Decades ago, the prospect of delicious deep fried hake and slap tjips from Fish on the Rocks restaurant, which is literally perched on the rocks at the extreme southern end of Hout Bay harbour, was enough reason to visit this slightly seedy side of town (and brave the smell of the working harbour). Today, however, this previously dilapidated, fishy factory district has another attraction in place and it has proven so popular with Cape Town locals that it has completely transformed the area. It’s the Bay Harbour Market!
Every Friday through to Sunday, a large warehouse located alongside working fish factories becomes electric with the energy of scores of vendors selling fabulous artwork, beautiful crafts, delicious food, and refreshing beverages. From second-hand books, T-shirts with humorous prints, vintage advert prints, and locally crafted leather handbags and wallets to jewellery, text carvings, traditional wooden bowls, contemporary art, and clothing: the talent, ingenuity, and hard work of local designers, artists, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs is beautifully represented here.
Be warned: if you’re on a strict budget, a leisurely meander around the Bay Harbour Market will have you at complete and utter war with yourself simply because there are so many beautiful, quirky, fun, and fascinating things to buy. That said it’s a great place to stock up on birthday gifts for friends, family, and – why not? – for yourself.
On the menu
Aside from a healthy bank account, nothing complements a bit of retail therapy better than some fabulous market food and, boy, are visitors spoilt for choice at the Bay Harbour Market. There is such a diversity of cuisines represented in the “food court” area of the market, that a walk around it practically circumvents the world, from Mexico, Tunisia, and Spain to India, China, Japan, and more.
Tao’s Chinese Kitchen serves up succulent dim sum and other authentic Chinese dishes; Sushi delivers beautifully fresh and affordable – what else? – sushi; Sea Bar serves fresh seafood and “paella to die for”; and the Pickled Popper offers up 10 different chilli poppers for guests with a hankering for some heat.
Then there are waffles, pancakes, banting baked goods, biltong, lamb, buffalo wings, omelettes, wraps, soups, and more. The place I always make a beeline for, however, is Tunisian Delight, which is a haven for Mediterranean food lovers. Here, I ordered a shawarma thickly lathered with hummus and a creamy Tzatziki sauce blissfully overfilled with tomato, aubergine, rocket, and crispy yet soft-on-the-inside falafels.
With my Tzatziki facial in progress, we continued our amble around the world, stopping over in America for some good old-fashioned mac n’ cheese at The Mac Factory, except there was nothing “old-fashioned” about it. Served swimming in a thick and velvety cheese blend of mature cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan, and topped with mushrooms, truffle oil, and their signature Parmesan and thyme crumble… it breaks my heart to say that The Mac Factory makes a better mac n’ cheese than I do!
Drinks and entertainment
Equally as diverse as the Bay Harbour Market’s food menu is the drinks menu! No matter what you feel like – whether it’s a hot or a cold day – there is a suite of fabulous options on offer, from cold craft beer and fruity cocktails to hot artisanal coffee and a fabulous selection of KWV and Laborie wines. The Boom Bar is a full-service bar where you can get your draft beer, spirit mixers, wine, etc., while Z.A. Culture is just one of several places to pick up a hot coffee. If you’re in the mood for a cheeky cocktail, Naked Drinks has eight on offer, made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and served by the glass or jug.
The cherry on the proverbial pie: every weekend, the Bay Harbour Market’s KWV Sound Stage hosts live entertainment by up-and-coming local musicians.
It’s a real Capetonian thing to do
The Bay Harbour Market was conceived in 2010 by two gentlemen who happened to meet each other on a visit to the old Sea Harvest fish factory in Hangberg (the harbour). Sensing the unique energy of the place, and its incredible potential, not only as a physical location for a vibrant weekend market but also as a project that would greatly uplift the community, they embarked upon a joint venture and adventure.
Today, the Bay Harbour Market is one of Cape Town’s most popular weekend markets, a must-do attraction for locals and tourists alike, and a vastly successful enterprise that has contributed enormously to the health and wealth of the harbour area and the entrepreneurs who sell their wares here. It’s a real Capetonian thing to do and the most exquisite way to spend a few weekend hours.
Keep up to date with happenings and their entertainment line-up: