• Anyone who has ever attempted to conquer a few Middle Eastern recipes will know that it’s no easy feat to perfect the distinctly flavourful and aromatic art of the cuisine. Steeped in culinary traditions, it often requires exotic ingredients, a flair for spicing, and a dexterous hand.

    Lucky for us, Cape Town is like a melting pot filled with a diverse amalgamation of cultures, tastes, and flavours from all over the world. The result? Food on the table that takes our tastebuds on journeys far and wide while still feeling like home.

    Indulge in the flavours of the Middle East with these five restaurants in Cape Town:

    1. Mesopotamia

    If you’re looking for the taste of authentically traditional Kurdish cuisine without having to catch a flight, then look no further than the heart of the vibrant Green Market Square. A simple trip up the stairs of an unassuming building in Cape Town’s city centre will instantly transport you to what feels like a cosy nook in the Middle East, complete with colourful carpets, traditionally styled lamps, and dimly lit warm-toned colors.

    Indulge in an array of mezze platters offering a variety of Kurdish, Turkish and Mediterranean flavour-filled dips, each served with homemade, freshly baked bread. Or, you can choose from traditional dishes like Kurdish Kuzu TandirChicken Cokertme and, of course, desserts.

    Enjoy the belly dancers, comedy shows and a variety of entertainment while dining on the finest authentic food.

    Source: Facebook/ @Mesopotamia Kurdhish Restaurant Cape Town

    Location: 36 Burg St, City Centre
    Website: mesopotamiarestaurant.com

    2. COOKED

    At COOKED, the essence of Middle Eastern culinary heritage comes to life with recipes passed down through generations.

    Located at The Watershed in the V&A Waterfront and The Adelphi Galleria in Sea Point, COOKED invites you to savour a delectable sit-down meal that celebrates the warmth of togetherness and the joy of making cherished memories around the family table.

    The culinary inspiration springs from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean roots, embracing the best of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Each dish is skilfully crafted, gently treating the ingredients to create a delectable and unforgettable experience.

    While COOKED pays homage to tradition, it also delights in adding a contemporary touch. Amidst the timeless recipes, you’ll find exciting and innovative additions that infuse modern flair into the menu.

    Source: Facebook/ @COOKED

    Locations: A7-8, The Watershed, V&A Waterfront | Shop 1, Adelphi Galleria, 277 Main Road, Sea Point

    Website: thecookedcook.co.za

    3. Saray

    Saray, meaning “palace” in Turkish, is an authentic Turkish restaurant that prides itself on bringing the magic of Turkey to Cape Town by serving not just a meal, but an experience from the comfort of your seat.

    From pides (pizzas) to durums (wraps) and kebabs, their wood-fired oven infuses all the deliciousness of authentically Turkish flavours into every dish, serving you a true taste of Turkey. How could anyone refuse? There’s nothing quite like their sotes, made with tender beef or chicken, cooked in a tangy tomato sauce with seasonal vegetables, topped with cheese, and served in a traditional Turkish clay dish with freshly baked bread.

    Be sure to end off your culinary journey with some scrumptious Kunefe dessert and Kahve (Turkish coffee) for a truly authentic experience.

    They accept walk-ins, but if you’re planning to go on Saturday, we suggest you give them a call at 066 430 3391 to make a booking.

    Source: Facebook/ Saray

    Location: Shop G01 Clocktower Building, S Arm Rd, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

    Website: saray.co.za

    4. Tagine

    This low-key gem in the heart of De Waterkant’s bustling dining district is “the embodiment of [the restaurant’s] passion for the beautiful cultures that span Morocco, the Middle East and Mediterranean regions,” say the visionaries behind Tagine. We don’t think we could have said it any better ourselves.

    It’s an all-day eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes with signature sharing style tagines and an authentic Middle Eastern flair, alongside speciality coffee and fresh pressed juices if you’re ever in the mood for a long, languid, breezy weekend brunch.

    tagine is a traditional Moroccan cooking vessel made of ceramic or unglazed clay. It has a round base with low sides and a conical-shaped lid. The vessel seals in all the flavour from the ingredients, allowing the flavour-infused moisture that travels up the lid to go back down over the ingredients, creating a self-basting, flavour-enhancing cycle of deliciousness.

    If you’re a fan of the ginger poached pear and oats at Jarryd’s eatery, we suggest you try their granola and yoghurt with spiced poached pear. But be warned, you might not want to share it after tasting it.

    Source: @tagine_capetown / Instagram

    Location: 55 Prestwich Street, De Waterkant

    Website: nonamehg.com

    5. Lebanese Bakery and Kitchen

    Their slogan is “Bringing an authentic taste of Lebanese street food to Cape Town,” and they don’t lie; this quaint Southern Suburbs gem has it all: sit-downs, takeaway, delivery, catering, and even shopping – both online and in-store, we might add.

    They produce and sell a variety of breads and traditional mezze, falafelsmanakish, fatayer, and ka’ak as well as imported oriental pantry essentials.

    Manakish is a Middle Eastern flatbread, which can be served open or folded. Fatayer is a Middle Eastern pie stuffed with either cheese or spinach. Lastly, Ka’ak is a Middle Eastern form of bagel with various filling options, such as halloumi, cream cheese or Nutella.

    Along with their cardamom and rose-flavoured milk dessert called Mahalabia, once you try their baklavas, you may find yourself returning again and again before you even realise it. While traditional Greek Baklava is made with a honey-based syrup and spices, Lebanese Baklava is made with a simple sugary syrup flavoured with orange blossom or rose water.

    The baklava is only available on weekends for walk-ins, so be sure to make your way down there this weekend.

    Lebanese bakery
    Source: Picture: @lebanesebakeryct / Instagram

    Location: 203 Imam Haron Rd, Claremont

    Website: lebanesebakery.co.za


    ALSO SEE: 3 must-visit falafel spots in Cape Town

    3 must-visit falafel spots in Cape Town

    Article originally written and published by Tauhira Ajam for Cape Etc. 

    Feature image: Pexels