Wanted: a REAL Market in Cape Town!

16 Oct

One of the few things I miss the most about Europe is its market culture. I used to love, love, LOVE spend my Saturday mornings at the market in Utrecht’s city center. After buying a freshly baked Stroopwafel – a large one, of course – I would spent hours going from stall to stall: freshly roasted nuts, tea and coffee, milk, yogurt, cheese, fresh fish, meat, fresh veggies and fruit, bread, chocolates, flowers, and other necessities. And I never left without saying ‘Hi’ to Ahmed and his family – who made the best olives (the massive green ones stuffed with almonds were my favorite) and feta cheese in town. In short: my market was my very own outdoors, affordable supermarket.

Most markets in Cape Town – in that respect – are not real markets.

Organic almonds - Copyright: Miriam Mannak

Take the Neighbourgoods Market at the old Biscuit Mill in Salt River. This is nothing but a trendy, overpriced, pretentious food court / beer garden for those who want to see and to be seen (while standing shoulder to shoulder. Feck it gets busy there sometimes!). Yes, you can buy your bread, cheese and veggies at The Biscuit Mill there but buying food (real food, not condiments such as pestos, mustards, chutneys and other sauces) to take home and to cook with is – as far as I am concerned – not the main purpose of this so-called market. The Biscuit Mill is a place to drink beer or wine or cocktails; to sample condiments and small pieces of bread; to have another beer followed by a plate of what ever you want fancy. Obviously while looking totally hip. Okay, maybe I am a bit harsh. I do like the Biscuit Mill. However, to me it is not a market. The Neighboorgoods Market is an overcrowded, very large tented pub with a shortage of seating space where one has breakfast / lunch and a glass of what ever you fancy. But it is not a market. > Open every Sat 09am – 14pm

Then we have the Hout Bay Market on the Bay. Again, this market is not a market. It an oversized food court annex shopping mall annex arts and crafts sales place. This “market” comprises mainly clothing, shoes, garments, and cheesy souvenir stalls. Food – the kind you take home – is not a priority here either. There is one veggie stand, a rather small one, which sells produce that is 2 to 3 times as expensive as in your local super market. “Yes, but it is organic,” they’d say. Sure, but that does not mean a kg of broccoli (the first and probably last time I was there it was spelled Brekili – just a detail) should cost R21. Broccoli is in season at the moment, by the way. Oh and the coffee guy was horribly rude to us. > Open every Fri 5pm – 10pm (in summer), every Sat 9am – 5pm and every Sun 10am – 4pm 

The Earth Fair in Tokai is a good market in that respect. No bullshit souvenirs, no crappy clothing that was Made in China or some other far away place, no pretentious Bloody Maries, or over-priced pizzas. There is a meat stand, fish stand, cheese stand, various bread stands, and a great veggie stall. Yes, you can sit down and eat pies and sandwiches too, which is great. The main purpose, form what I can see, is to buy your stuff and take it home. The downside is that this market is indoors. To me, markets should be outdoors events. Ag, but then again: the Earth Fair is down to earth as hell, and does not come with all the yuppie bullshit you’ll find at other markets. > Open every Sat 9 am – 2 pm & Open every Wed 3pm – 8pm

The City Bowl or Cape Town Market on Hope Street, Gardens, is my favourite market in Cape Town. Unfortunately, this market is indoors too – which sucks. That is no reason to avoid this market. The massive veggie stand at the entrance makes up for that big time. Its mostly ORGANIC produce is great and the prices are extremely FRIENDLY. The best thing at the City Bowl Market on Hope is that most of these veggies are produced in community vegetable gardens and/or by small-scale farmers in and around Cape Town. The biggest problem small-scale farmers face, is access to markets. That is why in my eyes, the Cape Town City Bowl Market blows all the other markets out of the water. Oh, and I love their cheese stand (cheeses are also made by local, small-scale dairy producers). Apart from milk and yogurt, I usually manage to find everything I need: veggies, fruit, bread, cheese, chicken, and eggs. And breakfast – with great organic and fair trade coffee – too! > Open every Sat 9am – 2pm

Do you know a fantastic market in or around Cape Town, please drop me a line. I would love to hear from you as I kinda miss my ‘Saturday mornings at the market’  😦

PS: For a list of more markets in & around Cape Town, click here.


Posted by on October 16, 2011 in The World of Mir


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19 responses to “Wanted: a REAL Market in Cape Town!

  1. Miriam Mannak

    October 17, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Trish from Starlings in Claremont, Cape Town, sent me a tweet just yesterday, explaining me about their organic veggie market that is slowly but surely taking shape (Open on Wednesdays between pm and 6pm). For more information: Will definitely give them a go.

