Here, we suggest five of the best places to visit to savour excellent regional cuisine and of course, enjoy a good glass of wine.
Situated just outside Franschhoek, Babylonstoren (below) is a 17th-century fruit and wine farm that has been transformed into a designer destination. It’s there, amid neat rows of vineyards, acres of abundant orchards and vegetable gardens, a boutique hotel, spa, greenhouse and a couple of farm-style shops that Babel Restaurant lies. The menu is dictated by what’s in season in the farm’s gardens: there’s no shortage of fresh produce as more than 300 varieties are grown onsite, including a number of indigenous or rare plants.
A ‘pick, clean and serve’ philosophy on the farm results in creative combinations of fruit and vegetables being served alongside free-range, locally supplied meats, poultry and fish. Babel is renowned for its generous green, yellow and red salad starters. Main courses tend to celebrate one key ingredient, for example, fresh fish, beef fillet or lamb cutlets that are complemented by a selection of mouthwatering accompaniments. Desserts are broken up into four options: sour, sweet, bitter and sweet, or spicy and sweet.
2. Pierneef a La Motte
La Motte Wine Estate – which is set at the entrance of the Franschhoek village – has a history of viticulture dating back to the mid-18th century. Its onsite art gallery houses a number of collectors’ pieces and its award-winning, fine-dining restaurant is named after the South African landscape painter, Jacob Pierneef (1886-1957), one of the country’s greatest masters of his time.
Executive chef Michelle Theron helms the kitchen at Pierneef and her culinary approach is inspired by centuries-old Cape Winelands food heritage, ingredients and techniques. She and her team draw on Dutch, Cape Malay, Flemish and French Huguenot recipes, but present their dishes with a contemporary twist. Theron uses seasonal ingredients and much emphasis is placed on using local, organic and sustainable products, with most of the vegetables and herbs picked straight from La Motte’s garden.
Avondale wine farm, set on the outskirts of Paarl, is known for producing organic and biodynamic premium wines. Onsite restaurant Faber follows this sustainable ethos as the culinary team, led by chef Eric Bulpitt, focuses on supporting organic, free-range and low-carbon producers. The setting of this fine-dining outlet is arguably one of the most impressive in the region. There’s an indoor venue set within a well-preserved Cape Dutch-style building as well as long verandah which overlooks beautiful gardens and sweeping views of vineyards and the nearby valley.
Every dish on the a la carte or tasting menus is exquisitely presented – from the confit of duck leg topped with edible flowers (above) to the whimsical coconut panna cotta with charred pineapple and pineapple beer sorbet for dessert.
South African chef Bertus Basson is a key player on the country’s culinary scene and is perhaps best known for the success of Overture restaurant. Set on Hidden Valley wine farm in the foothills of Stellenbosch’s Helderberg Mountain range, this al fresco outlet offers gorgeous views that stretch over olive groves and plains as far as Table Mountain. Basson and his kitchen brigade make fantastic food that’s firmly rooted in traditional cuisine while celebrating fresh and local ingredients.
His three-course menu starts with freshly baked bread and four amuse-bouches, which includes a wonderfully comforting and contemporary cabbage bake – inspired by one of his mother’s recipes. Mains such as roast hake with Copper Penny carrots, carrot puree, curried sauce and coriander elevate this humble fish. And the dessert of white chocolate mousse, coconut, cardamom ice cream, ginger pear and salted caramel, is as sinfully delicious as it sounds.
5. The Pool Room
The Western Cape’s Elgin valley is renowned for its apples, pears, roses and excellent wines. It’s within this garden-of-Eden region that you’ll find Oak Valley wine farm – and more importantly, The Pool Room restaurant. Dining there is much like being in the comfort of your own home while savouring some of best acorn-fed pork and grass-fed beef as well as naturally grown vegetables and artisanal breads available.
– TEXT BY TIFFANY ESLICK
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED, BABYLONSTOREN FACEBOOK, LA MOTTE FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, AVONDALE WINE FACEBOOK, OVERTURE RESTAURANT FACEBOOK, RUSSEL WASSERLFALL, HIDDEN VALLEY WINES FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.