Stu and I left Knysna in November of 2015, and moved closer to Cape Town, into the Winelands in fact. He found us a really quirky farm-house to rent near Paarl and we are loving exploring the area, especially the many and wonderful eateries. We have certainly been spoilt for choice. Here are a few, in no particular order, that I (um we) have enjoyed so far or need a mention.
- Val de Vie Polo Club
Location: Val de Vie (on the R301 near Paarl)
With a stunning view of the polo fields, and the mountains in the background, this is a lovely spot to spend a few hours over a lazy lunch, or breakfast no doubt. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food and more so at the (reasonable) prices. We met some visiting friends for lunch, and enjoyed a bottle or two of their very nicely priced, very drinkable MCC. The club itself reminded me a of the golf clubs in Dubai, most especially the one at Arabian Ranches and perhaps the Montgomery. Anyway I had the linefish, yellowtail I think it was, and it was delicious.
- Lust Bistro
Location: at Vrede en Lust Wine estate
The first time Stu and I tried to find this bistro, specifically because we were on the hunt for decent sourdough bread and had read about their 15 year old sourdough starter and the clever baker, we ended up going round in circles in a Cape Pine housing estate being chased by stray dogs and kids. Clearly we had gone wrong somewhere (or Google was having some fun with us). Undeterred we tried again, and thank goodness we did. Lust is now a firm lunch-time favourite and the source of most of our bread for the house (since I broke the bread cloche in the move so the home-made stuff is temporarily unavailable – but don’t let’s mention that). In fact I think I have already eaten there 4 times (but who is counting). I love the pizza (sourdough base need I say more) and the ever-changing salad specials. They also offer a sunday buffet at lunch-time, although you can stick to the a-la-carte if you prefer as well. Pair your pick with one of their lovely wines and you are A for away.
Location: La Paris estate, R301
Timing: a weekend in November (annual I think)
La Paris is almost our neighbour, so we couldn’t help but notice, on the weekend we moved in, the great big banner advertising the festival over the weekend of the 27th to 29th. We were sick and tired of unpacking boxes and dealing with DIY issues so we decided to have a break and head on over. The Saturday was sold out so we settled on the Sunday instead. Got there about 1pm and found a spot under the gorgeous old oaks trees where we listened to live music, had a bite to eat (well I did anyway) and enjoyed some craft beer (Stu) and a cold red-wine sangria thing (me). It was as hot as hell so we were glad for the shade. Little did we know the heat was just toying with us and the real test was yet to come around Christmas and New year (thanks El Niño and no doubt global warming).
Festival in the Valley
Location: Huguenot Monument
Timing: a weekend at the start of December (annual)
My dear SIL (sister-in-law) mentioned this to me as something to look at doing, but not thinking Stu would be keen I didn’t pursue it. Fast forward a few weeks later and we met up for coffee with yet more visiting friends (from Dubai this time – yes we have been spoilt with visitors) who were going, and so we bought tickets and went along too. Turned out to be a fun, although hot day – luckily we kept hydrated with bubbles (probably not advisable actually). Ahem. It was great to try some of the local MCCs that I hadn’t sampled yet. I did decide that the La Motte was my favourite, although we actually didn’t make it to all the vendors to be fair. Will definitely be going back to this next (at least this) year.
Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne festival
- Babel restaurant
Location: Babylonstoren, Simondium
Timing: Lunch Wednesday to Sunday, and Monday to Sunday for breakfast and dinner. Booking essential
After seeing the sign for Babylonstoren when driving up and down the R45 (predominantly when doing the bread run, see Lust entry above) I was keen to check it out. I have heard about it from several people but somehow thought it was closer to Cape Town. Anyway when mom was visiting the week that Stu was in JHB I decided we would visit and maybe have lunch. So after paying our R10 each entry at the gate (still gets my goat that), on another very hot day, we trundled up to the rather large parking lot. I am never reassured when seeing signs in both English and Chinese, speaks to the fact that there will be bus loads of tourists kicking around. Happily this was not the case on the day we went. Also unbeknownst to me it is advisable to book before trying to have lunch, esp at Babel. But perhaps ignorance is bliss as mom and I sailed in and were seated in the new section of the restaurant without hesitation. Our hostess explained they had just finished extending the seating area and were trialling a new menu as part of the soft re-launch, and so they hadn’t been taking bookings (lady luck was on our side for sure!). A lot of the produce used in the restaurant comes from the farm gardens, and its advisable to have a walk through the gardens as well. But I think we may have ended up with sun-stroke if we had tried that, so something for another day. And whilst the food was abundant and delicious the climate inside the restaurant was stifling and unfortunately I couldn’t do the meal justice with sweat running between my shoulder blades. One overworked fan was not up to moving the air, and the aircons were either woefully inadequate or not working at all, and eventually we couldn’t take it anymore and escaped home. I later learnt that we would have been better off in the Greenhouse, where we could have enjoyed a lighter meal. Anyway I will certainly be back…in the cold, winter, off-peak season.
- Pappa Grappa restaurant
Location: Wilderers Estate, R45, Simondium
Timing: Monday – Saturday for lunch & dinner. Sunday for lunch. Closed Monday.
Another place I had spotted from the R45 in Simonidum was Pappa Grappa. A small sign advertising pizza sits beside the road under some beautiful big trees. After the sweltering experience at Babel mom and I were looking for some shade with our meal the following day. And at Wilderer Estate we found it. A lovely breeze blew through the leaves as we sat in the stunning garden (featured in the header pic). Pappa Grappa is for the most part an Italian restaurant with the odd German / Swiss and even French twist here and there. They also distil several styles of grappa, schnapps and gin on the estate, and I have to say the fynbos gin is very more-ish. Its a humble, unpretentious kind of restaurant – and I think the food is lovely. Service can be slow but it’s worth it, so don’t be in a hurry. I have been several times now, so a selection of pictures to follow.
- The Kitchen at Maison
Location: on the R45 in Franschhoek
I am adding this restaurant as more of a warning than a recommendation. As my sister-in-law wasn’t going to be with us for Christmas lunch we decided we would treat ourselves to an end of year dinner instead. We had no shortage of options to choose from in the area but I decided to book us in at the Kichen at Maison – they had started serving dinners on the weekends and friends had loved the Friday night they had spent there the week before (which admittedly was a Jazz evening on the 1st of the month). The location is lovely with views of vineyards, and the restaurant is well appointed decor-wise. And whilst my sister-in-law and I enjoyed our main courses Stu sadly did not. We found the side dishes to be exorbitant (R73 for broccoli) and the service terrible. Its a fine line between being an attentive waiter and an annoying one, and sadly our service landed the wrong side. Also the menu only lists the main elements of the dish, with no description or explanation, so you are left to rely on your waiter to explain the dishes to you, and its clear that they have never even tasted the menu items as they could not fulfil on this requirement at all. So a little more care, time and training in respect of the waiting staff would be in order quite frankly. Really sad, and I won’t be hurrying back.
This is really just the tip of the ice-berg, there are so many interesting and delicious looking places to try here, so standby! We are going to give the Franschhoek Summer Wine event a try next month, so perhaps we will see you there!
*featured image: the view from Pappa Grappa