Pamela McOnie from Cape Town Eats shares her City Bowl: Green Route

Passionate about promoting Cape Town’s restaurants, Pamela McOnie from Cape Town Eats lives in Oranjezicht with her sister where she explores neighbouring cafes and bakeries.

Where did you grow up, what did you study and when did you become interested in food and wine?

“I grew up in Pretoria with a dad who was head of the Citrus Exchange and was lucky enough to have a stay-at-home Mom who loved to entertain. She did it with ease and with flair. Every overseas fruit buyer was invited home and Mother planned her menus a week in advance. She decorated the table two days in advance and effects included flowers frozen into rings and dessert served with dry ice steam coming through as she served. The food was 80s at its best! Beef Wellington! Mongolian braais! Butterflied lamb with teriyaki done on the fire.  At the time I was not interested in preparing the food. But I learnt to enjoy good food from a young age!

The love of food was always there. I went on my first overseas trip when I was 16 to Italy. It was such an eye-opener. I had always hated vegetables. On the first evening out we were served a platter of aubergine and courgettes as the middle course. The flavours blew my mind. 80s vegetables in South Africa were boiled and boiled and boiled. These were grilled and sprinkled with olive oil. A game-changer! I was hooked on olive oil for life. I am still obsessed with it. It is the nectar of the gods.   

Loving wine would quite simply become an extension of loving food.  They are a match made in heaven. I studied Business Science Marketing at UCT.  After that I returned up North for a short while before escaping to the UK to work and to travel for a few years. I returned to Joburg and worked in advertising for a few years before deciding that I needed to follow my dreams and move to Cape Town.  In Cape Town I took the hard choice of taking a few months off to look at what I wanted to do next with my life.  My passions are travel, people, food, understanding people and cultures and the Cape. From the list the natural extension was to start a food and wine tour operating business in Cape Town. Cape Fusion Tours was born at the end of 2002. My business was a one-person business for many years until I launched the first foodie walking tour of the city. It then exploded and we grew to a family of five people in the business. 

What has been the effect of lockdown on your business?

The lockdown has taken my business down at the knees.  We are completely shut down and the potential opening date of operations seems to be moving further and further away.  While it looks as if Europe is starting to return to business as usual, this will not be the case for us. The lockdown has been too firm. If we keep the lockdown at this level it is now estimated that we will open our borders between January and June 2021. Very few businesses will be able to hold out until then. 

My Cape Town Eats concept is broad and a little confusing! 

The Food Tour that I do of the city is called The Cape Town Eats Food Tour. The aim of my website is to not just sell my tours – but to also provide LOTS of information on all of our finds in the city and to make sure that every foodie that visits finds some of our favourite places to eat. That way they will go back and tell all of their foodie friends about the Cape and South Africa. I planned a long time ago to start another website to separately promote our restaurants and registered Life, however, got busy and I never found a gap to do it.  

What we have now is an abundance of time. No revenue and time to reassess the world. As a foodie I felt really strongly that I wanted to try and help as many of our artisan producers and small foodie businesses as I can to get through this terrible time.  The restaurants were cut off from being able to earn from the minute the country locked down. I immediately started looking at doing a website to try and assist everyone in this new reality.  

I chose a listify theme so that we would be able to add who is delivering farm fresh produce through to who is doing food deliveries.  In this way instead of ploughing through lists to find what you are looking for – you would be able to access the information easily and have great visuals to draw you in. It would also give consumers the opportunity to endorse their finds by leaving a review. Yikes – I am not technical and figuring out how to put in all the visuals took me three weeks! I am now ready to start promoting it and to get it out there. 

In the meantime I started a group called Cape Town Eats Group on Facebook. I would ask anyone who reads this to please join the group and to share everything they are finding out there. Take pictures – pictures tell a story and draw people in. Tell a little story about the vendor.  This forum is also aimed at vendors to share what they are doing each week – from menus to fresh produce deliveries. 

My biggest lesson from this pandemic is that we are a community. We need to support each other in order to make it through. We need to stop putting our money into big businesses and into other people’s economies.  Buy local. Even though you don’t have much money right now – spend it wisely. Supporting local businesses often does not cost more (or much more). Be aware of your footprint and how your footprint can help others.  

