With all its romantic perks – glittering white mountains, cosying up by the fire and red wines guaranteed to pair with heartier dishes – the magic of winter in the Cape Winelands is truly unparalleled. But with so many sensational restaurants for staying snug and warm, it can be hard to narrow the field. We’ve taken a loupe to the lot to spotlight the top outdoor restaurants that are cosy enough for winter, adorned with wintry décor and patio heaters.
The Restaurant at Glen Carlou
Best for: Classic tastes with a twist
Why we love it: Along with world-class vino and gourmet dining experiences, the bucolic Glen Carlou Wine Estate delivers impressive views, eye-catching architecture – a snug thatched roof sits atop the tasting room and restaurant – and a generous dollop of South African hospitality. Timeless and elegant, The Restaurant at Glen Carlou immediately makes you want to celebrate something … anything. Whether it’s a casual get-together or something that’s been on the books for weeks, this is a place to sit down to homestyle dishes that rely on fresh, seasonal produce. Flavours are bold and the portions are hearty – on the evolving menu, you’ll find starters like beef carpaccio perked up with truffle aioli, shaved Parmesan, wild rocket and lemon, or the light and lovely fried squid with radish, orange, lemon, fennel and micro herbs. Order one of everything and share. For mains, must-try items include the goat’s cheese ravioli with butternut, raisins, honey and sage, tossed in beurre noisette that imparts an incredible toasted, nutty flavour, as well as the rolled and roasted pork belly that comes with all the trimmings – prunes, apricots, soy crème and your choice of rustic fries or orange sweet potato. The dark chocolate brownie with bananas brûlée, banana purée and ice cream hits the sweet spot for dessert. The service is noteworthy, too – the staff are friendly and laidback, and the three-course menu is well-timed and efficient without making you feel rushed. With a range of affordable to special-occasion wines, we recommend a wine tasting tailored to your tastes before lunch. The case to take home is the Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2020 – made from a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and Petit Verdot – with a decadent crushed velvet texture and a long oak-kissed finish. It’s also worth peeking at the art collection.
Cost: Three courses for R320 or two courses (starter and main or main and dessert) for R270
Open for lunch from Monday to Sunday
Glen Carlou Wine Estate, Klapmuts-Simondium Road, Klapmuts
021 875 5528
Best for: Losing track of time
Why we love it: With its high-altitude vineyards and winter-ready terrace, there’s nothing in the Cape Winelands quite like this magical destination on top of Helshoogte Pass – both as a stunning, modern winery and a food lover’s paradise. Tokara Restaurant calls for a special occasion like an anniversary or a birthday, but craving a modern take on South African cuisine counts as special too, right? The artfully plated food here is a testament to the thought and intention behind executive chef Carolize Coetzee’s cooking. Her carefully curated multi-course gastronomic journey combines local ingredients with the odd global influence and accomplished technique, and the results are always interesting. Photogenic dishes arrive in a myriad of shapes, colours and textures – think avocado mousse with green asparagus, charred baby gem lettuce, coconut yoghurt and lemon, or roasted Bonsmara beef with carrot and potato beignets, green beans, baby carrots, kapokbos and red wine jus – making them all the more appetising. Starters like tempura prawns (mango, lychee, cucumber, coconut, green chilli, coriander and lime) or venison carpaccio (goat’s cheese, fig leaf, pumpkin seeds, salted strawberry and white balsamic) are the perfect preludes to the robust, flavourful mains such as Karoo lamb sirloin with masala-spiced braised lamb rib dumplings. The fish here is as fresh as it comes; the pan-seared line fish brims with sweet caramelised grilled pineapple, baby marrow, red pepper, prawn bisque and sumac. As for drinks, you can’t go wrong with a room-temperature glass of Tokara Director’s Reserve Red or a flute of Blanc de Blanc MCC. Most importantly, the terrace is covered to protect you from the elements. Come sunset, watch the sky turn various shades of pink and peach from this elevated Winelands restaurant flanked by vineyards and olive groves.
Cost: For lunch, starters are priced from R150, mains from R260 and desserts from R120, while for dinner a four-course menu is available for R590 (and an additional R350 for the optional wine pairing) or a six-course menu for R790 (and an additional R550 for the optional wine pairing)
Open for lunch from Wednesday to Sunday and dinner from Wednesday to Saturday
Tokara Wine & Olive Farm, Helshoogte Road, Stellenbosch
021 885 2550
Anthonij Rupert Manor House
Best for: Old-school glitz
Why we love it: High tea. Yes, it’s twee. But the quintessentially British tradition gets a Cape Winelands makeover at Anthonij Rupert Estate, with lavish tiered towers set amid snow-capped mountains, rolling green hills, fragrant lavender and a meticulously landscaped garden. Though it’s located in Franschhoek, the fairytale-like Manor House – packed with historical charm and full of exceptional details – feels like it belongs in the Provençal countryside. The lounge is sensational (you can imagine winemaker Graham Beck, who previously owned the house, reclining languorously), but if the sun is out, nothing beats the terrace, where pots of Early Grey and chamomile tea are delivered to diners all afternoon long. The L’Ormarins High Tea begins with a glass of L’Ormarins Brut Classique NV before moving onto every iteration of afternoon indulgence you could ever hope for. There are delicate Provençal vegetable and cream cheese finger sandwiches, still-warm savoury vegetable muffins with herbs and crème fraîche as well as cheese and crackers reimagined with eggplant mousse and red pepper gel. But the pastries are the main attraction: Cheesecake infused with guava and lime; an elegant Valrhona Chocolate Ariaga Noire, salted caramel and marshmallow brownie; and a ‘tropical sunrise’ milk chocolate dome with a coconut almond sponge cake, passion fruit mousse and apricot compote centre. The squid ink éclair filled with smoked salmon mousse is almost too beautiful to eat, while the canelé with a caramelised shell and custardy interior comes with choirs of angels singing gratis. Add to that exclusive tea blends and the tranquility of the setting, and you have an unforgettable afternoon. For a further dash of extravagance, add a bottle of the new, vibrant L’Ormarins Private Cuvée Cap Classique – with tangy and refreshing flavours of lemon and marmalade.
