These days there’s more to this corner of the Cape than just sunny vineyards, French flair and bubbly…
By Clifford Roberts
Taste chocolate, ride horses, visit a microbrewery, tour gardens and taste wine – there’s always plenty going on in Franschhoek. However, new additions to the established fine food and wine scene in SA’s self-proclaimed Gourmet Capital are the reasons why so many fans keep returning.
BEST FOR CELLAR DINING
Haute Cabrière, the renowned mountainside cellar restaurant, now has a new outdoor terrace with magnificent views, instituted as part of a makeover. Crisp white linen, chandeliers and artwork have brightened up the cavern-like interiors. The kitchen too has a new chief – Ryan Shell, who has kept signature dishes like the mussels and seared tuna, but imported new temptations like the Asian-inspired beef Wellington with soy-cured beef fillet, exotic mushrooms and a sour cherry coulis. Don’t miss the ritual beheading of a bottle of bubbly, or sabrage, at 11am every Saturday. Call 021-876-8500 or visit www.cabriere.co.za.
BEST FOR TOWNSHIP VIBES
Cecil Solwandle hosts tastings of his very own wine, made in consultation with winemaker Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, at The Whitehouse Shebeen. Solwandle is a former sommelier who now presents tastings at this typical township-style venue complete with hole-in-the-wall bar counter, pool table, mounted TV, vinylcovered furniture and a sign instructing patrons that no guns are allowed on the premises. The tastings are part of the Franschhoek Tourism Rond en Bont programme that highlights diverse cultural experiences. Call 021-876-2861.
BEST FOR COUNTRY FARE
Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant at MÔreson wine estate encourages you to abandon life’s stresses and fill up on wholesome meals – if you can make it past the excellent crusty breads and charcutier Neil Jewell’s tasty meats, that is! Jewell is a stickler for quality ingredients sourced locally. You can stock your picnic basket here too, but don’t leave before visiting the renowned orchid nursery next door. Call 021-876-3692 or visit www.moreson.co.za.
BEST FOR FINE FOOD
Set aside enough hours to enjoy one of the world’s best restaurants, The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, run by chef Margot Janse – a worthy food celeb. It’s been almost two decades and the excitement continues. Her ‘surprise’ Africa inspired menu serves up to eight courses, with or without wine pairing, in an intimate space decorated by her brother, Dutch set designer Herbert Janse. If the dinner-only hours don’t suit you, visit the restaurant’s sister venue, The Common Room. Call 021-876-2151 or visit www.lqf.co.za.
BEST FOR LEISURELY LUNCHES
Reuben Riffel earned his stripes in the food business, starting as a part-time barman and kitchen hand. Reuben’s, the first of his handful of eponymous restaurants, melds country goodness with city style, serving up the likes of crispy pork belly, sesame tossed broccoli stems and pan-roasted cob. To the side, there’s the dressed-down deli restaurant that offers light meals as well as foodie wares like cold meats and preserves to take home. Call 021-876-3772 or visit reubens.co.za.
BEST FOR A COOL ESCAPE
The fashionable Salmon Bar is the place for pastries and fresh breads such as ciabatta and San Francisco sourdough. The salmon, olives and cheese from the deli also feature on the menu. Keen supporters of sustainable farming, the owners highlight that they get to know their suppliers before passing wares on to the consumer. Call 021-876-4591 or visit www.salmonbar.com.
BEST FOR CAPE CUISINE
Pierneef’s interpretation of the Southern Africa landscape inspired the light and earthy interior of the Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant and ‘Cape Winelands cuisine’ by chef Chris Erasmus. On the menu, alongside dishes like the Karoo lamb and salmon trout, you’ll find bokkom salad and braaibroodjies – echoes of the country’s early settlers given a modern interpretation. A special paired menu allows guests to run through a tasting of food and wine, set as a tapas or gourmet dinner meal. Call 021-876-8800 or visit www.la-motte.com.
BEST FOR SOMETHING STRONGER
Wine’s not all there is to taste in the beautiful valley and the Chamonix Wine Farm produces fine Germanstyle schnapps, grappa and aperitifs made from plums, pears, cherries and wild figs. Put some zip back into your Winelands tour with a sip of the Swedish Bitter. Other attractions include its restaurant, antique-style tasting room and underground cellar. Call 021 876-8400 or visit www.chamonix.co.za.
BEST FOR COFFEE
Terbodore’s Franschhoek store situated on a wine farm just outside the town centre is the most recent initiative of the KZN Midlands-based coffee trader, launched in 2004 by Marian Macaskill. Her son Michael runs the Franschhoek shop. The smell of ground coffee beans and hessian pervades the narrow, rustic store where you’re welcome to perch with your brew and one of the light bakes that are sold here. Imported coffees are available as well as ranges flavoured with, among others, Amarula Cream, French vanilla and Kahlua fudge. Call 021-876-4716 or visit www.terbodorecoffee.co.za.
BEST FOR WINE TASTING
Taste Franschhoek Cellar wines matched with flavoursome cheeses. The old vine-covered building close to the town centre and home to the cellar, was a co-op from 1945 until it was re-energised as a private winery in the DGB premium liquor brands stable a few years ago. Today it produces a trio of single variety, award-winning red and white wines from vines planted across a variety of soil types and grapes picked at optimum ripeness. Call 021-876-2086 or visit franschhoekcellar.co.za.