As food critics, we’re fortunate enough to snag reservations at some of the best restaurants in South Africa and call it work. We’ve found an eclectic mix of restaurants across the Cape Winelands – from the Helderberg Wine Route to the Durbanville Wine Valley – that each gave us an unforgettable meal, unmatched service and a deep longing to return. Whether you favour sharing plates, French food, classic Italian cuisine or trailblazing new jewels from rising star chefs, there’s something for everyone in this gastronomic heaven. Happy dining!
De Grendel Restaurant
One of the best-value fine-dining menus in the city
Perched atop the prestigious De Grendel Wine Estate in the Durbanville Wine Valley, De Grendel Restaurant boasts panoramic views of Cape Town and Table Mountain. This jewel of a restaurant exemplifies the beauty of South Africa with top-notch ingredients and high-quality meats. For a few glorious hours you’ll be away from the hustle and bustle, and for a special occasion De Grendel Restaurant may very well be worth the price tag. Warm and down-to-earth, the glass-encased restaurant has an instantly soothing, unexpected simplicity. Blue-and-white china patterns against a neutral colour scheme, warm wooden furnishings and pink king proteas create an elegant and sleek look. Most seats have views of the busy open kitchen, allowing guests to marvel at the well-choreographed chefs doing what they do best. Friendly but not overbearing service, meanwhile, befits the unstuffy food. We chose the three-course set menu (R525 per person) paired with wines, though you can go for a lighter two courses (R480 per person). The flavours are fresh as can be, as you’d expect from head chef Ian Bergh, previously of La Colombe Restaurant, Pure Restaurant at Hout Bay Manor and Five Flies. Begin with the golden pork belly with crackling, red pepper pesto, cauliflower kimchi, apple and fennel purée, and the addition of a tantalising X-factor ingredient – sage and pomegranate jus. Otherwise, kickstart your taste buds with the tiger prawn, squid, chorizo, coconut and mango, served with a delicate tikka masala sauce. It complements the De Grendel Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc to perfection. Follow up with the locally sourced rack of lamb – a riot of colours, flavours and textures – served atop polenta, turnips, butternut, sundried tomato, lamb shank cannelloni and port jus. It’s a reminder that you don’t need produce to be outlandish to feel extra-special on the plate. Also on offer is an exquisite line fish dish teamed with mussels, millet salsa, fennel, asparagus, cauliflower, tomato and a curry, coconut and lime velouté. End on a high with the faintly sweet dark chocolate cheesecake crowned with honeycomb and hazelnuts. Served with crémeux, bananas brûlée, passionfruit gel and Nesquik ice cream, it’s velvety and luxurious.
De Grendel Wine Estate, Plattekloof Road, Panorama, Cape Town
021 558 6280
A blooming wonderland nestled within Vergelegen Wine Estate
If you’re looking to add a little colour to your Instagram feed, then make sure you head to Café Fleur. You could easily pass by this pop-up restaurant in the middle of the busy Vergelegen Wine Estate and have no idea of the delights that lay within. A treat for the senses, Café Fleur combines French cuisine and a tranquil escape from the city in one floral fantasia setting. In an effort to bring the joy of the gardens indoors, the interiors feature trinkets, a bike that doubles as a floral display, and botanical art in bold hues and painterly pastels. The terrace tables are just as atmospheric – for a memorable meal, grab one and admire the 400-year-old camphor trees. Expect an enticingly summery menu of classic French dishes, like cheese and herb soufflé, country terrine served with fresh peach salad, pan-fried pork neck and French chicken casserole. The dishes arrive in swift succession, each prettier than the last. Highlights of the starters include fresh oysters served the old-fashioned way with lemon juice and a hit of Tabasco, superb melon, fig and prosciutto salad, and – best of all – a modern version of the ever-popular retro avocado ritz, with plump prawns and Marie Rose sauce. It’s an absolute must that treads a border between the familiar and the unfamiliar. The mains, too, are outstanding. We suggest you don’t leave before you try the dreamily juicy chargrilled sirloin, adorned with bordelaise red-wine sauce and served with French fries for an indulgent eat. The star of the show, though, is the pan-seared salmon smothered in a heady Véronique sauce – one of the most delicious things we’ve eaten in the past year. Try the Vergelegen Florence Rosé with bright acidity to balance out the classic creamy vermouth and grape sauce. Shall we move on to puddings? We think so. Almond praline parfait, French apple tart, oven-roasted figs with petit camembert and epi bread, or ‘snow eggs’ (balls of fluffy meringue) suspended in crème anglaise, fresh raspberries and toasted almonds? Yes, please! After lunch, it’s worthwhile taking a walk around the estate – a treasure trove of natural beauty, strewn with seasonal displays of roses, camellias, hydrangeas, agapanthus and sunflowers. You’ll feel the power of nature.
