Vegan Wanderlust in South Africa

Searching the world high and low, near and far, consumed with vegan wanderlust, a vegan vagabond. I think that makes me a vegabond.

Some may say it’s difficult to be vegan in South Africa, and on one hand some may be correct. This is a culture that seems to relish dead animals cooking on a braii as much as they enjoy watching the live ones roaming freely in the bushveld. And while vegan restaurant fare in the Kruger area of SA was not in great abundance, finding and cooking came with ease. Especially for me, the eater. Add to it, we found vegan options at three out of three rest camp restaurants we visited in Kruger proper. Two of these restaurants had delectable grilled soy wraps.

Putting restaurant food aside, our travel budget demands home cookin’. Enter my fabulous husband, cook extraordinare, who kept us well fed on his world-famous beans and rice. For nearly 60 straight days we ate beans and rice with assorted veggies and a periodic veggie sandwich thrown in for good measure. The colorful veggies we found in the northern part of SA were a bit on the dull side, yet beautiful starchy or root veggies like potatoes, onions, carrots and squash were bountiful and dee-lish.

And then came Cape Town where my world blossomed with culinary goodness. The eatery that stole my stomach and put my salivary glands in hyper drive was Plant Cafe, located at 142 Buitengracht Service Street in the Bo-Kaap. More on all that in a moment. First, my reviews on the eating establishments in the other areas of South Africa we visited:

Oh, and to spice things up a bit, I’m adding Haiku reviews. Gotta have my haiku.

Coastal Route from Cape Town to Addo National Park

I’ll begin with our 9-day journey that spanned from Cape Town through the Garden Route to Addo National Park and back. Good luck finding vegan restaurants outside of the cities. Many restaurants along the coast are seafood-centric and the places inland are meat all day every day. But not to worry. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options in the nonveg eateries. Add to it, the South African people are so incredibly accommodating. Folks in restaurants will help create a meal that meets your desires.

Betty’s Bay

The Whaling Station
Yes, we ate at a restaurant called The Whaling Station. With only three eatery options in Betty’s Bay, including one that was built to look like a castle, we drove by the Whaling Station and saw the word “Greek”. To me, Greek = Falafel = Love. The owner, Maria, from Greece, was a hon. It was one of the best falafel sandwiches I’ve had since King Falafel in Paris – not quite up to par with Roxy’s in Encinitas, California. We continue our search for a falafel that meets Roxy’s standards.

Haiku Review

Falafel and chips!
At the Whaling Station, wha?
Ignore name, enjoy

Vegan Betty's Bay
Betty’s Bay
Nice view of Betty’s Bay from the outdoor picnic tables.
Falafel Betty's Bay
Falafel with homemade tahini –  YUM

Dana Bay

Our lodging at the Dana Bay Guesthouse wasn’t conducive to cooking our own meals, so we headed out to Mossel Bay in search of dinner with the guidance and suggestions of our lovely hosts, Ronell and Quinton. As per their suggestions, we checked out the Below the Lighthouse Restaurant in the Point Hotel. From what we heard, the owners are Indian. In our books, you can’t go wrong with Indian. There are always vegetarian/vegan options, and we have an affinity for the spices of Indian cooking. We had salads – they were good. My Rice Biryani was just okay. Too oily and not enough character. I coveted Scott’s curry, because it was much more flavorful than my meal. If you can sit outside, the view helps to make up for any flaws in the meal. And the price is reasonable – 210 Rand for two meals and drinks. Keep in mind, this is not a vegetarian restaurant. I think they’re a seafood restaurant, but it’s hard to tell given a wide selection of entrees.

Below the Lighthouse Restaurant
View from outside deck.
Restaurant Below the Lighthouse Curry
Restaurant Below the Lighthouse -Curry and Papadum. Papadum? PapaYUM.

Haiku Review: Below the Lighthouse Restaurant

Checkout the views here
Enjoy a cold beverage
For veg, eat elsewhere

Plettenberg Bay

In Plett (this what the locals call it) we stayed at the lovely Milkwood Manor on Sea. Again, no cooking facilities, so we were at the mercy of peanut butter sandwiches or local establishments. The Lemon Grass Restaurant was a pleasant surprise. Located in the Milkwood Manor, this Thai restaurant in a most gorgeous hotel on the stunning bay, made my day. I had a simple curry with veggies (cauliflower, potatoes, etc). I savored every single bite of that meal and was sad to see it end.

Haiku Review: Lemon Grass Restaurant

I’d eat here again
Good service and great curry
Lemon Grass delights

Addo National Park

Hazel’s Organic Kitchen

Hazel’s was recommended to us and when we stopped by to check out the place, it was closed. Supposedly they grow their own organic vegetables and the restaurant has vegan options. And from what I read, they run a donkey sanctuary, a retirement home for donkeys who have had a hard and oppressive working life. I suggest, if you’re in the area, check them out and support their valiant causes. Then, please, write back and let the rest of us know what you think of their food.

