Thibault Square: lunch in downtown Cape Town

Many of the places on this blog are the type that you’re prone to accidently bump into while you’re wandering the vibey, shop-lined streets of Cape Town. Thibault Square is therefore quite different. At the very end of St. Georges Mall, almost at the bottom end of Long Street, this can surely be classified as downtown Cape Town. It’s where people working in the surrounding buildings go for lunch. It’s a local meeting place and it has lunches that will truly suite anyone’s budget.

The square is surrounded on all sides by some of the tallest buildings in Cape Town. And even though the tallest buildings here are nothing compared to Johannesburg and New York, you still get the feeling that they tower above you and looking up from the middle of the square, it looks quite impressive. The bustling of locals is enhanced by the pigeons hanging around in clumps on the pavement, waiting for scraps of food. And there are trees whose trunks are encircled with wire benches. Not the most comfortable place to sit, but a nice escape from the office chair. Alternately, there are enough concrete steps that serve perfectly for a bit of lunch time sun and people watching.

Dotted all around the square are café’s and restaurants to satisfy the hunger. Urban Bean and McCarthy’s sandwich deli seem to cater for those with a smaller lunch time budget while Crave and Trieste Café will give you the gourmet sandwiches, ciabattas and salads. McCarthy’s has an old-school look with dark green canopies and a blackboard advertising the classic tuna mayo and chicken mayo combo’s for only R15.50 each. Don’t be fooled by the price though, they’re huge.

At Trieste Café you have a choice between a small sandwich and a big one, but also to have your toppings on a croissant and even a pizza if you’d like. The small sandwich cost just under R20 but it’s definitely too small to last a growing boy through the entire afternoon. For those just up for nibble, they are perfect though. What’s nice about this place is that it faces the street and the square and it’s fitted with high wooden tables and chairs that overlook the ongoing buzz.

Crave is a bit more gourmet. The sandwiches are lovely and fresh and you pick them out yourself from the fridge. Some, like the ciabattas, have a nifty sticker encouraging you to get it toasted at the counter. They also have a great selection of coffees and other treats that’ll have you nibbling at your desk. Facing away from the actual square, the tables and chairs outside are much more secluded and the design of the shop is definitely more modern than the rest of the shops around the square.

The coffee shops and lunch spots aren’t all you’ll find here though. There are quite a few market-styled, temporary stalls too. You can get some fresh fruit, cigarettes, chips and cooldrinks and even second hand books on some days. This is probably one of the things that up the local feel a little more and it really livens up the place. It’s one of the few squares where you’ll see someone walking with a takeaway coffee from Crave past someone who just bought a hotdog.

So if you’re working in the surroundings and your monthly budget is a little spent for a more upmarket lunch stop in town, head on down to Thibault Square, because you’re bound to find a special that will fill you up. It’s also a good excuse to sit outside for a while and watch the pigeons before heading back to that dreaded desk.

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