Vergelegen Wine Estate, Lourensford Road, Somerset West
021 847 2111
Winemaker’s Lunch at Rust en Vrede Wine Estate
The perfect dose of gastronomic escapism
What do we love here? What don’t we! The Rust en Vrede Wine Estate tasting room must be among the loveliest indoor-outdoor dining spaces in Stellenbosch. Enchanted, luxuriant, teeming with hydrangeas and shaded by oak trees, it’s a living metaphor for the magic it might inspire. Step into the bustling Winemaker’s Lunch – every Monday to Thursday from 12h00 to 15h00 or Friday from 11h00 to 15h30 – and you immediately know you’re in for a good meal, thanks to the convivial atmosphere. This is a true pocket of pleasure right in the heart of the Blaauwklippen Valley. Inspired by Rust en Vrede’s premium red wines, it’s one of those word-of-mouth gems that friends recommend to each other for quick bites and lunch dates. The focus here is on a simple set menu of either steak or salmon accompanied by a glass of wine. As always, head chef Fabio Daniel’s food never misses a beat and no corners are cut – we like that. We followed recommendations and weren’t disappointed. The Chalmar pepper-crusted fillet with fries and a garden salad tastes like salted butter and melts in the mouth like it, too. The Rust en Vrede Estate Vineyards Syrah – owner Jean Engelbrecht’s favourite variety – lingers in the memory. Inspired. Alternatively, the pan-seared, beautifully delicate looking Norwegian salmon with baby potatoes and seasonal greens is distinctive, with crisp skin and tender flesh. It pairs wonderfully with the full-bodied Donkiesbaai Grenache Blanc that delivers soft layers of yellow peach, winter melon and white blossoms. Order a double espresso for some satisfying revitalisation after lunch. The staff are quick and efficient, the food is beautifully presented, and the space is unpretentious and no-frills. No wonder it’s such a popular spot for every occasion.
Rust en Vrede Wine Estate, Annandale Road, Stellenbosch
021 881 3881
The Italian Experience at Morgenster Estate
La dolce vita vibes and freshly made bites
Relax and pour a glass. A bright, airy gem of a place, Morgenster Estate has all the charms: A laidback atmosphere; crisp, clean architecture; simple but stylish tables; and a modern tasting area perched on the edge of a dam. The photogenic winery’s location makes it the ideal pitstop if you’re in the area and want to stock up on some excellent bottles to remind you of it later in the year. The big draw here for us, though, is the very impressive Italian Experience (R445 for two people). Every day, there’s an Italian food and wine pairing so good – and so generous – it can take the place of your lunch or dinner. Visitors will gain a fully immersive lesson in the world of Morgenster Estate’s Italian cultivars, award-winning Bordeaux-style wines and extra-virgin olive oil, alongside other wine lovers and culinary travellers. The Italian Experience begins with a tutored extra-virgin olive oil tasting of the estate’s four extra-virgin olive oils alongside balsamic vinegar, two varieties of table olives, homemade bread and schiacciatine (bite-size focaccia). Then there’s an abundant Italian spread of figs, paper-thin cured meat, buttery cheeses, a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly baked French baguette. Small bowls of olive tapenade and caprese skewers dispense their fragrances. Delizioso. Of course, no aperitivo hour would be complete without the perfect beverage. You’ll learn more about the harvesting process before enjoying a bottle of wine of your choice from The Giulio Range. It pays tribute to founder Giulio Bertrand, who kickstarted the local olive oil industry and introduced South Africans to Italy’s grape varietals. Worth noting: The staff are very friendly and approachable – but most importantly, they know and love Morgenster, and that enthusiasm is infectious.
Morgenster Estate, Vergelegen Avenue (off Lourensford Road), Somerset West
021 852 1738