Lenmore Shop and Restaurant

Lenmore has a deli, bakery, restaurant and market. There are very few vegan options. We were here because Hazel’s was closed. They had some nice-looking veggies, and that’s what we picked up.

Haiku review of my hubby’s wild rice and veggie stir fry

Veggies, rice, cashews
My hubby rocks the stir fry
Colorful goodness

Lenmore Shop and Restaurant vegan
Green, white, red. It looks more like the Mexican flag than dinner. Great taste, filling and dee-lish.
Who needs Hazel? I have Sergeant Pepper who makes a rockin’ stir fry.

Zucchini’s at Timberlake Organic Village near Wilderness

There’s a sitting area at Zucchini’s. It’s like a comfy living room with a coffee table covered in magazines and overstuffed chairs. Only the chairs are covered in animal skins, which is a bummer to me when looking for a restaurant with good vegan or vegetarian food. That’s kind of a red flag in the vegan world – a restaurant that boasts vegetarian but that also decorates with animal carcasses. Putting that aside (with difficulty), the folks who work here are sweet and accommodating.The chef made us mouthwatering chickpea burgers, going out of his way to make a fresh batch sans eggs.

Haiku Review

Expectations for
more veggies at Zucchini’s
not so much, really

Great taste, great texture
Zucchini’s vegan burger
THAT was excellent

Zucchini's Restaurant at Timberlake
Zucchini’s Restaurant at Timberlake Organic Village
Zucchini's Restaurant vegan
Plant-based burger? Tastes good? Excellent, actually. Made with chickpeas, the texture and taste put it in the TOP Three best vegan patties I’ve ever eaten.

Cape Town

How fun to be in Cape Town, a cosmopolitan city with so much to offer – food, activities, shopping, adventure.

Let me begin with the places that are not considered veggie restaurants but that have vegetarian/vegan options, keeping in mind french fries, to me, the easiest universally vegan food, can be found practically everywhere.

Which brings me to this: Vegan. Much like the arteries of a human carnivore, it’s a word that has  become clogged over time. Vegan does not correlate to difficulty or hunger despite what some may believe. Au contraire, vegan is about abundance – of health, of life. It’s not complicated, and it’s barely different. I’d bet my pinky finger you eat vegan food everyday. Oatmeal for breakfast? Replace the cow’s milk with soy or almond milk. Vegan. PB & J for lunch? Vegan. Salad at dinner? Removing the salmon or chicken or other animal bits, vegan. Vegan fare is simply food that comes from plants. It’s not new-fangled or weird. I suspect you already eat plant foods everyday, a few times a day. And the protein argument will never ever work for me. All plants have protein. All the protein you need can come from plants. I was an endurance athlete as a vegan – running 18 miles up and down mountains and skating 30 miles races. I had plenty of protein and plenty of energy. Here’s a great article from VegNews: 3 Myths about Protein and a Plant-Based Diet

If you have questions on anything vegan, check out Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s engaging, entertaining and educational Podcast. I’m proud to call Colleen my friend. She works tirelessly to spread her joyful message of living a compassionate, vegan lifestyle.

Reviews of Cape Town and Environs:
Half-hearted Recommendations

Slow Life Cafe – Muizenberg
154 Main Rd, Cape Town 7950, South Africa

I read about this place and was eager to visit. The article claimed Slow Life had plenty of vegan options. This is not the case and our waitress didn’t seem to understand that vegan meant no cheese. FYI: The Rosemary infused mushrooms have cheese. To experience the full flavor of their chef’s seasoning skills, request to have this meal sans cheese. And then say that sentence 10 times fast knowing you are, in that moment, not living the slow life.

But Slow isn’t a top recommendation. It’s a cool atmosphere, the owner seems like a sweetheart kind of guy, they reduce, reuse, recycle and all that important jazz, but any restaurant that claims compassion for all living beings while having eggs, cheese and fish on the menu creates a mixed message about compassion in a world that is already confused about the meaning of that word in relation to how society treats animals.

Haiku Review for Slow Life Cafe

Compassion for all?
Take a look at this message
Slowly make the change

Neighbourhood Restaurant, Bar and Lounge
Total bill: 166 Rand

We really just stopped here for a beer and found ourselves in a multinational conversation. With dinner encroaching upon our festivities, we checked out the menu. Falafel, hell yah!  I was disappointed at best. It was a mushy, oily ball of mashed chickpeas. The curly fries, however, were superb. They have mustard – not all restaurants seem to particularly those in Kruger. I like my mustard with fries.

