Cape Winelands Update 2014
Chef/Patron Ryan Smith at the pass, Ryan's Kitchen, Franschhoek
Cape Winelands Update 2014
Our anniversary visit to South Africa coincided with a new high for the currency exchange rate between sterling and the rand that makes visiting this wonderful country more tempting than ever. Travelling in late February and March the weather was more changeable; but still lots of hot sunny days too. Our three locations this year were a return to old haunts — Franschhoek; Robertson and Hout Bay — but with a number of new discoveries [for us] in each location that we hope will be of interest to potential visitors.
View of the Franschhoek valley from Dieue Donne estate tasting room looking towards Simonsberg
Returning to Chestnut Cottage on the la Chataigne wine farm was great: additional sun loungers round the pool and pool towels in a cute woven basket were nice new touches to enhance your stay. We continued our stay in Franschhoek at a a new venue for us: Rose Cottage on the Burgundy Bourgogne estate. We had four wonderful nights in Rose Cottage, luxuriating in the beautifully appointed interior, the immaculate garden featuring white Iceberg roses and spectacular view over the lake to the mountains beyond. The driveways through the landscaped farm are lined with olive trees, from which they produce their own olive oil, leading you to your discretely located accommodation. Each property has its own pool with loungers [although more outdoor furniture would be welcome] and there is a 'mirador' way up the track beyond the vines for a sweeping view of the farm and valley — just beware of the baboons! Expensive, but worth it just to sweep through the huge entrance gates! [Adapted from our Tripadvisor review].
Rose Cottage at Burgundy Bourgogne
Franschhoek Valley Wine and Food Route
Lots of wonderful food and wine experiences this year — revisiting previous venues and investigating those missed previously. Our top recommendation is Ryan’s Kitchen — located in part of the Rusthof Guest House at the quieter end of Huguenot Street [the main drag]. [In the process of relocating, check website for details]. The small open kitchen only caters for a few dozen covers; you can choose to sit either inside or outside. We had a great evening by choosing the 4 course chef's selection and matching wines — here it is in detail:
A complimentary mini pail of minted pea puree with mushroom 'soil' followed by a starter of duck parfait with watermelon and salted caramel matched with ratafia wine; next was the cape malay pickled trout 'en papilotte' matched to a Mount Rochelle semillon wine; then a refreshing pineapple sorbet before the mains of springbok loin with beetroot tapioca, baby beets and ju matched to a Rickety Bridge syrah; we shared two desserts: a granadilla soufflé with banana and almond ice cream and a rich chocolate ‘inverted’ fondant with ice cream and hot chocolate mint sauce matched to a muscatel sweet wine.
Service was attentive and the matching wines [introduced by Ryan’s charming wife Lana] really complemented the food. The team in the open kitchen worked quietly but obviously knew their jobs to deliver on both quality and timing. A great evening and great food. [Adapted from our Tripadvisor review].
The terrace at Cafe Bon Bon
We also had a great lunch at Café Bon Bon. Don't be put off by the name — it doesn't do it justice. This restaurant is on the La Petite Dauphine guest farm with very attractive — and priced accordingly — accommodation. It's also the wine tasting venue for Haut Espoir Wines, a wine farm a little further up Excelsior Road. Drive up the longish drive, turn a corner and you are greeted by some very attractive converted farm buildings, a big dog, a very superior cockerel and some very friendly people. Initially we went for a wine tasting, but it's very easy to be seduced to stay for lunch by the sight of the food being delivered to the restaurant from the kitchen! We started lunch on the terrace with shared beef carpaccio 'a caper créme fraîche, sweet beetroot and rocket salad. Mains were a chicken satay curry 'sautéed chicken breast with a mild and creamy satay curry sauce, bean shoots, coconut jasmine rice and toasted chilli seed mix' and a Venison of the Day — kudu which unfortunately was very late in arriving due to [apparently] an initial overcooking, replaced by the chef who personally apologised for the delay. Then the weather changed and we finished our wine indoors bemused by the display of huge cakes including lemon meringue some 8 inches high. Staff were charming and the environment was very friendly, prices very reasonable for such good cooking. Order the very popular lemon meringue cake on arrival to ensure you get a slice! [Adapted from our Tripadvisor review].
