James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Come To Do Your Laundry, Stay for the Dim Sum

Come To Do Your Laundry, Stay for the Dim Sum

Dim Sum in Cape Town

Some come to have their washing done. Some come for the dim sum. Some come for both.

Sitting below Cape Town’s Table Mountain, I Love My Laundry (the “love” is a red heart), offers washing and drying services, food, and drinks. They claim to be South Africa’s “first destination laundry”.

I went, initially, for the washing. I was staying up the road in the suburb of Zonnebloem, (“Sunflower”) close to the city center. The area is located in what used to be part of District Six, a diverse residential neighborhood that the apartheid government bulldozed in the 1970s, forcibly relocating over 60,000 residents.

Now, the neighborhood is home to Nude Foods (a plastic-free supermarket) and The Raptor Room, which offers bottomless Bloody Mary brunches and a huge sandwich named “You Gats-tby kidding me” (your choice of fillings on Portuguese bread, fries, and spiced cauliflower chutney).

I had been living in Uganda, and came to Cape Town for a break. A friend had set up a co-working space, Cape Town Office, on nearby Roeland Street, where I worked during my time there. I had noticed the laundry’s pink, brick building from a distance, but never would have guessed what it contained.

The Airbnb I was staying in didn’t have a washing machine, so my friend sent me there. One morning, I trudged into town with my bags of dirty clothes. All I wanted was to clean my delicates; I certainly wasn’t expecting to get food out of the deal.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the laundry’s Korean-style tofu and leek dim sum (there are other flavors). Mid-morning, I was still there, eating and talking to the staff. I came back regularly—once, just for the steamed dumplings.

“Normally the people coming to eat are separate from the laundry people, but sometimes it’s both,” owner Chris Mitchell told me, adding that about most of his customers are travelers.

Dim sum and washing do have a history, and Mitchell, who relies on social media and word-of-mouth for advertising, admits the previous owners got the idea from a place in San Francisco. Naturally. But it appears to be catching on pretty well in Cape Town. “I do have competition with the laundry, but not really with the dim sum at the moment,” Mitchell said.

Besides dumplings, other options for breakfast and brunch include muffins and croissants with coffee and tea, and Mitchell says the menu can “be adjusted according to customers’ needs”. Those needs sometimes include beer and wine, between 4-6 p.m. They started selling wine because they thought it might go well with the dim sum. (It does.)

Every time I collected my clothes, they were always immaculately dry-cleaned, ironed, and folded. And the dim sum was always delicious.

50 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town
+27 78 105 6280
7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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