Any trip to Cape Town should include the Cape Winelands’ famed culinary delights and plenty of local wine. There will always be polished and commercial big names that pull us in, but outside of these you can find some real gems – small-scale and often family-owned – that give the wine region a genuine sense of place. A boutique winery offers tailor-made wine tastings with a personal touch as well as other artisan products such as cheeses, oils and estate-grown olives. If you want to spread out the experience, the icing on the cake is – of course – the long, wine-fuelled lunches. Taste local wines in the sun and enjoy gourmet dining experiences at our pick of the best boutique wineries. No two vineyards are alike, but all offer an interesting foodie angle.
Editor’s pick: Deux Lions – La Bourgogne Farm
Best for modern small plates with impeccable flavours
What’s better than a perfect pour of vino? Enjoying it on La Bourgogne Farm, a historical working farm set amid regimented vines in Franschhoek – where you’ll feel like you’ve wandered off the path just enough to have been let in on a wonderful secret. A meal at the farm’s brand-new, elegantly luxurious restaurant, Deux Lions, is the big draw. Even if you don’t end up eating here, it’s well worth checking out the arty interiors. The décor is immediately welcoming – vivid orange meets a flawless complement in grassy sage walls, while contemporary artworks pair comfortably with velvet sofas and leaf-inspired chair designs. However, some diners may prefer to skip the cosy corners and choose a favourite spot outside in the bloom-filled garden to a soundtrack of chilled-out music. Either way, your attention will soon be drawn back in by the small but perfectly-formed menu. Informed by its surroundings – the herbs of the countryside, A-grade meats from nearby farms and freshly-caught seafood from the coast – it almost feels like you’ve stumbled upon a local secret. And this little-known secret is one that we’re only too willing to share. Before joining Deux Lions, head chef Nanda Cardoso worked with renowned chef and restaurateur Liam Tomlin. Previously the head chef at Chefs Warehouse & Canteen on Bree Street, she brings a versatile and varied passion for food that’s evident in the beautifully plated world dishes, which are heavily inspired by South American, Japanese, German and, of course, Portuguese cuisines. Our advice is simple: Skip breakfast before you sit down here. The small plates, presented on crockery that will brighten up your meal, are best enjoyed with a group of friends so you can order at least one of everything. Must-eats include the sashimi-style tuna splashed with octo dressing and dotted with lime aioli; the curling grilled squid snuggling cannellini beans and sauce vierge; and the mouth-tingling panko prawns – juicy prawns encrusted with house-made panko breadcrumbs for a light and golden crust, with a heady punch of sweetcorn salsa, garlic emulsion and hot sauce. The fish is buttery, melting and magical with no need for added seasoning. Elsewhere on the menu, the main course offering is flawless, and in the most exceptional way possible. The very posh lamb rump – served with a caper and sultana crumb, pomme purée and jus – has been a hit since day one. The pea risotto, with extremely flavourful preserved lemon beurre noisette and a dash of snap peas, has a home-cooked feel that’s somewhat eerily comforting. No meal is complete, though, without a slice of gâteau opéra; a slightly sweet and entirely creamy dessert with layers of coffee-soaked sponge cake, fluffy buttercream and rich ganache. So delicious, in fact, we had seconds. Our top tip is to settle in for the afternoon and soak up the relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The staff and young chef will be only too happy to talk passionately about the ingredients in the dishes, or share a wine pairing recommendation. To truly satisfy your wine-fuelled wanderlust, you’ll want to taste La Bourgogne Farm’s own wines. The pick of the bunch is the easy-drinking Progeny Unwooded Chardonnay with citrus, stone fruit and floral notes and the GML Viognier – something you’ll definitely like to swirl if you love to brood over perfumed aromas of peach, tangerine and honeysuckle with a rich, creamy taste and hints of vanilla.
La Bourgogne Farm, Excelsior Road, Franschhoek
021 876 3245
Arkeste – Chamonix Wine Farm
Best for long, lazy lunches perched just above the forest canopy
Chef Richard Carstens has been called a ‘revolutionary’, which makes it almost miraculous that he’s still cooking at this sun-dappled oasis peeking out of the forest. Arkeste is ambitious cooking at its best – not too fancy with simple, homegrown ingredients elevated to new heights. Complete with rustic wooden tables, friendly waiters and singing birds, there’s a real air of conviviality and old-school charm. Although afternoons are best for a sense of being one with the surrounding forest, there’s also a vibrant after-dark scene as delightfully French plates are carried along in the warm evening air. In other words, there’s no wrong time to visit – but there’s hot competition for the coveted terrace seats. This is a place to savour. It’s hard to place the cuisine; most of the flavours are borrowed from all over Asia, but the way the ingredients are cooked and served wouldn’t look out of place in France. Start with chef Richard’s Franco-Japanese interpretation that takes you on an oceanic journey with offerings of oyster, prawn, mussel, calamari and line fish that have just leapt from the waves. For the less adventurous, we recommend the silken goat’s cheese cappelletti or the brilliantly well-prepared crispy prawns with prawn ‘chorizo’, heerenboon, edamame, fennel and bouillabaisse sauce. The mains are as delicious as they are pretty – picture a painterly plate of lemon-glazed line fish with greens, flowering Brussels sprouts and curry sauce, or a slab of Chalmar Beef served with eggplant, mushroom, onion and sauce miroir. Chef Richard’s most-coveted dish, the baked trout Alaska, comes sandwiched between meringue and smoked salmon ice cream that’s punctured with the punchiness of ginger, soya and mirin emulsion. Whatever you decide to order, under no circumstances should you skip dessert. The slightly savoury, slightly sweet gorgonzola ice cream is served with honeycomb and red wine poached pears to cement the indulgent feel.
