With its generous concentration of world-class hotels and award-winning restaurants, touristy hotspots are in abundant supply in Franschhoek. But it’s the hidden gems that really add depth and excitement to a wine-tasting holiday in South Africa’s culinary capital. With that in mind, here are our editor’s secret spots away from the crowds that fly elegantly under the radar. These unexpected finds focus on local experiences and embracing their neighbours and community – a sure bet for a perfect December or late summer holiday. Ready, set, relax.
WHERE TO STAY
Soak up all the soleil at Fleur du Soleil Luxury Guesthouse
Like a fine South African wine, the iconic Fleur du Soleil Luxury Guesthouse gets better with age. Located just off the main road, it’s slightly removed from the action that passes through the village – but that’s part of the charm. Stepping into the guesthouse, travellers will find that the lobby is designed to feel like an intimate living room. There’s no front desk – only a seating area, a bar and plenty of staff on hand to handle any luggage or offer complimentary bubbly. The easy check-in process bolsters the overall feeling that you’re in owners Anton and Victoria’s home instead of a hotel. It’s a sanctuary where you can revel in the pleasures of luxury, with stunning grounds and intuitive service. They don’t call it soleil for nothing, either – the five rooms and suites are sun-drenched, and the sunsets from the perfectly blue swimming pool are nothing short of magical. Whether you book the 24m2 Cabane Room (that’s still spacious enough for your morning yoga routine) or the four-sleeper Le Coucher Suite, you’ll find comfortably elegant furnishings, including a flat-screen TV and a cushy bed with high-end linens. All the five-star trimmings are here, too: Port wine and a box of Amarula chocolates on arrival, air-conditioning for when the days are hot, a Nespresso machine with a selection of Terbodore coffee capsules as well as upscale snacks and some local artisanal brands in the mini bar. You’ll want to take advantage of exploring Franschhoek while you’re here, but there’s also nothing wrong with staying put and luxuriating all day. The colours of the surrounding landscape – from olive to indigo, caramel to pistachio – have been tastefully transplanted into the pared-back rooms. Every interior design element has been carefully thought out to nail the property’s modern ease. Believe it or not, there isn’t anything we’d change. There’s no on-site restaurant per se, but guests of all room categories enjoy breakfast served by the pool. Because who could say no to bacon and eggs with tomatoes, mushrooms and zesty avocado to start the day? The hallmark of Fleur du Soleil Luxury Guesthouse is the staff, who basically anticipate your every move. Foodies and oenophiles barely have to ask, “Which restaurants or wineries are worth visiting?” and Victoria will have a handwritten list of perfectly curated suggestions ready to go. The service is faultless from check-in to check-out, making it a top-level stay.
7A Van Riebeeck Street, Franschhoek
060 808 8905
Kick your shoes off and make yourself at home at Maison Chablis
The immaculately maintained Maison Chablis marries tradition and low-key modern luxury. With just eight individually designed rooms, this exclusive spot in Franschhoek’s sought-after village feels more like your friend’s grand home than a hotel. However, that only makes the inside all the more of a well-kept secret. Enviably located and central to everything, the lively Huguenot Street might be right on your doorstep – but just a few paces through the property is the hotel’s tree-shaded courtyard with dove grey pots overflowing with flowers; one of the loveliest spots to snatch some peace and quiet. Le Quartier Français is directly in front of the hotel – pop in for lunch or dinner at the sumptuous Protégé. Within two minutes of strolling, you’re on Franschhoek Main Road. It’s an easy walk to Tuk Tuk Microbrewery, Everard Read, Ōku Asian Eatery, Yama Eatery, Huguenot Fine Chocolates and The Hoek Espresso Bar. It would be a stretch to find anywhere more central than this. Plus, general manager Elsje is always around to answer your questions or point you in the direction of a lunch spot or wine farm. Inside the black-and-white Georgian-style country house, all the historic Gallic charm has been maintained, but with every five-star touch you could hope for. Protected features sit alongside comfort and convenience to beautiful effect: The considered bedrooms are full of warm colours, bright pieces of art, mahogany side tables, stacks of magazines and freshly cut flowers. It’s rather idyllic! There’s a distinct lack of clean lines and slick minimalism, but that’s sort of the point. Other impressive elements include Netflix and a flat-screen smart TV. Our glamorous garden-inspired room, Room 5, was blossoming with floral fabrics and furnishings. The aroma of yuzu, bergamot and lemon refreshed the bathroom thanks to Charlotte Rhys toiletries. In any of the rooms, you’ll be guaranteed a heavenly night’s sleep – a four-poster bed topped with cloud-like pillows, a wood-burning fireplace and crisp mountain air instantly helps you picture how cosy this place is for a weekend break. Breakfast, served inside the dining room decorated with bold prints, shouldn’t be missed. There are freshly baked croissants, French cheeses, cold meats, homemade muesli and yoghurt, freshly squeezed juices and good coffee. Maison Chablis is the perfect Franschhoek guesthouse – with everything you need and nothing you don’t.
