Bougainvillea climbs the walls, lemon trees heave with citrus fruits and linen tablecloths flutter in the breeze. Restaurants on wine farms speak of summer holidays and a slower pace of life that allows time to settle in for long, lazy al fresco lunches where sauvignon blanc flows freely – and all that follows is a siesta under the shade of a tree. Looking for somewhere to dine and enjoy the sunshine? South Africa’s wine country has plenty of grand wine estates and top-flight restaurants amid beauty of vineyards, but these are the region’s secret treasures that dish up knock-out plates. For a sun-kissed meal in the Cape Winelands this summer, there’s something here to suit every occasion and taste.
Terra del Capo Antipasti Bar – Anthonij Rupert Estate
Grand, fairytale-esque, royal sophistication – all of those words came to mind when we arrived at Terra del Capo Antipasti Bar, tucked inside the medieval walls of the impossibly perfect ‘borgo’ of Anthonij Rupert Estate. Set adjacent to the Terra del Capo Tasting Room that showcases the Italian-inspired Terra del Capo wine range, this intimate restaurant is shadowed by olive trees growing on its outdoor terrace. The surrounding gardens are majestic, with trimmed hedges, giant trees and flowing grasses, which make the whole place feel wonderfully discreet. The gentle scent of rosemary and basil dispensing their fragrances throughout adds to the experience. Though the industrial-chic inside dining room commands attention – with plenty of glass, elegant drapery, garden-inspired tapestries, perfectly pressed tablecloths and a jumble of antipasto jars – the garden turns the charm up to 11. Rustic, stylish and even a touch romantic, it’s the prettiest outdoor dining spot for a long, lazy and wine-filled lunch. In the summer, it’s utterly glorious. The food here is pure poetry and presentation – no one on earth does small plates with the devotion of the Italians. It hardly matters whether you opt for a glass of wine or an Aperol Spritz; the olives will be briny, the bread will be soft, and the sights will be beautiful. Order up one of the rustic-style platters of buttery cheeses and paper-thin-sliced salami, Parma ham, mortadella and coppa. If that’s not enough, make sure you sample the creamy burrata paired with blistered tomatoes and a basil dressing; crispy salt and pepper squid served with a saffron aioli; poached chicken tonnato salad that packs the best in seasonal flavours; salty, rich Parma ham wrapped around sweet and juicy melon; and silky seared springbok tartare – they’re dependably stellar. The Italians say that “a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine”. Indeed. So, what should you be drinking? The wine list is comprehensive, but we suggest you grab something from the namesake section – the zesty Terra del Capo Pinot Grigio (with fruit flavours of peach, nectarine and stone fruit) offers a refreshing twinkle of acidity and pairs really well with fresh vegetables and lighter meals. You’ll find that the savoury Terra del Capo Sangiovese pairs well roasted tomato and sweet balsamic. Worth noting: The service is excellent – staff are uniformly lovely and helpful. They know their wines and won’t keep you waiting long for refills. Si, grazie.