Chamonix Wine Farm, Uitkyk Street, Franschhoek
021 876 8415
Alluvia Restaurant – Alluvia Boutique Winery
Best for sustenance and splendour in equal measure
One to consider for your next trip, Alluvia Boutique Winery offers plenty of chances to get outside and enjoy the grape-filled view. Melding unbeatable scenery with a dash of charming family influences, Alluvia Restaurant nails the brief – an easygoing restaurant that slots naturally into its Banhoek Valley surroundings, yet abounds with personality. The wood-clad restaurant is decked out with full floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors to create a true indoor-outdoor experience. If you can get a table outside in the summer, go! The buzz is undeniable and the specials (such as tapas and a cocktail or chef Shaun’s pasta of the day and a glass of wine) change regularly, which is why so many Capetonians from far and wide have become regulars. First-timers should order a few rounds of the ‘small bowls’ – pork belly lollipops with a sprinkle of coriander and sesame seeds; indulgent Korean chicken with sushi rice, pickled ginger and pickled red cabbage; and perfect spring roll parcels of bobotie, served with homemade fruit chutney, banana and coriander yoghurt. Complement the dishes with one of the local wines, which are surprisingly inexpensive. The Alluvia Sauvignon Blanc is loved for its kiwi, papaya and granadilla flavours, and makes a wonderful choice with herb-driven Asian flavours. Next up: Yellowfin tuna steak accompanied by a crushed baby potato and shrimp salad; ostrich fillet with a dollop of sweet potato purée, charred broccoli and onion; or gnocchi with tomato, rocket, bocconcini and Parmesan – all in a pesto sauce so delicious you could eat it by the spoonful. Finish with a selection of local cheeses served with golden, crisp crostini. Added bonus: The Instagram-worthy accommodation, surrounded by vineyards and mountains, is perfect for a romantic break. We’d book a Luxury Room or the Clovelly Honeymoon Suite. After a day spent walking through the vineyard, couples can enjoy lunch outside or take a swim in the pool.
Alluvia Boutique Winery, Glen Arum Road (off Helshoogte Road), Stellenbosch
021 885 1661
Country Grand – Dieu Donné Vineyards
Best for dazzling and incomparable views
The brand-new Country Grand provides the perfect excuse to speed out of the city towards the countryside for a day trip. With its stellar spot at Dieu Donné Vineyards – and one of the most elegant and innately romantic dining rooms in the Cape Winelands – it’s easy to see why it’s one of the hottest tables to book in the area. Familiar candy-pink seating blend with exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, dramatic candle holders and exuberant red roses in glitzy interiors that match the attention to detail in the food. The outdoor terrace, which pulls in a lively crowd, is a very pleasing place for a relaxed, stretch-out-your-legs alfresco meal. Complete with lip-shaped couches and a giant disco ball, it’s the dream spot for a warm evening, too. The food has the class and sophistication of Country Grand’s big-city sibling, the ever-buzzy Grand Africa Café & Beach in Granger Bay. The seafood and fish-rich menu pairs fresh and vibrant combinations, such as kingklip with an Indo-Indian broth, mussels and bok choy or grilled line fish with sundried tomato, rocket, Parmesan, olive oil and soy. We suggest trying two of the maritime appetisers – the trio of oysters (fennel and apple, tomato salsa, and wasabi and pickled ginger) and the mussels in a chilli, ginger, lemongrass and coriander-spiked coconut broth. To follow, the menu tempts with a 300g Chalmar Beef fillet with tarragon emulsion, grilled tiger prawns with homemade peri peri sauce as well as a smoked salmon, crème fraîche, spring onion and rocket pizza. And while pizza comes first, the pasta – prawn linguine, chicken and broccoli pappardelle – is also excellent. Everything on the plate is of the utmost quality and as pretty as the surroundings (and really, that’s why you’re here). Don’t skip the caramel and vanilla baked cheesecake! Country Grand is as good for a glass of rosé and a pizza as it is for a full-on feast. Take note: There’s limited seating inside, so book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Dieu Donné Vineyards, Uitkyk Street, Franschhoek
021 569 9352