15 Berg Street, Franschhoek
021 876 2366
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Splurge on an exquisite prix-fixe meal at Le coin Français
Love fine French fare? Le coin Français is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fine-dining restaurant on Huguenot Street. Don’t pass it by. This part of Franschhoek has a homey neighbourhood feel, and the simplicity of the restaurant – with its aesthetically pleasing dining room, crisp white linen tablecloths as well as high-quality, exceptional and sometimes theatrical food – is a winning fusion indeed. It also boasts a terrace that makes for a wonderful place to enjoy a meal in more clement weather. If tasting menus are your thing, dinner at Le coin Français is an event to prepare for and make last as long as possible. Diners can choose from two menus – a six or eight-course – with a ‘classic’ or ‘premium’ wine-pairing add-on. While the Chef’s Journey menu may be pricy at R1,145 per person (R1,695 with the local wine pairing), chef-owner Darren Badenhorst’s staple dishes are always overwhelmingly excellent, so you shouldn’t feel too guilty. He’s a master at using finely foraged goods and French techniques paired with myriad influences. Since 2017, chef Darren’s butter-poached and BBQ North Coast langoustine – sauced with aerated Gruberg and West Coast snoek brandad velouté, then scattered with wild vineyard shoots, garden peas and pancetta risotto – has been delighting discerning palates. He’s clearly in love with the endless possibilities of hedonistic dining, and it shows. Every plate that head chef Marcus Gericke and team send out are winsome and indulge all the senses immediately. The three-hour cured and one-hour cold-smoked sustainable trout – with carrot and horseradish emulsion, toasted wild yeast and fennel pollen – may not be big, but it’s brilliantly conceived and beautifully composed. The dry-aged, eight-hour confit duck with tomato and tamarind confitura, toasted quinoa and orange jus hits all the high notes and swerves any pretension associated with French food. Finish with the ‘chocolate mushroom’ – a spectacle of a dessert, immaculately crafted with dark chocolate crémeux, dulce mousse, textured brownies and matcha moss. Trust us, you’ll reminisce over it long after date night. Sommelier Themba runs the wine programme, offering spot-on pairings. The star of the show? You might be surprised to hear it’s the seven-day cured wagyu tartare with porcini Catalan, fynbos pickled beetroot, dehydrated biltong and rosemary leaf, which works well with a light, peppery red.
17 Huguenot Street, Franschhoek
074 126 0022
Dive into a Latin American feast at Cosecha Restaurant
Franschhoek is popular for farm-to-table dining. Cosecha Restaurant, an alfresco restaurant on Noble Hill Wine Estate, is a standout example. With their divine take on fresh, seasonal flavours with a local, eco-friendly flair – hence the name, which means “harvest” in Spanish – it’s a celebration of creative and delicious dining. It’s all made possible by the close connection head chef Riana Robertson has with local farmers, fishermen and other producers. This sustainable approach makes for a great way to uncover the true depth of flavours on offer in Latin American cooking. Whether you’re looking for a sharing type of situation or a filling dish all to yourself, Cosecha Restaurant has bocaditos (literally translating to “little bites”), platos (main dishes) and postres (desserts) to satisfy all cravings. Have lunch paired with outstanding organic wines on the front veranda. You’ll stroll up a stone path surrounded by lush greenery before coming to an open dining space with views of the centuries-old dam. Welcoming and attentive staff cultivate an entirely unpretentious ambience. Be warned, however – you’ll need to book in advance, particularly for tables of four or more. The restaurant’s signature dish is the guacamole, a textural extravaganza served with tortilla tips and your choice of bacon, jalapeños or blue cheese. The famed guac is made tableside in a stone molcajete – from a trolley laden with baskets of avocados and bowls of diced tomato, spring onion, garlic cloves and homemade spices. Cosecha Restaurant’s food philosophy is that they like a lot of flavour. It’s as simple as that. Then, dive into lamb barbacoa topped off with mint-jalapeño salsa and goat’s cheese, or a chicken burrito made with ample spicy chipotle gravy. From course to course, the food is deftly executed, ingredients delineated with lines of heat and citrus. Likewise, vegetarian chickpea and red pepper enchiladas as well as a substantial jalapeño black bean salad are also available – so there’s no reason for anyone to skip out on the joy at this restaurant. Be sure to try a tacos dish, too. The beer-battered kingklip tacos with cabbage slaw and citrus salsa beautifully showcase the freshness of the fish. The slow-cooked pulled pork tacos – which come with a punchy avocado smash and green apple salsa – are also up there. It’s all so consistently excellent and reasonably priced. Pair with the Noble Hill Mourvèdre Rosé 2021 and you’re in for a real treat.
