Long Street to freedom
Cape Town is the hottest destination in the known universe this summer. Well, that’s what the tourist people would have you believe, and in the interests of planetary harmony herewith an insider’s guide to the zest with the best.
Nightfall is when a place really proves it is a city worthy of the name, and, whatever cynical upcountry visitors may say, the long, languorous summer evenings round the inner city of this ancient port can yield interesting results.
There are, of course, other fun-laden parts of the peninsula — neo-hippy Kalk Bay, yuppy-plastic Camps Bay-Clifton, the sanitised play-safe confines of the V&A Waterfront — but this summer, stay in the city.
After all, it is where it all began, back when Jan van Riebeeck and Khoisan Harry first cracked a pipe together.
Food-wise, 10pm signals the end of gastronomic delights, but there are a number of cheery places where merriment goes on. Here follows the long shortlist of the designated hit strips.
Long Street and Loop Street, at the upper end of the CBD, especially the bits between Wale Street on the harbour side and the Long Street Baths on the mountain side, is the trendiest part of the city immediately after dark. If you enjoy foisting your way past near-Eastern boerewors-roll vendors, informal street-dwellers of every description and drunk young party folk, this place is for you.
By day, this end of town boasts chintzy shops purveying a mix of ancient memorabilia and up-to-date trendoid fashion. By night, bar/ restaurants such as Bob’s, Mr Pickwick, Jo’burg and Madame Zingara abound with a fizzy mix of out-on-the-edge fashionistas, garrulous intellectuals and noisy insomniacs. During the week peak time is sunset until past midnight, and on weekends — when the pavements really jive — you can push on till about 2am. No eating, of course.
What characterises this part of town? In a word: conviviality. You can meet people from Plumstead, Patagonia or Paris, and exchange philosophies and phone numbers like there’s no tomorrow. The night is abuzz with conversation. You’ll be hoarse, but you’ll be happy.
Long Street and Loop Street, running below Wale Street, is the place to be for those of a more reckless disposition. If Dionysus is your reigning deity and shaking your booty is your thing, you’ll find consolation at dance bars like the Baseline, Deluxe, Voodoo Lounge (Bree Street) and Sutra.
In these more dimly-lit emporia, words compete with music — good, wholesome, best-beat house, hip-hop and funk in infinite varieties. Attitude is still important, but here surrender to the rhythm and dance, dance, dance. Optimum time? Past midnight until 4am.
Somerset Road, Green Point. This is the strip Mama warned you about — the famously pink part of town.
Actually, the supposed gay aura of this end of town has been overstated. With the demise of some well-known gay clubs, the area is really the late-night cross-over funland of choice.
By “cross-over”, I mean all establishments are ambi-sexual in their inclinations: straight, bi and gay mingle together in lurid Toulouse-Lautrec shades of pink, green and prussic blue (I speak of the decor, not the denizens).
In favoured clubs like CafÃ