The Best Cafe in Cape Town

Amid the hustle and bustle, the darting taxis and the general hubbub of Cape Town, you’ll find a chic little French creperie, seemingly plucked straight from the streets of Brittany. With the red, white and blue colour scheme, the whimsical menu and the Leonardo da Vinci and Jean-Leon Gerome prints lining the walls, it’s clear where Jessica Rushmere got her inspiration.

How did you come up with the name? ‘The swan is my spirit animal. The image of a swan on a lake is so elegant, just gliding peacefully. But you don’t see what’s happening just below the surface. Underneath, their feet are paddling like crazy! That’s a fitting image of myself and my team at Swan.’

You once travelled the world as a model.

Why settle in Cape Town?

‘Everyone always asks why I don’t just go back to France if I miss it so much. But Cape Town has been my home for the past 20 years, so I created here what I miss from there. When I started dreaming about Swan Cafe, I knew the start and I knew the result; I had no idea about anything in between. Swan Cafe opened in May 2018, but the project really began three years before. I was completely obsessed.’

What made you decide to open a creperie?

‘I wanted to create an experience for people, a destination shop where they’d be transported to France. Starting a creperie seemed like the perfect plan, as I’ve always loved indulging in crepes, especially with a side of craft cider served in a little bowl, as they do in France. Once I had the vision of what I wanted to do, I put everything into it. I trained as a manager and did a crepe masterclass in Brittany, where crepes originated.’

The Best Cafe in Cape Town Photo Gallery

How did you go about designing your chic home away from home? The plan was to ensure that every single detail of Swan Cafe had a meaning, combining beautiful interiors with my own dreams and life story. I worked closely with furniture designer Haldane Martin. The rose-gold cages hanging from the ceiling are all open and filled with light, representing my own lesson learnt: to fly out of my own cage, leaving only light all around me. The front of the cafe features genuine crepe stoves from Brittany behind a glass panel – so you can watch your meal (the savoury crepes are called galettes) being made right in front of you. And the walls feature depictions of Leda and the Swan, the Greek mythological tale of Zeus disguising himself as a swan to seduce the mortal beauty Leda.’

What does a typical day look like for you?

‘Swan Cafe is still my baby, so I’m here often; I absolutely love it. Some days I think I’m just going to pop in, and I end up staying for five hours or the whole day. After all this time, this is still my passion.’

Do you get a lot of French customers?

‘Yes! I still get a bit nervous when they come in, but I’m always pleased to see them. They’re always saying that they feel like they’re back at home – that’s the best compliment for me.’

Any words of wisdom for women with dreams of starting a business?

‘There will always be people who say things like, “I don’t know if crepes are going to work. Are you sure?” But you don’t really need other people to believe in you; you have to believe in yourself. It can be scary to start out, but just do your homework, follow your vision and be patient – there are lots of steps and many delays, but those happen for a reason. Everything will happen at the right time.’

Address: Corner Buitenkant & Barrack Streets, Zonnebloem, Cape Town Instagram: @swancafect


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