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“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” – John Keats
My parents arrived in Cape Town, on holiday from cold London, to visit me last week. Well, probably more to visit the Cape Winelands and luxury safari lodges of South Africa than me, but I make for a good sidekick. It was up to me to plot a few days of activity for the weekend.
Perhaps you’re in the same boat as me, or have been, or will be shortly… To entertain the parents or in-laws, I suggest the Winelands, first and foremost. There’s so much to do and see and indulge in that they are sure to go home happy.
It is a foodie’s paradise. And we, the Katz family, are foodies. Around every corner is a wine estate offering a selection of fresh produce combined to form creations that both taste divine and look good enough to hang in the Tate Modern.
Whether you’re interested in learning the details of wine production and fermentation, or chatting over a boozy lunch in the sun or venturing off for more of a thrill on a quad bike adventure, the Winelands can do no wrong.
The 18th Century Manor House of the Grande Roche Hotel
We chose the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl to host our stay.
This is a gorgeous property. Literally breathtaking. Quaint Cape Dutch cottages are dotted around the grounds, hidden among the vines that almost appear to crawl onto the terraces outside each. Red and white roses create the border. It’s the ultimate romantic getaway, tucked away at the foot of Paarl Rock.
Stellenbosch market offers a variety of goods to satisfy all the senses
We started our weekend in Stellenbosch and spent our first morning rifling through the treats on show at the Stellenbosch Fresh Goods Market. From fudge to vintage once-off dresses, from cupcakes to Japanese knifes, there was plenty to keep our senses overwhelmed for hours.
After sampling olive oils from the various local wine farms, engaging in a wine tasting and cheekily popping samples of stinky cheese and decadent cakes, we ventured onto the grass to enjoy some craft beer under the summer sun.
The Green House at Babylonstoren
Everyone had told me the week leading up to our family shindig that Babylonstoren was a must. So we headed off next in the direction of one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in the winelands. Babylonstoren includes 200 hectares of vines and orchards surrounding the expanse of gardens, where veggies and fruit grow to supply the famous Babel Restaurant and the Green House.
Having made a rather spontaneous visit we had no chance of playing guest at Babel without a reservation, so we took a lazy amble through the magnificent gardens where big pomegranates grow. The resident tortoises and turkeys with their chicks scurry among the plants and herbs. Such a walk was enough to make us ravenous by the time we reached the Greenhouse, hidden among the oak trees in its tea room setting.
The freshest of produce from the Babylonstoren gardens – eatout.co.za
The menu features a choice of red, green or yellow juice. I chose red… an earthy combination of beetroot, red apple and plum. Followed by an equally refreshing, but slightly less healthy, bottle of Babylonstoren Rose. The menu is constructed in a way that allows you to make your own sandwiches, add and remove what you wish as though in your own luxury farm kitchen. The sandwiches are accompanied by fresh leafy salads from the farm and the food arrives wrapped in paper or held in jars in a quaint wooden box, creating a picnic-like ambiance.
We had wined and dined and seen the breathtaking sights but something was missing. A little adventure? I think so. Quad biking was the next order of the day. Just try not to get too sozzled at lunch before hopping onto one of these motorised contraptions.
On the beautiful Rhebokskloof Wine Estate, in Paarl, guests can explore the vineyards and Paarl Mountain Reserve by horseback or quad bike. This isn’t quite like the high speed rally adventures you may have encountered on your travels to the islands of Thailand or the deserts of North Africa, but it is a fun, scenic adventure. And you can always hold back to pick the delicious grapes from the vines and soak in the country air.
It’s fun also to see which of the family cracks first over the humps and bumps. Provides a bit of ammo for later…
Rhebokskloof Wine Estate: +27 21 869 8386 Wine Valley Horse Trails: +27 21 869 8687/ email@example.com
In décor, ambiance, views, service and food, the Delaire Graff Estate is top class. Located on the R310 on the Helshoogte Pass to Stellenbosch, the Estate sits quietly, unbeknown to passersby. We arrived for dinner in the last light of a blisteringly hot day.
At night, you can truly see the beauty of the place itself, lit up by twinkling lights, gorgeous architecture, dramatic décor and an eclectic collection of arts and sculptures.
I think I picked my wedding location then and there. But let’s keep that a little hush hush for now.
Walking through the restaurant we set eyes on the hundreds of wine barrels behind a large glass casing – a work of art itself, as far as I’m concerned. The sound of trickling water and the soft lighting over the paintings and sculptures drew us into the restaurant.
It was difficult to decide on what to eat. Too many dishes screamed out to me. Executive Chef, Christiaan Campbell describes his creations as ‘sunshine food’ – each dish captures the vitality and warmth of the sun. And this truly is the best way to describe it. Each bite spread a wave of contentment through me. Dining here is truly an experience. You interact with your food, contemplate it before delving in for the first bite, as you would a Van Gogh or a Monet.
The art and sculptures of Delaire Graff justify a visit all by themselves
I opted in the end for the ceviche of kob, winter melon, ginger, orange and roast walnuts followed by chicken thighs, crayfish, West Coast mussels, gnocchi, garlic flowers and mango.
The amuse-bouche, now a custom at most highly acclaimed restaurants, arrived with a little confusion at the table. But that’s the fun part. Two spongy ‘buns’ of red and green sat beside two creamy concoctions that we just couldn’t find a name for. Nothing was being given away here. On explanation by our waiter, we discovered that what sat before us, framed by knife and fork, was a roasted red tomato bun with gorgonzola butter and a green pea bun with black pepper butter.
The flavours were extraordinary, maintaining a rich, creamy texture while exuding a light freshness – sunshine food! I couldn’t wait for the next courses. And they didn’t disappoint.
You can’t help but indulge in the creations of Executive Chef Christiaan Campbell
I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, fellow diner. All you need to know is that there is one word to describe the work of Chef Christiaan Campell: Exceptional.
Even the service had character without being overbearing and the wine list was extremely reasonable for such an opulent setting. Chef Ruben Riffel from the popular Reuben’s at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town was seated opposite us and seemed to be just as entranced by his dinner as we were – so you don’t just have to take my word for it.
For other things to do in the Cape Winelands, should you still have time to fit it all in – read our blog 10 Things To Do In The Winelands – Besides Drink…
For more information and to start planning your own trip to the Cape Winelands, contact one of our experienced travel consultants and they will help you tailor-make an itinerary to perfectly suit you.
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Matt discovered a passion for writing in the six years he spent travelling abroad. He worked for a turtle sanctuary in Nicaragua, in an ice cream factory in Norway and on a camel safari in India. He was a door-to-door lightbulb-exchanger in Australia, a pub crawl guide in Amsterdam and a journalist in Colombia. Now, he writes and travels with us.
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