    • Simply Wholesome

      October 20, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Fantastic post Miriam! We are very happy traders at Starlings, City Bowl and Porters Markets and to me they are just the best. The organisers work together with their traders as a team and that makes a huge difference in many ways. The most enjoyable and satisfying thing about being a trader are your regular customers, building a relationship with them and discussing a new recipe for the coming week. People want that direct contact and they love listening and sharing stories. And when experienced people like you have good and honest feedback to share it give us as traders some good food for thought – thank you for that. Marcelle

      • Miriam Mannak

        October 20, 2011 at 8:23 am

        Hey Marcelle,
        Thanks for the post and comment 🙂 Nice to know someone is actually reading what I am writing. I really must explore the Porters Market, I think. FRom what people have told me so far, it must be an awesome market! Maybe after City Bowl market on Saturdays, who knows. Are you around on Saturday (City Bowl)? If so, I will definitely come say hi. Otherwise I hope to catch you another day 🙂

      • Simply Wholesome

        October 20, 2011 at 8:29 am

        Hello Miriam

        Unfortunately I wont be at City Bowl this Saturday, but my husband is at the Porters Market and I will definately be at Starlings on Wed next week – maybe that could be your opportunity to come visit that market! I would love to meet with you.

      • Miriam Mannak

        October 20, 2011 at 9:14 am

        That would be nice 🙂 Maybe we will pop by at Porters first. Will chat to my friend. Afterwards we could go to City Bowl 🙂 Will keep you posted!

  2. Keratoconus

    October 18, 2011 at 1:48 am

    I especially like your last paragraph – and I did start a blog – two in fact – just a few months ago! I always write letters to my children at Christmas – sometimes more often, but at least once a year. They know their letters will be in their stockings! Probably wouldn’t do anything you said not to – just a little bit inhibited! But that’s just me. Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  3. samarketmaven

    October 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Miriam

    Thanks for your frank opinions! As a long-time market lover and organiser I have become quite cynical about the many events mushrooming up all over the place following a formula that qiuckly loses its appeal. I also yearn for a more European market culture – but it seems we have a different dynamic in SA because of the suburban lifestyle that many have. Also, in Cape Town people are scared of the weather

    I believe the Earth Fair’s most recent incarnation in St George’s Mall on a Thursday is getting there – haven’t been but I like the organiser – Jacqui’s – philosophy. Another market organiser whose great (European-style) ethic is reflected in a more down-to-earth vibe is Madelen who created the Hope Street Market (I do like it but would also like more of an outdoor aspect).

    You might want to visit the long-running, tiny but honest-to goodness weekly organic Saturday market in Rondebosch (between the Rondebosch library and station) run by the vendors including the no-nonsense Dee.

    Another of my favourites is the Porter Estate market in the Tokai forest every Saturday morning – a great outdoor setting and a good selection of food to eat there or at home.

    So now I will invite you to my idea of what a market should be like: unpretentious, non-elitist, characterful and with room to move, breathe and commune with other friendly, creative souls!

    In case you haven’t yet visited the Obs Holistic Lifestyle Fair on the 1st Sunday of every month you might be pleasantly surprised at its eclectic, bohemian mixture of vendors in a characterful indoor/outdoor setting in the heart of Observatory Village. For your organic and fresh produce needs we host a great selection of food producers (with a strong emphasis on wholesome/vegetarian/vegan), as well as a community gardening produce initiative (Menngos – they will unfortunately not be with us in November, but back again as from December). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg (excuse the pun ;-p).

    Besides the food, the Fair is a much larger, very sociable, culturally-diverse and communal affair showcasing holistic, wellness and lifestyle exhibitors, as well as live music, free lifestyle films and more, and it and boasts a loyal following since its beginnings in 1997, from hipsters to hippies, boho’s to bobo’s…

    Check out more about what the Fair offers on Facebook under Obs Holistic Lifestyle Fair or on our website under

    Hope to see you there soon (or at one of the city’s markets soon!)


    • Miriam Mannak

      October 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      Hey Erica!
      Thanks for your input and comments 🙂 Always nice to know that someone is reading your posts 🙂
      I do seriously think there is room for more European markets. Especially because of our so-called suburban lifestyle! Can you imagine Sunday or Saturday markets at community centers, school grounds and so on? NOTHING else happens in the burbs on weekends, so that is why I think European style markets would actually draw a nice crowd. AND it would be a good outlet for the countless small-scale farmers in and around Cape Town to sell their surplus produce.
      I have never been to the Earth Fair in St Georges Mall, but I will try to do so this week if work allows it. I love the Hope Street Market though. It is my favourite: it is non-pretentious, there is plenty of choice, great fresh produce, nice coffee and it is not so bloody crowded and submerged in Hipsters 🙂
      Thanks for the tip regarding the market in Rondebosch! I have never been there and I was not even aware of its existence! Sounds awesome! I have never been to the Porter Estate Market either (adding that one to my list too, as well as the Holistic Fair in Obs!)
      I share your idea of what a market should be like for a full 100%. Yes, I like to sit down and eat something but that should not be the main activity (and neither should bull shit souvenirs be, by the way. A market is about buying food, produce, bread, cheese and other things that are meant to be eaten. If I want to buy clothes, I go to a mall and if I need a souvenir, I will visit Green market Square).
      Anyway, thanks a lot for your input. Much appreciated! Hope to see you at one of the markets at some point!

