As head concierge of The Houghton Hotel, Moira Mdakana knows a thing or two about keeping glam travellers happy. But don’t take our word for it, look at her lapel: that shining pin of crossed golden keys shows that Mdakana is a member — one of just 14 in South Africa — of the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or, an exclusive professional society of global concierges.
Before moving to Gauteng in early 2020 Mdakana was concierge, one of four on the all-women team, at the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront. Born and raised in the city, Mdakana remains as passionate as ever about sharing the charms of the Mother City. To help you plan that post-lockdown coastal escape, we asked her for her favourite corners of the Cape.
What’s one aspect of the city that visitors too often overlook?
I think both locals and visitors don’t truly appreciate how amazing the beaches are. As a local growing up in Cape Town we’d walk the dogs on Muizenberg beach and take it for granted. We became so used to it, but now, especially in lockdown, I realise you have to take the time for those places. I love Muizenberg, but there’s also Clifton and Camps Bay — both gorgeous.
Your bestie is in town, where would you take them?
If you were coming to my city, I’d start on Kloof Street and Bree Street. They’re hip and happening, all the restaurants and bars are very popular. Asoka bar and lounge has always been a favourite of mine because they do live jazz on Tuesdays. They also have a great tapas and cocktail menu, if you don’t want a full sit-down dinner. I’d also stop at the Gin Bar on Wale Street, just behind Honest Chocolate, and to Cause Effect, a Cape brandy bar that’s inspired by all that Cape Town has to offer.
For shopping, I love Skinny laMinx on Bree Street for textiles, as well as Kirsten Goss for jewellery. For African elements, Tribal Trends on Long Street is a firm favourite.
Is the Cape all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to fine food?
Absolutely. Cape Town is such a standout in terms of dining out. I love Japanese cuisine, so the real hidden gem for me is Kyoto Garden Sushi in town. My palate is not as adventurous as some people’s — although I’m trying! — but I love their sashimi and grilled calamari.
For more of a fine-dining experience La Colombe is the place to go. The service and food is so special, and it has such great memories for me, right back to when they used to be on Constantia Uitsig wine farm.
And what if I’m not into fine dining?
Head for the Wembley Roadhouse in Athlone. Their Wembley Whopper [a steak roll with braised onions, sliced potatoes and salad] is amazing. You’ve got the chips, you’ve got the sauce. You can eat it in your car and nobody needs to know.
Beyond the city, which are your favourite corners of the Cape?
Even if you’re not a wine connoisseur the wine country is just amazing. I enjoy the Constantia Valley — especially Buitenverwachting and historic Groot Constantia — but I also used to work at The Marine Hotel in Hermanus, and I just love the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, especially Creation Wines.
It’s not only the landscapes or the wines; it’s the authentic hospitality. I always speak from the heart, and you find the same in the people that produce the wine; you become captivated by how they express their work.
Which popular attractions would you skip?
The open-top City Sightseeing bus is great, but there are other more interesting ways to explore the city. I recently did a fantastic wine tour with Jeep Tours Cape Town, which goes off-road into the winelands. We did a wine and gin tasting in the vineyards above Buitenverwachting, where you can look right out over False Bay and the Constantia Valley. We met the owners, discovered the coffee shop where they roast their own coffee beans, then had lunch in their restaurant, which is unbelievable.
The Boulders penguins: noisy, overdressed squatters or adorable conservation ambassadors?
Most adorable ambassadors ever. I’m a lover of love, and what I like about them is that they stick to the same partner for life; they’re soulmates. There are also other colonies on the coast, but we have the most unique viewing point.