think as far as food in Italy is concerned, Rome might just be the most disappointing of the lot. If you want to taste the BEST pizza ever, then it’s Naples or anywhere along the Amalfi Coast. Trust me. Now if someone would just sponsor you then you could test this for yourself 🙂