VINE AND DINE - JSE MAGAZINE

VINE AND DINE

With its breathtaking scenery, centuries-old architecture and not to mention array of exceptional food and wine, it’s no surprise that a visit to the Cape’s wine estates is a popular pastime

VINE AND DINE

You’ll never go hungry in the Cape winelands. Whether it’s farm-to-table cooking or inspired pan-Asian cuisine, the region’s historic estates and boutique hotels know just how to dish up a gourmet getaway that’ll keep even the most discerning diner happy. With suites overlooking lush vineyards and on-site restaurants offering some of the finest fare in the Cape, wine farm escapes are the ideal way to ease yourself into 2018.

Tucked away amid the vineyards on the outskirts of Franschhoek, Grande Provence is a perfect antidote to the bustling streets of the village. Part of the acclaimed Huka Retreats collection – which includes luxury lodges in New Zealand and Fiji – Grande Provence was recently listed as one of just six SA properties in Andrew Harper’s Top 100 Hideaways in the World.

Accommodation is centred around the Owner’s Cottage, which offers four luxury rooms as well as a spacious deluxe suite set surrounding a communal garden, swimming pool and conservatory. Each room offers plenty of privacy but as a whole, the cottage is ideal for a reunion of family and friends. For smaller groups, the two-bedroomed La Provençale villa is equally charming, with a private terrace, plunge pool and views of the vineyards.

Overnight guests can enjoy a complimentary wine tasting, but make sure you explore the acclaimed art gallery and sculpture garden too. If you fancy venturing further afield, the estate is one of the stops on the popular hop-on hop-off Franschhoek wine tram, making it convenient to get around – so leave the car keys in your room.

The Restaurant at Grande Provence has long enjoyed a reputation for fine dining in the ‘French corner’ of the Cape, and newly appointed head chef Guy Bennett has already made his mark with a striking summer spread. Look forward to a four-course table d’hôte menu, bookended by delicate amuse-bouche and petit fours.

Pairings of estate wines are also offered, alongside an impressive wine list of other local and international estates. Al fresco lunches under the oaks are sublime on a hot summer’s day, while evenings indoors are a more formal affair, with linen napery and high-backed leather chairs.

Farm-to-table dining takes on a whole new meaning at Boschendal, where executive chef Christiaan Campbell has the good fortune of being able to draw from the fruits of a 2 000 ha estate when dreaming up his remarkable produce-driven menus. From export-quality fruit to free-range chicken and pasture-reared Black Angus beef, Campbell is simply spoilt for choice in ways to treat diners at the estate’s signature restaurant, the Werf.

However, it’s the 9 ha vegetable garden just steps from the restaurant that gets Campbell most excited. ‘The vegetable garden certainly dictates the menu at the Werf. It forces our creativity in the kitchen,’ he says. A cornucopia of fresh farm produce floods the kitchen each morning, and the creativity certainly shows on Campbell’s menu of seasonal fare. There’s a sense of generosity throughout, from platters piled high with garden vegetables to the warm country hospitality that greets you at the door.

That country hospitality carries through to the delightful accommodation scattered across the farm. The elegantly refurbished Werf Cottages are situated just a short walk from the restaurant and historic manor house, while the self-catering Orchard Cottages are ideal for a family-friendly break in the winelands.

Just 20 minutes from the centre of Cape Town, in the Constantia Valley, Steenberg Farm offers a taste of the winelands in the suburbs. Your first stop should be Catharina’s restaurant, which pays tribute to the young widow Catharina Ras who first settled on the farm in 1682. Here the menu from executive chef Archie Maclean is inspired by the rich heritage of the estate. He explains that the menu is a contemporary interpretation ‘of the food that would have been on Catharina’s table, time and time again’. That means anything from crocodile-tail gravadlax with Cape gooseberry relish, to grilled impala loin and slow-braised lamb. Maclean’s new vegetarian tasting menu will also draw curious diners.

