A Taste of South Africa- The Old Biscuit Mill, Cape Town
I wrote this back on my trip to Cape Town in 2010, however, I never published it until now.
A city full of vibrancy, diversity, stunning landscapes, and a colored history, Cape Town captures many a traveler’s heart. My five-day visit turned into two weeks, and I quickly found myself in love with this beautiful city where Western lifestyle mingles with African culture. Cape Town is a gastronomic adventure, with world-class restaurants, decadent bakeries, and hearty, local cuisine. While I wanted to sample a variety of fare, I asked my local host for some budget-friendly dining options. One of my favorite places she suggested was the Neighbourgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. Not only is it a great place to grab lunch, but the market is also good for people watching and live music. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, that I had to go twice!
A former biscuit mill converted into a gathering place for locals and tourists, the Neighbourgoods Market is open every Saturday from 9:00am to 2:00pm. There are a wide variety of vendors, including gourmet bakeries, florists, cafes, and farmers. Everything in the market is eye candy, from the organic produce and sweet treats to the artisan breads and cheeses. And, there is beer, local wine, and freshly squeezed juice available to wash down all of the mouth-watering fare.
After hopping off a shared taxi, I walked the three blocks to The Old Biscuit Mill. Traffic was backed up along the main road and even on the side streets, as people searched for parking. If the crowds were any indication as to how good the market would be, I knew I was in for a real treat. I weaved between cars to cross the street and passed locals selling handicraft outside the gates to The Old Biscuit Mill. I entered the courtyard area and found myself in the middle of organized chaos. Groups of teenagers and young adults sat with their friends outside, enjoying a bite to eat. Smaller vendors that were set up outside entertained children as they passed.
I walked by the florist, whose dog was seated on a cushioned platform as the unofficial greeter of the market. I entered the building and admired the umbrellas hanging from the ceiling as a simple, yet inviting design element.
Nearly every vendor in the place had a line or a crowd in front of their displays. Patience goes along way in this place. I watched a woman make fruit and veggie smoothies and looked on in amazement as she threw entire carrots in without cutting off the leafy top. Very au natural. I circled the building twice, trying to decide where I should indulge. Weaving through the crowd was no easy feat. I finally settled on Greek food to avoid the long lines at some of the other vendors.
The market has long tables inside to sit and enjoy your lunch, however, it might take a bit of luck to snag a seat. I managed to find one near the band and enjoyed my gyro as I listened to live music.
Though my lunch was great, I couldn’t exactly leave this market without partaking in one of the delicious-looking baked goods. I practically drooled over the homemade cookies and tarts, but settled on a chocolate cupcake.
It was a gorgeous August day, so I took my dessert out to the courtyard. As the sun hit my face and I bit into my fancy chocolate creation, I had to keep telling myself that I was still in Africa- quite a world apart from my recent adventures! Leaving behind the mud huts and village living in Malawi, a country where Internet was sparse and the state of numerous computers I encountered made me wish people read more on Internet security, I wondered how I had been transplanted into this modern African city that is often compared to the likes of San Francisco. I listened to South African accents and locals greeting one another to ask after each other’s children, while also watching as tourists flashed their fancy cameras to capture memories of this magnetic place.
Both locals and tourists make their way to the Mill on Saturday. And, even if you’re not in town on the weekend to check out the market, the property also has local craft, vintage, and clothing shops that make this a good place to visit during the week. The Old Biscuit Mill is a must-see when visiting Cape Town for the food, fun, and atmosphere.
I stuffed the last morsel of chocolatey goodness into my mouth and stood to leave. As I walked away from the sensory overload of the whole experience, I stopped in the courtyard to throw change in the fountain and make a wish. Then, I stepped through the gates, left behind the Western feel of The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, and found myself back in the wonderful flavor of Cape Town as handicraft vendors and chatty children eagerly approached me.
Cape Town certainly wasn’t a city I expected to find in Africa. Have you had a moment such as this where you found yourself in a place that caught you by complete surprise?