My favourite bakeries

Jason Bakery – for his croissants! And all of his sweet treats

Woodstock Bakery for their sourdough bread – it is my favourite bread on the planet!  We were getting it during lockdown at the Olive Branch deli, however Hartliefs at the Gardens Centre is now open.  It is also available from Oranjezicht City Farm Market on a Saturday morning

New York Bagels has re-opened as an essential goods store. They are justifiably famous for their bagels.  We buy and freeze some for use during the week.  Their sourdough bread is also insanely good.  Recently we tried their fish cakes and their roast veg – stock up on these as well while you are here.   Don’t miss their hummus. 

Sans community in Sea Point – we popped in two weeks ago and bought an amazing rye bread.  I am not sure whose breads they are stocking.  Interesting that their website gives no clues!

The ciabatta bread we found at Blue Café in Tamboerskloof was wonderful!

But first, coffee

Coffee sales are just starting to open up and some are doing them under cover – so there is one I won’t mention! 

Deluxe is always my favourite – wonderful that they opened again this week

Red Sofa Café in Vredehoek has combined their food delivery business called FoodBox to create a fabulous essentials store.  On our walks we stopped this week to buy a coffee from them.  I had did not have any expectations of finding great coffee – so forgot to ask whose beans they were using.   As we left I took the first sip.  This was the first truly great coffee I had had since lock down and it sent me straight up to heaven!   Perfection in a paper cup!

When it comes to exercise during lockdown, we walk from home and have loved every second of it.   We walk through some wonderful old neighbourhoods in Oranjezicht and Tamboerskloof.   We have the backdrop of Table Mountain and it is absolutely beautiful.  Exploring these areas has been wonderful. Beautiful homes and gardens.  I am in love with Higgovale.  I have never walked there before.  Tamboerskloof is magical – there is such a sense of community – there are kids out on bikes and skateboards.  Magical.  The Blue Café is great to stop and stock up on goods

Typical Lockdown Day

Meals are important during the lockdown. We planned everything in the beginning and it was fun getting creative and trying a few new recipes! Now we are craving getting wonderful fresh breads and a few treats to support as many of our local businesses as possible. My budget is limited – but we may as well try and spread the love a little where we can afford to.  Last week I had one of the best meals I have had all year! We ordered from Chef Wesley Randles and it was such an amazing treat. He is amazingly talented – he was at Pot Luck Club and then entered a joint venture to open the Shortmarket Club in Cape Town city centre. His dinner was R400 for two people and the portions were huge!  Soul food made by a talented chef. A salad with a tahini dressing, beef shin from FFMM slow cooked on polenta and roast pumpkin with sunflower seeds and gorgonzola. I loved every morsel and scraped the pans. I think the idea of doing the end cooking at home is brilliant. Most take aways arrive cold or lukewarm.  This was amazing and brilliant value for money.  His weekly menu can be found on facebook under Randles and Son

What do you appreciate most about lockdown?

Time.  I feel like I have not had time in years.  Each day my mind feels like it is growing.   The  webinars have helped to expand my thoughts.  I have always worked from home and as such felt disconnected in many ways from others in the business world.   A little island.  I am loving being able to get insight into what they are thinking over this time.   

What makes you happy?

For years I have been living my happy dream.   I love working for myself.  I love living in Cape Town.  I love that I am surrounded by passionate foodie guides and foodie vendors.  I love sharing my love of the city and the winelands with my guests.  I love making them fall in love with everything we have.  I love traveling and travel as much as my budget will allow.   Travel makes me happy as I love to learn and explore. 

Cape Town Eats on Facebook

I met Pamela McOnie at The Courtyard Cafe in Kalk Bay one sunny day when they were introducing their vegan menu. In a time when we were able to eat at restaurants. We dubbed ourselves the ‘bad influence’, as opposed to ‘influencers’. No thank you.


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Published by Melanie Farrell

Founder of Green Route ZA - the path to eco-conscious living. I live in Cape Town, South Africa.

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