It’s not the only culinary string in Steenberg’s bow. Up the hill at Bistro Sixteen82, chef Kerry Kilpin takes a globetrotting approach to bistro-style cuisine, with a delectable menu for breakfast and lunch, and a tempting tapas selection come evening. At the adjoining winery, skilled cellar-master JD Pretorius is a dab hand at both Méthode Cap Classique and cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc.

All the more reason to book a room at the stylish Steenberg Hotel, spread along the fairways of the estate’s 18-hole golf course. Book well in advance to secure one of the charming heritage suites. You’ll love the added privacy and bespoke decor evoking the rich history of Steenberg Farm.

Hidden away atop the Helshoogte pass outside Stellenbosch, it’s a savvy traveller that discovers Delaire Graff – one of the most glamorous of winelands destinations. Attention to detail and understated luxury are hallmarks of this modern estate where art, design and fine living combine.

Highlights from owner Laurence Graff’s private art collection are displayed throughout the property, from Dylan Lewis sculptures in the garden to William Kentridge collaborations in the stylish wine lounge. Don’t miss Vladimir Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl, which graces the foyer of the main cellar building.

While most day visitors spend their time in the cellar, tasting wine and enjoying the fine-dining menu at the Delaire Graff restaurant, rather leave the crowds behind for one of the exclusive lodges. These self-contained rooms boast jaw-dropping views of the winelands, secluded plunge pools and decadent interiors by the acclaimed David Collins Studio.

What’s more, you’re just a few steps from Indochine, where talented head chef Virgil Kahn fuses Asian ingredients and SA influences in a superbly creative menu. The setting is just as appealing, with stellar views and tables set beneath the magnificent Swallows in Flight installation by Lionel Smit and André Stead.

From the neatly espaliered fruit trees to the freshly baked breads arranged in the farm shop, Babylonstoren is an estate that prides itself on attention to detail. While elegant wine tastings and garden walks have made it a hot ticket for day visitors keen to explore the winelands, you’ll want to overnight to enjoy the true sense of the estate’s serenity. Elegant suites and cottages are scattered across the estate, but your best choice is one of the one-bedroomed suites of the Farm Hotel that overlook the fruit and vegetable garden. While there’s lush greenery beyond, indoors the decor is all about muted tones and understated style.

The same goes for the authentic farm-to-table approach at Babel, the estate’s flagship restaurant. Its compact menu is defined by the seasons, and the kitchen has become particularly famous for its memorable salads created from what’s been picked fresh that morning. Most of the meat, cheese and charcuterie is produced on the farm too. For lighter meals, the shady tables of the Greenhouse offer a welcome respite from warm winelands days.

Seven years after Indian businessman Analjit Singh first fell in love with Franschhoek, the Leeu Collection (‘Singh’ is ‘lion’ in Sanskrit) has grown to include a string of properties in the valley.

Leeu Estates, set on the hills overlooking the village, is the flagship – and with good reason. The expansive Manor House blends the service and luxury of a boutique hotel with inviting winelands hospitality that encourages you to enjoy the property as your home. Pour yourself a glass of wine in the lounge or have the library fire lit in winter. The estate’s art collection is equally beguiling, with works by the likes of Angus Taylor, Deborah Bell and Anton Momberg peppered across the estate gardens laid out by landscape artist Franchesca Watson.

While the art is impressive, there is no shortage of edible artistry either. The new menu by executive chef Oliver Cattermole blends modern techniques with heritage inspiration – don’t miss his contemporary take on the traditional skilpadjie – while the sumptuous afternoon tea has fast become a classic in the valley. A short walk from the restaurant is the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines tasting room and cellar – a partnership with acclaimed winemakers Andrea and Chris Mullineux – where you can enjoy expert-guided tastings of their terroir-driven wines.

By Richard Holmes
Images: Delaire Graff, Boschendal, Grande Provence, Steenberg Farm, Babylonstoren, Leeu Estates