WORDS: KIT HEATHCOCK IMAGES: NATASHA LASSEN & KIT HEATHCOCK
Above Somerset Road, De Waterkant Village is postcard-pretty with narrow streets of brightly coloured Georgian and Cape Dutch cottages, steep cobbled slopes and secret stone stairs, venerable twisted pepper trees, coffee shops, art galleries and a friendly tranquillity. This charm has led to its constant reinvention.
“The village has changed faces over the years from being a bohemian village to becoming the gay village of South Africa, and recently it has transformed once again, this time into a lifestyle village welcoming families and tourists into this busy little melting pot of a village,” says Kris Rossouw, resident and co-owner of Deepest Darkest art gallery.
Below Somerset Road old warehouses and new developments conceal trendy co-working spaces, offices and restaurants along streets that connect the pedestrian with the V&A Waterfront. One of De Waterkant’s attractions to both residents and visitors is its proximity to everything, a car is not an asset, especially with parking at a premium. “My favourite thing about living here is having a folding bicycle as my main means of transport around town. Going out to meet friends for a coffee or to have meetings, it’s literally a few seconds on my bike,” says resident Martin Evans. “I can get to the radio station, or be at the Comedy Club at the Waterfront in less time than it takes the average person to get their car out of the garage.”
And while the growing preponderance of holiday lets has reduced the permanent resident population, those that remain and run businesses here are close-knit. “As business owners we all know each other and are friendly and supportive. We promote one another and create a community around that,” says Justine Burger of Café Charles. Niloo Soltan of City Pilates adds, “The vibe is cosmopolitan and warm. Neighbours know each other, greet and meet at the local cafe for their morning coffee. The community warmth extends to all, whether they live here, work here or are just visiting.”
Many of the colourful cottages that line the upper streets on the slopes of Signal Hill date back to the early 1800s built from the same quarried stone used on the Castle of Good Hope. Nowadays they fetch premium prices, often being scooped up by international buyers then rented out as holiday accommodation, so that the heart of the Village along Waterkant Street has a permanent holiday vibe.
De Waterkant Village has an active heritage protection overlay zone that local civic associations work hard to defend from the impact of new developments on its fringes. The lower side of De Waterkant has a more urban feel with apartment complexes – from converted warehouses to brand-new developments – appealing to young professionals who enjoy the vibe and proximity to the central city and the Waterfront.
De Waterkant is a place to explore on foot, and even for a local there’s a holiday air about it. Leaving behind the car you’re free to zigzag up enticing steep stone stairs, wander quiet streets, past the old concrete slipways where fishermen beached their boats back when Waterkant Street really was at the water’s edge, discovering Noerul Mogammadiah Mosque dating back to 1899, endlessly Instagramable bright-painted facades, pausing at coffee shops and bars with rooftop terraces, then leisurely browsing all the art galleries. Make a day of it with an indulgent Thai massage at award-winning boutique spa, Mai Thai, with its serene atmosphere and greenery-filled inner courtyard.
De Waterkant is renowned for its coffee and worth a visit for that alone. “Origins coffee has been on the map for yonks… the fact that they mixed coffee into their floor paint to give you that dark roaster coffee colour, blew me away back in the day,” says Kris. “Since then more coffee shops opened priding themselves in their own brews – Charles Café, Truth Coffee, Ground Art, Nap Living.”
Conveniently close not only to the CBD but also Green Point Urban Park, Sea Point Promenade, the Waterfront, the Cape Town Stadium, beaches and mountain, De Waterkant really is a village at the heart of the city.
I love the fact that I’m living in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in South Africa – heritage is the most important part. And I’m thrilled as a resident artist that the village is attracting an array of interesting art establishments. KRIS ROSSOUW, RESIDENT
- Osteria Tarantino: traditional Italian food with an authentic trattoria vibe
- Riva Italian Fish Restaurant: fresh Italian seafood and pasta from two young Italian chefs
- Shio: Cheyne Morrisby’s Japanese inspired tapas
- Vasco da Gama Taverna: unpretentious Portuguese cooking and pub vibe
- Charles Café: cosy breakfasts, lunches and local Malay curries with a rooftop terrace
- The Village Café: welcoming neighbourhood cafe
- Loading Bay: hip bistro fare
- Il Leone Mastrantonio: elegant Italian restaurant doing the classics well
- Beluga: upmarket sushi and Asian fusion with art deco style
- Utopia Rooftop Restaurant for sundowners and dinner with incredible views
- Explore the art scene on First Thursdays
- Book a restorative spa treatment at Mai Thai Wellness Spa
- Get active at City Pilates and Yoga Life
- The Piano Bar for weekly music nights
- Visit Beefcakes for burlesque drag shows, burgers for a raucous evening out
- Browse art deco antiques at Burr & Muir, Maison Mara for designer fashion and decor from Paris
- Everyday shopping and upmarket decor at the Cape Quarter centre
- Deepest Darkest boutique art gallery: putting on a series of solo and group exhibitions
- Ground Art Caffe: revolving art exhibitions and coffee shop
- Martin Osner Art Photography Gallery: fine photographic prints
- Abé Opperman Gallery: South African artist
- THK Gallery: contemporary art gallery