The mouthwatering cake display at Cafe Bon Bon
Another good experience was at Roca the restaurant [and micro brewery] on the Dieue Donne estate. Make for Uitkyk Street and keep going up the hillside to the car park. The restaurant is cut into the hillside to reduce it’s impact and entered at an upper level — so you must then climb steps to reach the entrance and then you get the full impact of the view of the town and across the valley. Friendly staff suggest a ‘sundowner’ drink on the terrace before returning indoors as the evening cools for your meal. The terrace is a popular venue for casual dining — antipasto/mezze/tapas style small plates and a drink at lunch time or during the evening. Starters and mains are a mix of fish, fowl and meat dishes, with a selection of snails in various sauces too.
We read about The Kitchen at Maison Estate — a newish venture by Chris Weylands, purveyor of contemporary and eclectic clothes, furniture and whatnots to the discerning classes of Namibia, South Africa and now Melbourne, Australia too — in a magazine and were intrigued to see the offer. Don’t rely on the map on the website to find the location — it’s about 3 kilometres nearer the centre of Franschhoek than indicated. It’s a big white on white on white bungalow surrounded by some lovely contemporary landscaping overlooking the vines. We only had a drink on the verandah — but the food looked intriguing, although to mixed reviews on Tripadvisor. Everything is very designedly, including the staff and thus a cool place to chill-out.
The Kitchen at Maison Estate entrance sign featuring a giant kitchen whisk
See our large format illustrated map: Franschoek Wine Valley at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-eYubulMNoik/VAdY_S5gevI/AAAAAAAAA_g/UkG8V2UBBqQ/s1600/Franschhoek-Wine-Valley-Map-optimised.jpg
The Saturday Market adjacent to Franschhoek Church
A return visit to Mosesberg Cottage on Orange Grove Farm proved just as good as last year — fabulous views, peace and tranquility, yet there is always something going on to catch the eye when sitting on the verandah: the bird life is terrific. The view from the verandah is a valley of vines and olive trees with the R62, Rooiberg Winery and Worcester-Mosselbai railway in the distance. We even saw a train this trip — a first for us, we thought the line was abandoned! The farm now produces it's own range of '1812' toiletries using home grown ingredients that you can purchase as gifts. The nearby Rooiberg Winery has very well priced wines, a very popular cafe and excellent bakery with a range of country-style goods — even Marmite muffins — real fusion food! [Adapted from our Tripadvisor review].
Robertson R62 Wine Route
We made return visits to a number of favourite haunts including the Van Louveren; Viljoensdrift and Springfield wineries and had a tutored tasting with Johann De Wet one of the owner’s sons at the De Wetshof winery where we learned about the time and effort required in making consistently first class wines. Our meal at the Robertson Small Hotel proved more of an experience than we expected as there was an electricity power cut for 2 hours during the meal that the management were totally unprepared for — no back-up generator — resulting in a long wait for starters [for which we were not charged] and eating in candlelight — romantic except when forced upon you!
The Pool Room at The King’s Place in Hout Bay now boasts wi-fi, but it didn’t work for us. However it’s a great base to make the most of that part of the Cape Peninsula and there is a new flat-screen TV.
Wining and Dining
No Ocean Basket in Hout Bay! We were really looking forward to a cheap and cheerful meal at this very popular venue but it was not to be. We’re in the process of enquiring as to why they closed down, but are opening in Camps Bay. Not withstanding our disappointment we had some great times watching the sun go down at The Dunes; the wonderful calamari and prawn skillet at the Chapman’s Peak Hotel; the Thursday evening ‘market’ overlooking Noordhoek Beach and the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Point Vineyards and visiting The Bay Market [Friday pm, all day Saturday and Sunday] on the dock at Hout Bay — always heaving with some fabulous food offers and listening to the band at The Lookout — on Sundays it’s ‘Tanglewood’ who are so good at close harmony all their songs sound like CSNY — very skilled and very popular too.
Over in Constantia we visited the Beau Constantia winery for tastings in the beautiful contemporary tasting room and decks — accompanied by very creative canapés and Constantia Glen for charming tastings or lunches comprising various platters of charcuterie, cheeses and breads in their new eclectically designed tasting rooms fashioned from old farm buildings. All beautifully done and very popular with a clientele of a certain age!
A return to the Cape peninsula is not complete without a visit to the wonderful Steenberg Winery Bistro 1682 for an early evening meal of tapas/small plates — some great creative twists on the theme — a cut above ‘finger-food’ in the Spanish tradition.
We also had a wander around Kalk Bay and Simonstown on the False Bay side of the Cape Peninsula. Kalk Bay is really upping it’s offer and some of the older buildings on the lanes off the main road have been beautifully restored with contemporary detailing — some great creative architectural ideas for the nicking!