Haiku Review for Neighbourhood

Windhoek beer on tap
New friends, falafel and chips
Life is oh so good

Reviews of Cape Town and Environs:
Full-hearted Recommendations

Motherland Coffee Company

Motherland Coffee Company
Alistair (partner – 4th from left) and crew at Motherland Coffee Company

We stopped into Motherland Coffee Company after our Freedom Day festivities at Parliament. All pumped up from the morning’s activities, we were looking forward to chilling with a beverage. Imagine my delight to discover they have soy milk. Scott reveled in a colorful berry smoothie, and I a decaf latte. The coffee was quite good. Mostly, though, I was pleasantly surprised to know that our Rand supported an organization that supports coffee workers in Africa, sustainably. We were told that the notion of “fair trade” is not well known here in South Africa. But thanks to the efforts of Motherland Coffee, there is a growing awareness of this important endeavor – for industries to take care of their essential workers. Well done Alistair and crew. You made a customer out of me and hopefully some local readers as well. Vegans fyi: this is not a vegan cafe. They have plenty of vegetarian wraps and salads, remove the feta and other cheese options, you have yourself a delish vegan meal.

Haiku Review for Motherland

Motherland: doing
right by the humans, how ’bout
for animals too?

Sophea Gallery and Tibetan Teahouse
Total bill: 219 Rand (includes two chai teas and two full lunches)

Sophea Gallery and Tibetan Teahouse
Sophea is located only 2 blocks from Boulders National Park in Simon’s Town on 2 Harrington Road, this full-on vegetarian, mostly vegan, restaurant is an oasis of tranquility. With views of the False Bay from your dining table, Sophea’s is not only for the Buddha-bound but for anyone who wants a delectable meal in a divine atmosphere.

I started with the Tshel Salad: Fresh herbs, roasted sunflower seeds, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and beets. My tastebuds did a happy dance.

Next, the Sherpa Stew: Lentil balls on a bed of mashed potato topped with braised onion and tomato sauce and sesame seed. It was cool and rainy on the day we visited. This was a perfect, hardy, meal.

Scott ate the Sakarkhanda Ko Tarkari: Nepalese sweet potato and pea curry served on brown rice. I like my meal better but his was just as tasty and not quite as stick-to-your guts.

Haiku Review for Sophea’s

Peace for you and the
earth, heavenly sustenance
that makes a heart glow

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Plant Cafe
142 Buitnegracht Street
Corner of Wale Street
Unit R1 Urban Hub
Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Plant vegan restaurant
Nikki and the Herbivores- seriously, wouldn’t that be a cool band name?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Haiku Review for Plant Cafe

Go to Plant Cafe now!
Cool urban setting and hip
herbivores abound

Fresh, local food stuff
Wholesome meals to fill your soul
Good for earth et al

We stopped at Plant Cafe for a dinner bite around 6:00 PM only to discover it was shuttin’ time for this cool cafe at 142 Buttengracht. The head chef, Nikki Botha, enthusiastically suggested several other places for us to try, invited us back the next day, AND gave us, gratis, two scrumptious muffins as insurance for our next day’s return. Her ploy worked.  We wanted more. Plant Cafe, owned by Adien Aggenbach, animal activist, is 100% vegan. Yes! As a matter of factoid, this is the only full-fledged vegan eatery we experienced in the whole of South Africa.

The next day we returned for a full-on meal. I had a rich Miso Soup and the delish Breakfast Wrap. Served all day, this home-smoked tempeh bacon, tofu scramble, couscous and just the right amount of spices filled my belly with warm yumminess. Scott had the Plant Sandwich on Ciabatta. Possibly even more flavorful than the Breakfast Wrap, his garlicky chickpea’d, artichoke’d, sesame seed hummus bundle of goodness conjures fond memories, days later. We bought another muffin and a chocolate croissant home with us. Okay, vegan chocolate croissant. Speechless. Made with coconut oil, this was a treat that I mourned when it came to an end. I ate it ever-so-slowly to savor this scrumptious and surprisingly light pastry. Must. Have. More.

Despite the excellent food, we liked the staff at Plant even more. Nikki, the head chef is a hardcore animal rights activist. I mean the kind of person who has been chased down by armed men in Nimibia for trying to stop the slaughter of Fur Seals. She’s a SeaShepherd member and has been to various parts of the world, working to stop the mass murder of dolphins. Truly a hero. She and three dedicated animal rights activist friends started a nonprofit called Tin Can Town. They work diligently and heartfully for the animals in the poor township of Blikkiesdorp.

