Economising in the Inner City

Posted by on November 14, 2012

Downtown PanoramaIn an attempt to evolve from overgrown man-child to respectable adult ahead of my 30th birthday, I recently said goodbye to my converted garage abode and have resettled in a dwelling originally intended for human habitation. While it’s not hard to get used to things like furniture and indoor temperatures below 40 degrees, the increased cost of living has proven somewhat more difficult to swallow.

Luckily Cape Town’s foreshore has proven to be a veritable treasure trove of exciting venues, offering plenty of tasty and civilised options for the newly impoverished city slicker. Thanks to the daunting 5-minute commute from Gardens, this area of the inner city might as well have been on another planet up until now, but now that I’ve ensconced myself in its hustle and bustle, I am finding it progressively harder to leave.

Around every street corner is something enticing, from ridiculously well priced food jaunts to Manhattan-inspired rooftop bars. So if you find yourself in this part of the world (either because you’re working in the area or because you got hopelessly lost), you might want to try out a few of my latest discoveries.

Park Inn By Radisson

If you’re looking for a taste of New York without the price tag, look no further than the RBG Rooftop Bar, handily located on the 11th floor of the Park Inn Hotel. With comfy deck chairs, a terribly civilised splash pool and an unrivalled view of Table Mountain, this is the kind of place that could become seriously addictive – I’m already envisioning whiling away many a glorious summer day high above the buzzing city streets.

Good luck beating that view

Luckily, this is actually a feasible plan, thanks to a vigorously enforced free snack policy and a daily happy hour that more than lives up to its name. Provided you can make it there between 5 and 6pm (the staff seems to have a fairly tenuous grasp of time, so this can quite easily be extended to 7) you’ll be able to enjoy fairly liberally sized glasses of frozen alcoholic goodness for just R20, with flavours differing daily. Thus far I’ve sampled the pina colada, the margarita and the strawberry slush, and I can report back very positively on all three.

Over and above this, you’ll be able to enjoy a selection of complimentary snacks, which make their way out of the kitchen at regular intervals. Now I’m fairly easily won over by free food in any discernable shape or form, but I can’t heap enough praise on whoever happened upon the genius idea of providing deep fried potato skins for inter-drink consumption. Genius I tell you!

If you can find a happier happy hour in the greater Cape Peninsula, please do let me know. You know where to find me.

Food Lover’s Market

Judging by the vast swathes of humanity that trek through the Food Lover’s Market every day between 12 and 2, I’m guessing it’s less of a hidden gem than I once might have thought. Its popularity is entirely justified, as it lives up to its moniker in every conceivable way, serving up a vast array of deliciousness – from baked goods and pizza to sushi and salad. Its pay as you weigh salad bar is the stuff of legend, as are its towering tubes of chocolate covered treats.

Come to Papa!

But if you’re on a budget, and don’t have the appetite of an anorexic sparrow, you might see your wallet coming under fire as a result of frequent trips to this food emporium. The weigh/pay system doesn’t favour those with hearty appetites, and even relatively meagre portions can set you back a fair penny.

But trips to Food Lover’s needn’t be reserved for special occasions, providing you know how to work the system. Every day at around 3pm, a selection of marked-down meals make their way out onto the sales floor, providing scavengers like myself with an unbelievable selection of glorious tastiness at just a fraction of the cost. In fact, for just R15, you’ll be able to eat a pretty great meal every night of the week, with options ranging from ostrich fillet to salmon. Just be prepared to fight for the privilege (you can be sure I’ll be there armed to the teeth).

Saturdays also provide a reprieve for those on tighter budgets. You’ll be able to fill a fairly substantial bowl with everything from cranberry chicken to fresh avocado for just R25. Again, timing is of the essence, as stocks aren’t replenished during the day. So get there early, and you can plan out an entire weekend’s worth of meals without digging too heavily into your food budget.

Alexander Bar & Café

Even though this Strand Street bar reeks of hipsters, it still succeeds in being pretty damn charming, in addition to offering great value for money. During the day, its small verandah, smack bang in the centre of the urban hustle, is an awesome vantage point from which to enjoy a morning coffee. Soaking up the energy of the inner city, along with copious amounts of caffeine, is truly an experience to be savoured.

Call Me Maybe?

As night falls, the venue inevitably begins to attract a greater selection of skinny-jeans clad individuals, the result, I presume, of its old-school telephone ordering system. It’s quite hard not to get swept up in the novelty value of this – I mean where else can you literally phone your drinks order in to the bar using a pretty nifty retro-looking handset? I’m into it.

In addition, Monday evenings are exceptionally budget-friendly, with a changing selection of home cooked classics available for just R40.

With the addition of an upstairs theatre space, which plays host to Tuesday evening jazz nights as well as open-mic nights, you can expect the hipster factor to skyrocket, but, for now, Alexander Bar remains an attractive and unique feature of the downtown landscape.

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