On the road in…South Africa (again)!

I love Cape Town.

I’d just leave it at that, but I’m sure you want details!

I was in Cape Town for a conference and some meetings. After the trouble I had with the food in Zambia, I had been looking forward to my time in South Africa. From a couple of previous trips to the country, I knew that finding vegan food wasn’t impossible. Sometimes it meant hunting around a bit, but I had never had too much trouble finding something to eat. This trip was no exception.

Breakfasts were great. Cape Town is relatively big on fruit, so there was always fruit salad at the breakfast buffet. And soy milk if you asked nicely! Another awesome thing about South Africa in general is that they sell dried fruit everywhere. So there was also always dried apricot, peach, apple and prunes at breakfast as well. Gluten free bread was also available. It was nice to have options!

For lunch, I had the combination of dining out and eating at the conference. With regards to eating out, I had no problems. Pretty much everywhere has vegetarian things on the menu (yes, plural!) that can be modified to vegan. I mostly ate lunch down at the waterfront, because it was close to the convention centre where the conference was being held. As I was dining with non-veg colleagues, we mostly went to seafood places (being Cape Town), and some African restaurants. All understood what vegan meant without me having to explain, so I think it may be becoming a more common dietary choice in South Africa.

A meal I ordered for lunch at a South African cuisine restaurant called Karibu: roast sweet potato with sweet onion sauce, with a side of putu and chakalaka. Awesome!

With regards to the conference catering, I had informed the conference organisers of my dietary requirements in advance and they had informed the catering people…Or so they said. Got to the catering room at the conference and asked where the special catering table was, and they had no idea what I even meant. So I asked what on the tables was vegan. Nobody had a clue what vegan meant. I asked to speak to the chef, who eventually came out. He knew what vegan meant, but they had nothing. Not even fruit. As I’d figured this might happen, I had a stash of fruit and nuts in my bag. Not the point though. The organisers had confirmed that there would be vegan catering. Same thing happened every day, despite them saying they’d make sure I had something to eat the following day. Given the amount paid for the conference registration, I was massively unimpressed. I had no problem finding vegan food anywhere else on no notice, yet I couldn’t get any when they had over a month’s notice? I call shenanigans.

For dinner, that was mostly with colleagues. We pretty much stuck to places near our hotel, because at the end of the day we were too tired to wander too far. Wasn’t a problem for me though. One night we even went for Italian because someone wanted pizza, and I still managed to find something on the menu that I could modify. And Italian is notorious for being non-vegan or full of gluten. However, I did ultimately find an awesome African restaurant on Long Street called Timbuktu. Well, restaurant might be stretching it. Small balcony cafe is probably more accurate. But at any rate, about half the menu was vegetarian, and all of the vegetarian options could be made vegan! The cuisine was more northern African in style. A few Ethiopian dishes too. Ended up eating there a few times, because the food was amazing, and it was relatively cheap. Seriously, it looks a bit questionable from the outside, but looks are deceiving in this case. The vegan food really is excellent. Highly recommend eating there at least once, even if you aren’t veg*n. My colleagues who are all very much meat eaters even got the vegetarian food there (they do have meat on the menu too), and said they enjoyed it. Also went out for Thai food and various other cuisines. But the African place kind of won out for me. It’s rare to find a restaurant that has anything explicitly gluten free and vegan on the menu, let alone somewhere with options!

A dinner at Timbuktu: Injera (the pancake looking stuff), veggies, salad, split pea curry, lentils, something with beetroot, and some vegetable/cabbage stew.
A “surprise me” dinner – the restaurant had nothing vegan on the menu, so the chef said if I was prepared to be surprised, she’d throw something together for me…The result was salad, fried potato and a tomato and coconut milk vegetable curry! Pretty decent given no notice!

As an aside, there are plenty of supermarkets and small convenience stores around. Everywhere sells dried fruit and nuts – and Coke Zero. However all the supermarkets I went to also sold a good variety of fresh fruit, gluten free snack food, dairy free sweets, etc. I kept some snack food on me all the time just in case, since conference caterers are notorious for messing up. And I stocked up for the flights home. Lest Emirates one again think that full cream yogurt and a croissant are suitable breakfast options for a VGML…

At the end of the day, I got on the plane with a happy belly! Didn’t make up for the mess in Zambia, but it helped! Was still glad to be going home though. I wanted my own bed, to be able to go for a run, normal food, decent internet…

The things I do when I get a day off! Great white shark diving just off Gansbaai, about 2 hours drive outside of Cape Town.


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