Tourists come to Cape Town and take Township Tours essentially driving around with a guide gawking at poor people in shanty towns. If you really want to experience a township, contact Tin Can Town and volunteer to help them out. This is the most helpful way to experience what life is like for many folks who are living in poverty. And it’s helping, not exploiting.

**Note to travelers who want to have a real cultural experience while visiting Cape Town**

Tin Can Town is always looking for help. Every Sunday they visit Blikkiesdorp and work with the humans who bring their dogs and cats for medical aid and food. It costs nothing to volunteer but a big heart and the willingness to help where needed. Click on the link, like their page and ask how you can get involved with Tin Can Town.

Addis in Cape

Addis in Cape Restaurant vegan
Addis in Cape

Nikki, the head chef at Plant, suggested the following places for us to get some enticing vegan fare: Royale Eatery, Simply Asia, Wellness Warehouse’s Well Cafe, Kauai and Addis in Cape.

We took one of her suggestions, a place that was on my list, Addis in Cape, an Ethiopian restaurant at 41 Church Street – corner of Long and Church. SO glad we went. A menu page is devoted to vegetarian and vegan options. A wide selection and class act service.

Just before the food arrives, the waiter brings a pot of warm water and a bowl for hand washing. In place of utensils the shared meal is eaten by using a small piece of Injera (moist, light, sourdough pancake – gluten free usually made with Teff) to scoop the food. When (any) one has dinner with a germophobe (me) one wants to ensure one’s hands are washed.

The waiter then returns carrying a large bowl laced with injera and the various dishes in small bowls. In a ceremonial-type fashion, the waiter presents each bowl before dumping it onto the injera.

For 323 Rand (about $30.00 US) we had a beer, still water, an appetizer (Gomen) and four dishes: Kek Alicha, Misir Wot, Shiro Wot, and Butternut Wot. Our lovely waiter suggested two of those mains, and we were elated. The food was incredibly tasty, my fave being the Shiro Wot.

Haiku Review for Addis in Cape

Ethiopian
Your hands, my hands, together
sharing a fab meal

Click here for the menu.

All in all, we had many great experiences finding and preparing vegan food in South Africa. Like in many countries, this adventure was more easily accomplished in the larger towns and cities. But vagabonds, fear not! If you take the time, look, inquire and educate, you can have a vegan meal anywhere you want.

Check out this list of vegan friendly eateries in the Western Cape.
Enjoy. Smile. Spread the Awesome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To protest about bullfighting in Spain, the eating of dogs in South Korea, or the slaughter of baby seals in Canada while continuing to eat eggs from hens who have spent their lives crammed into cages, or veal from calves who have been deprived of their mothers, their proper diet, and the freedom to lie down with their legs extended, is like denouncing apartheid in South Africa while asking your neighbors not to sell their houses to blacks.
~Peter Singer, Animal Liberation

We are, quite literally, gambling with the future of our planet- for the sake of hamburgers
~Peter Singer, Animal Liberation

People eat meat and think they will become as strong as a bull… forgetting that bulls eat grass.
~Pino Caruso, Italian actor

Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.
~African proverb

You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car.
~Harvey Diamond, American writer

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photos, videos and stuff*** Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use. And please do follow this blog and/or write comments. A million five-hundred thanks. Check out the other South Africa posts below:

South Africa Post #1: Our first Kruger National Park Safari
South Africa Post #2: Babysitting a Banded Mongoose Pup in Marloth Park
South Africa Post #3: When Zebras Visit
South Africa Post #4: Daily Living in Marloth Park, South Africa
South Africa Post #5: Kruger Restcamps: Skukuza, Satara and Olifants
South Africa Post #6: Kruger Safari: Full Moon over Letaba
South Africa Post #7: Kruger Safari: Treasure Hunting in Tamboti and Lower Sabie
South Africa Post #8: There’s a Mongoose in my Ear!
South Africa Post #9: Peering through God’s Window at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #10: The Dam Boat Tour at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #11: Rare Sexual Encounters of South Africa
South Africa Post #12: To the Wildlife of Marloth Park
South Africa Post #13: Nelspruit to Cape Town
South Africa Post #14: Moved to Tears on Freedom Day
South Africa Post #15: Penguins in South Africa?
South Africa Post #16: The Southernmost Tip of Africa
South Africa Post #17Birds of Eden at Plettenberg Bay
South Africa Post #18: Dear South Africa: I love you, but…
South Africa Post #19: Elephants at Addo National Park 
South Africa Post #20The Garden Route: Nature’s Valley and Wilderness
South Africa Post #21: Endangered Bontebok
South Africa Post #22Top Five Cape Town Experiences
South Africa Post #23Chasing Rainbows in South Africa
This is South Africa Post #24: Vegan Wanderlust in South Africa
South Africa Post #25Ubuntu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.