Noble Hill Wine Estate, Klapmuts-Simondium Road, Simondium
021 874 3844
Taste wine and laze on the lawn at Leopard’s Leap Rotisserie Restaurant
‘Tis the season for outdoor dining! If you’re looking for a secluded spot while still being able to get a breath of fresh air, Leopard’s Leap Rotisserie Restaurant should be at the top of your list. Something about Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards makes it feel like you’re on holiday – it’s a place you’ll want to return to, again and again. In the summer when it’s 28 degrees outside and the grape vines are in leaf? There’s nowhere we’d rather be in Franschhoek to linger over a cheese platter, pork bitterballen and an ice-cold bottle of bubbly. Featuring secret gardens and comfortable seating, the indoor-outdoor space is an ideal venue for casual get-togethers with friends and family. There are no gimmicks here – just exceptionally good food and equally good wines at a pleasant price point. The focus is on the rotisserie, which offers a wide selection of meats from free-range chicken to Laingsburg lamb and rolled pork belly, accompanied by sides and salads from the harvest table. The impeccably seasoned poultry has just the right amount of aromatic spices, finished off with a zingy squeeze of lemon. However, the slow-roasted pork belly – the ultimate combination of rich, meltingly tender meat and crisp crackled skin – is worth it alone. You’ll also have access to mouthwateringly good mini desserts to end your meal on a sweet note. For a simple but satisfying meal, Leopard’s Leap Rotisserie Restaurant just happens to be knocking out some of Franschhoek’s best pizzas – all washed down with Leopard’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc or Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir. They do regular-style pizzas, sure (inhale the mozzarella, chorizo, red onion and basil), but it’s their flatbread pizzas you need to pay attention to. Among marinated mushrooms and olives is melty camembert, big dollops of crème fraîche, garlic and parsley. Want to prove that you can still manage a meal out even with kids in tow? Leopard’s Leap Rotisserie Restaurant has something for everyone. The Little Leopards menu allows little ones to choose from kid-size pizzas, free-range chicken nuggets or chips and homemade tomato sauce. If the weekend has taken its toll, what better than a boozy brunch to cleanse the system and see you right? We’ve yet to go wrong with the croque madame sandwich – sourdough laden with smoked ham, Emmental cheese, wholegrain mustard, béchamel and two perfectly appointed poached eggs. Now that’s a hangover cure!
Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards, R45 Main Road, Franschhoek
021 876 8002
Visit Plaisir Wine Estate for the finest selection of cheeses and charcuterie
A summer’s day in Franschhoek isn’t complete without a delectable cheese board. There’s a case to be made for considering cheese and charcuterie an actual meal, don’t you think? You’ll find plenty of such perfectly-Instagrammable options at Plaisir Wine Estate. There’s a lot to love about this place – the Cape Dutch architecture, the wine-tasting cellar, the unbelievable mountain views, The Tempest Gin selection – but the cheese and charcuterie is worthy of a trip itself. Snuggled directly beside the rows of grapevines, the outdoor seating area under the shaded tree canopy is the perfect place to sit back and relax. Méthode Cap Classique, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and a red blend are for sale by the bottle and the glass, but you’ll want to do more than drink here. The cheese and charcuterie sharing platter is pure wonder. The size alone is impressive – an expansive board filled to the brim with varying cheeses, cured meats, fresh baguette, biltong, olives, seasonal fruit, spreads and preserves. A small helping of salad sits on the side for prime nibbling. Eat the heavenly slices of prosciutto plain, or top with brie and layer over thin slices of toasted French bread brushed with olive oil. And with cheese, there must be wine. Opt for something different with the new Plaisir Sauvignon Blanc 2022, which delivers a combination of vibrant tropical fruits and noticeable acidity. Summertime in a glass! The simple and elegant cheese platter for two is enough to tide you over until a larger dinner – and a steal at only R280. For those with a sweet tooth, the artisanal nougat or artisanal fudge and wine pairings are well worth checking out.
Plaisir Wine Estate, R45, Simondium
021 488 9977