Open for lunch on Tuesday to Sunday from 12h00 to 16h00
Anthonij Rupert Estate, R45 Main Road, Franschhoek
021 874 9041
Orangerie Restaurant – Le Lude Estate
We’ll admit, we’re francophiles. It may be the technical precision of French cooking or the abundance of decadent butter in any and everything, but we cannot seem to get enough. The immaculate Cape Winelands village of Franschhoek is a slice of Gallic-ness in South Africa – and late summer is when the area is at its most romantic. If you’re looking for prim, proper and perfectly executed dishes, head to Orangerie Restaurant. You’re at Le Lude Estate, home to a world-renowned range of Cap Classique, so you know you’re in for a visual treat – but Orangerie Restaurant doesn’t just delight the eyes. The indoor part of the restaurant, a colonial-inspired greenhouse, is a cascade of leafy palms, ferns, white roses, thoughtfully curated décor, cane chairs and ceiling fans. But in the summer months, the place to be is in the lovely tree-shaded garden, among the buzz. The terrace features views of the effervescent wine-growing region, smoky-blue mountain range, and rose and herb garden, as well as the gentle sound of water features. Honestly, it’s fabulous for any time you want to have a memorable meal or celebrate an anniversary or birthday. Bold flavours and colours are present in their starters – from traditional French onion soup with a crusty baguette on the side, to Gruyère soufflé steeped in a velvety crème sauce, to a fresh salad that calls to Provence-style farm-to-table cooking. The chef also curates elevated plates of pasta like featherlight pork belly ravioli accented with Granny Smith apples, whipped goat’s cheese and black truffle jus. The main menu offers French cooking with a whimsical twist: Our picks include the locally sourced line fish with crispy pancetta, wilted baby butter lettuce, petit pois, charred pearl onions and lemon velouté; knife-tender duck breast with a fennel, orange and coriander crust, speckled with carrot purée and duck jus; and the chicken ricassée that even the haughty Michelin inspectors would get woozy over. If you don’t think this is one of the best meals you’ve had, we’ll happily finish your leftovers. The building of flavours is thoughtfully evident. If your belly allows, don’t skip dessert – the profiteroles au chocolat served with warm Belgian chocolate sauce and vanilla pod ice cream are perfection. Le Lude’s excellent MCCs, a touch fruitier than French sparklers, are of course available, too. This is the kind of restaurant you put on your calendar a week in advance and count down to every day.
Open for lunch on Tuesday to Sunday from 12h00 to 15h00
Le Lude Estate, Bowling Green Avenue, Lambrechts Road, Franschhoek
021 876 2961
Rupert & Rothschild Restaurant – Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons
Champagne wishes and caviar dreams … life is for living. The classic pairing of champagne and caviar is among the million reasons to visit Rupert & Rothschild Restaurant this summer. From the dusty gravel road, a broad sweep of white-washed Cape Dutch architecture comes into view, vineyards rolling beyond. The glamorous restaurant is a haze of blonde wood that brings to mind the golden tint of Barons de Rothschild champagne, while a large terrace with taupe parasols and smart tables opens out over the green valley where the scent of olive trees floats on the warm air. Revellers have the option of filling up on an à la carte meal or a three-course food and wine pairing – a relative steal at R695 per person. The à la carte menu features rich, unapologetically decadent and downright delicious detours from the most typical of ingredients. It’s bold and sophisticated enough to rival even the most prestigious restaurants in the Cape Winelands. Trust that any and all menu items here get a sabre rattle from us – from the plating to the masterful flavour combinations, the food is awe-inspiring. Go for what’s unique to the season to really feel the strengths of the kitchen: Dine on a plate of oysters with homemade Tabasco-style hot sauce; soft, flaky sea bass with variations of tomatoes, fromage blanc, kataifi pastry and sumac; and sugar snap pea and lemon risotto that revels in luxurious creamy textures and savoury richness, swirled creamily with toasted macadamia nuts, crème fraiche and asparagus. Then, finish things off with the 74% Valrhona dark chocolate tart – a triple layer of crumbly crust, a truffle-like interior and an almost patent-leather-shiny glaze, served with a blackberry and Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmond sorbet. Front-of-house staff are incredibly knowledgeable and happy to recommend or leave you to make your own decisions. The Imperial Heritage Caviar is a big-ticket menu item, but let’s face it, we’re worth the splurge. There’s only one way to honour it – by spooning it ever so sparingly atop ground millet blinis, so that it can shine with crème fraiche, diced shallots, chives and egg whites. This restaurant’s approach is one of easy luxury and impeccable service. We’d return time and time again for its lack of pretension, its ever-evolving menu, its versatile atmosphere that strikes an effortless balance between chic and casual and, of course, the famous Rupert & Rothschild Classique red wine blend.
Open for lunch on Wednesday to Sunday from 12h00 to 15h00
Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons, Klapmuts-Simondium Road, Simondium
021 874 1648