Cost: R1,180 for four people
Open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10h00 to 11h30, 11h00 to 12h30, 14h30 to 16h00, 15h00 to 16h30 and 15h30 to 16h30
Anthonij Rupert Estate, R45 Main Road, Franschhoek
021 874 9000
The Werf Restaurant
Best for: Seasonally themed menus
Why we love it: The drive through the picturesque Banhoek Valley, outside Stellenbosch, sets the tone for the arrival at Boschendal. Rolling lawns, lavender-filled gardens and sweet-smelling citrus trees invite you toward the unpretentious, forward-thinking winery that’s become a lifestyle destination in its own right. Surrounded by Cape fynbos vegetation and mountains, The Werf Restaurant is a great place for friends and family to convene for a long lunch or dinner in a laidback environment. Casually arranged wildflowers dot the space, offering a hint of Boschendal’s local and seasonal ethos. The Werf Restaurant serves a sharing plates menu on which organic vegetables and sustainably sourced meat and fish take pride of place. Executive chef Allistaire Lawrence elevates humble foods by relying less on gimmicks, and more on simple preparation and quality ingredients. Two staple dishes stand out: The Duroc pork terrine with crispy pork skin, farm plums and toasted brioche, which vibes with the general mix of rustic and elegant, as well as the excellent braaied Angus Beef steak topped with caper noisette, crispy beef fat and smoked aubergine. The artful plating and play on flavours extend to the vegetarian dishes, such as the garden beetroot and figs with walnuts, goat’s cheese espuma and wild rocket and the Werf Garden Summer Squash – tempura zucchini flowers with a poached farm-fresh egg. The food is honest and delicious, local but refined. The side of crispy fried potatoes with garlic emulsion is delightful. Only desserts are a little drab – the best end to a meal is the palate-cleaning gin and lemon sorbet spiked with rosemary meringue, candied zest and shortbread. Bonus: The wines offer great value for money and some are suggested as pairings, but the cocktails made with fresh juices and infused syrups are equally solid.
Cost: Four plates for R520 or five plates for R570
Open for breakfast from Monday to Sunday, lunch from Monday to Sunday and dinner from Thursday to Saturday
Boschendal, R310 Pniel Road, Groot Drakenstein, Franschhoek
021 870 4209
Best for: Interior enthusiasts
Why we love it: Unlike the commercialised tasting rooms and visitor’s centres you’ll find in Constantia, Buitenverwachting is cosy and intimate – the next best thing to having your own home in wine country. But it’s not just a pretty face: Buitenverwachting’s wines are as wonderful as the estate itself, and design-forward restaurant Beyond is the brainchild of chef Peter Tempelhoff, Ashley Moss and Jennifer Hugé. Together, they’ve invented a gastronomic style like no other, blending the finest in-season produce and playing with juxtaposition – from wildly contrasting textures to unexpected flavour pairings. The result is positively ethereal. While the dining room has a distinct air of sophistication – light natural wood, floor-to-ceiling windows and dark-hued foliage that captures the beauty of the season – you might be tempted to imbibe alfresco. The porch is furnished with comfy wicker chairs that add to the relaxed vibe. Treat yourself to the unpredictable six-course tasting menu for a special occasion, which often surprised us by telling our eyes one thing but sending our taste buds a completely different message. You’ll argue over the stars of the menu with your date, but take it from us – top dishes include the game fish carpaccio accompanied by mixed quinoa salad, dashi braised daikon, aioli mayo and spicy umami dressing; the creamy burrata cheese with homemade furikake and the most vibrant basil pesto you’ve likely ever seen; and the Outeniqua springbok loin with shiitake mushrooms, onion jam, truffle jus and smoked potatoes that’s as beautiful as it is tasty. Dessert – strawberry shortcake made all the more delectable with vanilla custard crémeux, yoghurt sponge, caramelised white chocolate and strawberry sorbet – is a terrific final note. But the rest of the menu sings, too. Wine pairings don’t always give you your money’s worth. That’s not the case here. Go for the splurge and make sure to try the Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc.
Cost: R895 for the six-course tasting menu and an additional R650 for the optional wine pairing
Open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday
Buitenverwachting, 37 Klein Constantia Road, Constantia
021 794 0306