Formerly one of the most authentic cafes in Cape Town, Lola’s has grown up and gotten a serious facelift. Not quite as shaggy and boho as its previous incarnation, Lola’s arches have been raised, its floors levelled and its image scrubbed up. Situated in the heart of the backpacker quarter on bustling Long Street, Lola’s melange of retro-kitsch styling and haphazard thrown-together anti-glamour makes it one of the spots along this stretch to gather for hangover-quelling breakfasts, pre-evening drinks, and filling meals that range from overly cheesy macaroni, to mushroom-topped lasagne. An evening tapas menu has been added and, while the menu still strays toward the vegetarian, there is plenty of meat and fish to be found here, now, too.
Still, it’s the vibe you come for, and a seat on the sidewalk (hold on tightly to your bags) guarantees an endless succession of passing eye-candy and a chance to ogle Long Street’s special brand of inner city bravado. Inside, the restaurant has been cleaned up, with extra light coming in from the raised ceilings and a decidedly more minimalist feel than its previous incarnation (think dark grey walls, splashes of colour and the same comfortable plastic chairs). A hatch behind the espresso counter allows you to peek into the tiny, slightly dishevelled kitchen, and there’s a full bar service; beer specials are sometimes listed on the A-frame chalk board outside. (No point asking after Lola, incidentally; apparently the place was named for a former owner of the building.)