Stunning dining at Cape Town vineyards
It’s no secret that in Cape Town, good wine abounds. But the vineyards also host some of South Africa’s best restaurants, which pride themselves on serving up meals from ingredients often grown just steps away from the tables. These restaurants have won enough awards to fill walls, but like so many of South Africa’s best places to eat, they’re generally relaxed, unpretentious affairs where the prices won’t break the bank. Many of the menus are deceptively simple, heavy on local ingredients and farm fare, but prepared with passion and care. In no particular order, here are seven vineyards farms that offer great food and wine, with amazing views.
Best known for its Pierre Jourdan sparkling wines — known locally as Cap Classique, to get around Champagne naming rights — Haute Cabrière’s restaurant offers fine dining inside of a mountain. The tables fill an upper level of the cellar, carved out of the Franschhoek Mountain. But no worries about claustrophobia: vaulted ceilings soar overhead, while the wine cellar stretches out on a level far below. This is one of the few South African cultivators of pinot noir, which is the focus of a pairing menu in the winter months. In a country that loves meat, Haute Cabrière caters to vegetarians with a tasting menu every bit as good as its carnivore counterpart.
Haute Cabrière Restaurant & Terrace
Lambrechts Road, Franschhoek
Years ago a family from California bought Nobel Hill and opened cosecha, one of the first restaurants to bring high-end Mexican food to South Africa. Since then the country has developed a fascination with Latin cuisine, so words like “burrito” no longer draw blank stares. With delicately prepared ceviche and tender carnitas, cosecha is still showing others how it’s done. A fish taco with their crisp sauvignon blanc makes for a leisurely lunch. For families, there’s a jungle gym so the kids can entertain themselves for a while.
NB: They spell it with a small ‘c’ but not sure your style on this.
A giant among South African wine farms, Spier is the kind of place where it’s easy to get lost for a day, or two or three. Which is possible, because there’s a four-star hotel, a spa, a craft market, an impressive collection of contemporary local art, and a rehabilitation centre for injured eagles where guests can interact with the birds. But the real reason to hang out is to sample more than one meal at Eight, a farm-to-table restaurant with a seasonal menu created with produce from Spier’s organic vegetable garden, and its beef from the farm’s pastures. Because the grounds are so expansive, another option is to ask for a picnic basket (best booked in advance) and lounge on the grass with a meal of farmhouse cheeses, salad and freshly baked bread. This is also a great choice for families, because kids can range as freely as the chickens.
Because of its age, Babylonstoren looks like a typically Cape Dutch farm. The earliest settler structure dates from 1690, and the manor house is from 1777. The gables and thatched roofs recall the 17th century, but the food at Babel restaurant reflects a very modern sensibility about cooking. The ingredients are fresh from the garden, thoughtfully combined, and prepared without doing too much to them. Fruits often keep their skins. If the weather permits, meals are served in the courtyard. Otherwise, the restaurant has a glassed-in room that’s the next best thing to dining outdoors. During the day, the Greenhouse serves tea amid exotic plants like vanilla and dragonfruit.
Jordan Wine Estate
Jordan embodies the aspirations of modern South African dining. The restaurant is simple and open, with wooden chairs and white tablecloths in a room lined with windows overlooking the vines. The menu is also deceptively simple, and could include a pot roast or smoked fish. But every dish is perfectly prepared. That yellowtail came from a wine barrel smoker. The pot roast is springbok and makes game a fine dining experience. Breads are baked in wood-fired stove, and there’s a separate bakery that’s worth visiting just for the pastries. At the end of each meal, guests are invited to explore the walk-in artisanal cheese room and assemble their own plates. For people who believe in lists, Jordan is regularly ranked among the best in South Africa and in the world. If it’s too good to leave, Jordan has recently opened posh suites so visitors can stay on the farm.
Stellenbosch Kloof Road
From humble beginnings eight years ago, the restaurant at Hidden Valley has evolved into one of the country’s most innovative restaurants. The menu includes dishes that many South Africans remember from their childhood supper table: ox tongue, lamb knuckle, apple tarts. For foreigners, the menu invites questions like, who is this Ouma Jossie and what are her slaaphakskeintjies? A granny and tiny pickled onions are the answers. Here these classic meals are enlivened with fresh, seasonal ingredients, careful preparation, and a modern willingness to experiment with imported flavors like miso. Even people who shudder at the thought of trotters come away with newfound favorites.
T4 Route, Off Annandale Road,
NB: Please credit photos to Russel Wasserfall and Claire Gunn
This restaurant has one simple, insurmountable edge over all the others: ice cream and wine pairings. Only in the summer, and so loved that bookings fill up fast. Toffee, almond and vanilla ice cream with a glass of Chardonnay are reason enough to visit, but the rest of the menu is a pleasure throughout the year. Hearty meals with an international flavor can begin with gorgonzola-stuffed litchi, wrapped in smoked ostrich, and move to South Africa’s famous steaks. This is a warm, relaxing restaurant with top-notch food and the spectacular views that the region is famous for.
Clos Malverne Restaurant
Devon Valley Road