Gourmet nirvana: a foodie tour of South Africa's Western Cape

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After a few wines, it's hard to get your tongue around 'Franschhoek' and 'Stellenbosch'. These beautiful places in South Africa's Western Cape are nestled among table-top mountains, valleys and rolling, vine-covered hills. For keen foodies and wine buffs, a visit here is a must; along with nearby Cape Town, the region is a gourmet nirvana. You can spend days eating and drinking your way around (three days is ideal); there's a winery estate at every gate and restaurants and gourmet treats at every turn.

The following is a mere (but tried and tested) taster.

Day one: Cape Town must-eats

Start your day with a relaxed brunch at cafe Haas (haascollective.com/coffee), whose arty owner has gone to town with funky interiors - think everything from blond wood tables to zebra heads. Here, you can get your hands on Kopi Luwak beans (the ones eaten and expelled by the civet, and said to produce fabulously flavoursome coffee).

The Test Kitchen by Kate Armstrong

After a morning of sightseeing, take a short cab ride to The Test Kitchen (www.thetestkitchen.co.za), run by local personality chef Luke Dale Roberts. The eatery's funky setting in a converted biscuit mill is one thing, but its cuisine is another - our top pick is the crisp fried pork belly, pan-seared scallops with garlic and toasted ginger puree. As for the visual appeal? The plates, with their morsels of goat cheese, beetroot and salsas, resemble edible Impressionist paintings.

For top-class evening Cape cuisine, it's hard to go past Azure Restaurant in The 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa nestled into a cliff near Camps Bay and overlooking the ocean. This is glamour dining at its best, so put on your frocks and high manners.

Only half an hour from Cape Town, the road linking Somerset West and Stellenbosch (R44) is lined with farmers' markets and wineries. The pick of the route for quality is Terroir (www.kleinezalze.com). Chef Michael Broughton is one of South Africa's finest and his dishes take a modern twist on traditional Italian. Prawn risotto, oxtail ravioli and lamb loin with fennel are not to be missed. (The menu changes daily according to what fresh produce is available.)

From Stellenbosch, wind your way along the R310 towards the pretty historic village of Franschhoek. Previously called Oliphantshoek because of the elephants that roamed the area, it was settled by Huguenot immigrants in around 1688.

Franschhoek Motor Museum by Kate Armstrong

En route along R45, stop at The Franschhoek Motor Museum (www.fmm.co.za) at L'Ormarins (www.rupertwines.com), which is set against the stunning backdrop of the Groot Drankensteinberg range. The extraordinary collection includes everything from a vintage Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet to the latest Ferrari, and the display changes regularly.

A few kilometres further east along R45, Moreson Wines (www.moreson.co.za) boasts one of the best charcuterie collections around; grab a platter for a mere R60 and pair it with a Moreson wine.

Pierneef Restaurant by Kate Armstrong

For dinner (Thursday to Saturdays only), do not go past Pierneef Restaurant at La Motte (la-motte.com). If you think the decor and cup-and-saucer chandeliers are something special, wait until you taste the food: Cape bokkom salad (bokkom is a dried salted fish eaten raw) followed by almond crusted pan-fired salmon trout (local, of course), with a sweet-pea and mushroom and corn ragout. Wines? There's everything from the intense organically grown Sauvignon Blanc to an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon.

Day two: cheese, wine and secret gardens

Babylonstoren (www.babylonstoren.com) is one of the most stunning gardens in the world. The French-inspired design features lines of lavender, organic fruit trees, walled 'thinking spaces'-cum-secret gardens, and herbs. This alluring place also has a pretty greenhouse in which you can enjoy one of the most scrumptious morning teas around. And (you heard it here first) - it whips up the best scones in Africa served with a zesty lemon curd.

Enjoy cheese and wine pairing at Vrede and Lust (www.vnl.co.za), a beautifully restored 1688 manor house. This smart winery serves up generous plates of cheese and deep fried olives (R95) and has superlative views of the jagged Klein-Drakensteinberg mountain range beyond.

Vineyard in Western Cape by Kate Armstrong

For a late lunch-cum-early dinner, head to the Salmon Bar (www.threestreams.co.za) in Franschhoek village and savour a selection of traditionally cured and naturally smoked salmon and trout from Norway and Lesotho (all sustainable and traceable; smoked and cured plate R55-75).

Day three: history and high-end cuisine

One of the best wineries in the region, the Solms-Delta Museum (www.solms-delta.co.za) is fascinating, not only for its quality wines, but for its museum, Museum Van de Caab, which reveals the farm's history and background. The museum highlights the history of slavery - paying homage to winery's own slaves, as well as the current workers, some of whom who are the slaves' descendants.

Gourmet'd out? Time for a change. Don't miss a traditional lunch of chicken and pap at Batho's Place (www.bathosplace.co.za) in Langrug, an informal settlement on the periphery of Franschhoek (population of 7000). Here, you can even try the umqombothi (sorghum beer), local lager or glass of wine. From here, head to Teesakkies, a tiny tea house-cum-private home where the owner serves up a mean tea and carrot cake in her humble but cosy lounge. To visit Batho's Place or Teesakkies, contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley Information Centre (franschhoek.org.za; tel +27 21 876 2861).

At the other end of the spectrum, the Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais (www.lqf.co.za) is the type of place that gets talked about in hushed tones. Chef Margot Janse is South Africa's answer to Heston Blumenthal. The cuisine - which incorporates local African elements - is playful and fun, if gimmicky: the bread loaf is served in a 'Lucky Star' sardine can, the foie gras with cocoa butter resembles a chocolate, and the chakalaka, a traditional tomato and vegetable relish, is presented in the shape of a straw. To access your dessert proper - coconut sorbet with caramelised macadamia nuts - you must crack the thin encasement of coconut bake.

As for the wines? After a few days, you'll have imbibed enough of the region's top drops - from crisp and vibrant chardonnays to spicy, soft shiraz - to be an expert.