  4. samarketmaven

    October 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    BTW I forgot to mention a couple of markets blogs you can get more info from: and (as well as mine:

    E X

  5. Madelen Johansson

    October 20, 2011 at 12:15 am


    Madelen here – organizer of the City Bowl Market on Hope. I just wanted to say thank you so much Miriam for your kind words about City Bowl Market on Hope. I really appreciate this and I will send this blog post through to all my stall holders. Have you seen our downstairs outside section??

    I do wish we could open the ceilings in summer but it has saved us during the winter:) But we are doing the best we can. Have you seen our garden section where the jungle gym is?

    Would love to meet you when you visit the market next time.

    Kind Regards


    • Miriam Mannak

      October 20, 2011 at 8:00 am

      Dear Madelene,
      Thanks for your post and comment. I meant what I say: the City Bowl Market on Hope is my favorite so far, so thank YOU! 🙂 Wil be going on Saturday morning, so maybe we could meet up? Drop me a line and I will send you my cell number (
      Cheers, Miriam

  6. sasha leon

    October 20, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Hi Miriam
    I trade at the City Bowl market selling various kinds of Hummus. All fresh, preservative free, made by me and one assistant. I do this with passion and very much believe in my product.
    Your view of a markets is somewhat incorrect. European Fresh food markets are a TOTALLY different affair. I think its unfair to dismiss people like myself who produce food that does not fall under you category of ‘to be taken home and cooked’ food.
    We are not all farmers. I think products such as Hummus (which is a healthy, low GI product) fits very well into your category of a food market and should not be dismissed. Plus the advantage of a product like mine, is that you can take it home and you DO NOT have to cook it.
    Your praise of the City Bowl Market is much appreciated.


    • Miriam Mannak

      October 20, 2011 at 11:40 am

      Dear Sasha,
      You completely misinterpreted my post. I never dismissed you or your colleagues – and if you read my post correctly you would know how much I love the City Bowl Market and everything it has to offer.
      The only point that I raises is that some markets, like the Biscuit Mill and the Hout Bay Market on the Bay, are not markets because they do not revolve around selling food to take home (whether it be hummus or fresh veggies). The latter revolves around consumerism.
      The City Bowl Market, as I said very clearly, is a different affair. Completely. While you can sit down and eat, there re plenty of stalls that sell stuff to take home (again, whether it be Hummus or fresh veggies).
      I will come say hit this Saturday … That is if you are keen.

  7. Sasha Leon

    October 21, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Miriam
    Am very much looking forward to meeting you. See you Saturday.

  8. mothercityliving

    October 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Hi Miriam
    Lovely post! I completely agree with you that Cape Town does not yet have a market quite like the ones you find in Europe… and I’m constantly on the the alert for new markets that might get that right.

    I can’t bear the crowds at the Neighbour Goods Market (or the trendiness), so I very rarely venture there any more. I tried the Bay Harbour Market, but had exactly the same reaction as you did – yet another ‘entertainment/lifestyle’ market, with a few token groceries at inflated prices (mind you, I haven’t been since opening day, so I don’t know if that has since improved).

    My current favourite is definitely the Tokai Earth Fair Market, and I really enjoyed the City Bowl Market – I just don’t get into town that often, so haven’t been there quite as much (planning to stop by tomorrow, though, as it’s been too long!).

    I think there definitely is a place for ‘lifestyle’ markets – they do fill a gap, allowing families and friends to meet up and have a bite to eat in a much more pleasant setting than a mall, and a more informal location than a restaurant. But, we have many of them now, and still not enough ‘shopping’ markets.

    It’s been a while since I last went to the Porter Estate Market, but that was always lovely (just a bit weather-dependent), and the Starlings Market in Claremont is fantastic for ingredients (small at the moment, but will grow as more regulars catch on).

    From chatting to market organisers along the way, the challenge that comes up again and again is that most locals don’t see a market as a place to buy ingredients – they see it as a place to have fun, buy some prepared meals, and hang out… Hopefully, though, if that perception can be changed, and more people buy their ingredients from markets instead of supermarkets, more REAL ‘fresh produce markets’ can emerge!

    There are a few new markets waiting in the wings – I’m hoping they’ll breathe some fresh air into the market scene.

  9. Veerle Witdouck

    October 25, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Hi, I am also a trader at the City Bowl market on Hope Street. I sell Belgian Waffles. There is a new market opening on 13th November at the Cape Quarter Centre. It will run every Sunday from 10am till 3pm. I love City Bowl market and their traders. We are one big family. A big feather in Madelen’s cap for organising it and constantly looking for new ideas.

    • Miriam Mannak

      October 25, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Hey Veerle! Nice to get a post from the person who is responsible for the Belgian Waffle stand 🙂 I will come say hi next saturday 🙂 Thanks for your comment – it is always nice to get replies from readers. Thanks for the heads up regarding the new market in Cape Quarter! I went to their website and I think it looks very promising 🙂 But I agree: Marlene did a splendid job with the City Bowl Market! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: