Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Beach, Robben Island and Kirstenbosch National Park are just a few attractions every traveler should see when visiting Cape Town, a city located on South Africa’s southwest coast. But what you may not know is that this popular tourist destination has also become the go-to hotspot for foodies, too! South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ retains its well-earned reputation for keeping travelers well fed. The city offers a cornucopia of wonderful restaurants, shops and produce markets, but it’s out in the scenic Winelands that the region’s reputation for fine food really comes to the forefront. Here’s why you should consider it for your next luxury vacation, honeymoon or destination wedding.
The Cape’s Culinary Origins
Just a 45-minute drive from the city center, the historic vineyards of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl dish up their magical mix of scenic beauty, grand estates and warm hospitality. This is the culinary heart of the Cape, with fine-dining restaurants and casual winery bistros offering an array of cuisine that draws on Cape’s diversity of roots.
The French Huguenots arrived here with grape vines and Continental cuisine. The Italians brought olive oil and a lust for life, while the heritage of slaves from the East Indies echoes through in the spices of fragrant Cape Malay curries.
Innovative Traditional Dishes Served at La Motte Wine Estate
It’s a dizzying array of gourmet experiences, but we recommend you start at La Motte Wine Estate on the outskirts of Franschhoek. Here Chef Michelle Theron translates the Cape’s rich history onto the plate. Combining heritage ingredients and traditional techniques her signature ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ is a tribute to the diversity of the dishes cooked up in this region.
“At La Motte, we’re trying to give people the opportunity to discover our own regional cuisine,” said Theron. We’ve been working with recipes going back to 1570, which have a connection to our cuisine. We take those inspirations and information and we modernize it.”
... her signature 'Cape Winelands Cuisine' is a tribute to the diversity of the dishes cooked up in this region.
South Africans love their red meat, and her beef short rib with green sorrel pesto is a superb example of what the chefs of the Winelands are achieving with local ingredients. Game meats are also a highlight here, and adventurous palates won’t go wrong with the pan-roasted loin of venison.
Like most Winelands restaurants, those dishes are crafted to pair with wines from the estate and surrounding region. Although South Africa is situated firmly in the so-called New World, forward-thinking cellar masters are increasingly making wine in a more elegant Old-World style.
At La Motte, much of the produce on the plate comes from the estate’s own vegetable gardens – a trend fast gathering pace in the Cape Winelands.
Don’t Miss Out on These Farm-to-Table Dining Experiences
The remarkable food garden at Babylonstoren is a shining example of what can be achieved; a magnificent layout of fruits, vegetables and indigenous herbs inspired by the early kitchen gardens of the Cape. The bountiful produce ends up in the creative cuisine of Chef Cornelle Minie at the estate’s signature restaurant Babel. The vegetarian cuisine here is particularly innovative, although her local line fish with wild dune spinach and waterblommetjies is exceptional.
At Boschendal Farm, Chef Christiaan Campbell also embraces the growing ethos of farm-to-fork dining. His kitchen at the fine-dining Werf Restaurant leads into a seven-acre food garden built to be both pretty and productive. Guided walks with the resident horticulturist are a highlight here, and guests are welcome to harvest for themselves along the way.
Campbell is also one of the leading lights when it comes to sustainable seafood in the country. An increasing consideration for many chefs and diners in the Cape Winelands, look out for restaurants that support the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). This World Wildlife Fund initiative promotes the use and consumption of local fish sourced from sustainable wild stocks.
Food from the wild is certainly a trend making its presence felt in the Cape’s top restaurants. Mushrooms harvested from the region’s pine forests have long featured on local menus, but Chef Chris Erasmus – inspired by his time at Noma in Copenhagen – is leading the charge in developing the foraging movement in the Western Cape.
His Franschhoek restaurant Foliage makes the most of what the surrounding hills have to offer, from acorn flour and wild geese to fiddlehead ferns and infusions of local fynbos herbs. If you’re looking for a true taste of the Cape Winelands, look no further.
With such an array of chefs, ingredients and inspiration, it’s hard to identify a single iconic Cape Winelands dish. Rather, the region’s identity is in its diversity. Like South Africa itself, a dizzying array of cultures and influences find harmony, both in life and on the plate.
5 Dishes to Try in Cape Town
Bobotie: Fragrant spiced mince, topped with an egg custard and bay leaves, then baked. Usually served with fragrant rice and sambals, this is a classic dish typical of the region’s Cape Malay community.
Waterblommetjies: The ‘water flowers’ that grow wild in farm dams at springtime are usually baked into a delicious lamb ‘bredie’ (stew) that’s popular throughout the Cape, although forward-thinking chefs also pick the youngest buds to pan-fry with local trout.
Rooibos: This herbal tea has made a name for itself worldwide, yet has its roots in the mountains north of Cape Town. Try it as an herbal infusion over breakfast, or look for Rooibos-infused cocktails in upscale city bars.
Bokkoms: An icon of the fishing villages that line the West Coast north of the Cape winelands, these salted air-dried Southern Mullet are the fishy equivalent of local biltong (similar to beef jerky). To say they’re an acquired taste is putting it mildly.
Boerewors: South Africans love a good braai (barbecue), and no self-respecting braai is complete without a coil of boerewors. This rustic ‘farmer’s sausage’ is typically made of beef and pork mince, with generous seasoning of coriander, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and all spice.
What You Should Know Before You Go
To really experience Cape Town, we suggest visiting in the spring (October-November) and the fall (March-April) when you can experience the best weather in the Cape Winelands. Tourists usually flock to the popular city between December and February (summer) when there are warm temperatures and sunny skies. Although South Africa has 11 official languages, English is spoken widely throughout the country. And there’s no shortage of metered taxis and official tour operators, but renting a car is your best option for exploring beyond Cape Town.
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