Boasting four of South Africa’s Top 10 restaurants, and no less than seven of our twenty nominees, it’s no secret that some of the best restaurants in the country are to be found in the Cape winelands. But if fine dining and tasting menus are not your bag, we’re happy to announce that there are also some magnificent country-style restaurants, child-friendly restaurants, and burger and brunch spots. Here are the restaurants in the Swartland, Breede River Valley, Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Somerset West that received the highest ratings from our panel and made it into the Eat Out 500 for 2016.
(Psst. Looking for ideas in the wine regions of Elgin or the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley? Check out our Overberg guide.)
Bar Bar Black Sheep
Unfussy country-style food is treated with great care here. Fans love starters like marrowbones or haddock, leek and cheddar soup. Mains might feature sheep hearts, pickled ox tongue or rabbit and duck.
Mama Cucina Pizza and Pasta Italian Restaurant
This popular Italian restaurant is invariably packed, thanks to delicious specials like barbecue black-ale short rib, slow-roasted springbok pie with gnocchi, and pizzas in regular, wheat- and gluten-free versions.
Harvest Table Bistro (Wolseley)
Situated in an old house, Harvest Table boasts a big stoep and a tempting pool in summer, and a fireplace to keep things cosy in the winter. Owners Rient and Karien serve up perfectly cooked fillet, pulled pork and crisp-soft pizza.
Winner of the Best Bistro in the Western Cape for 2015, this small-town restaurant serves up some seriously delicious food. Think mature gruyère soufflé or springbok loin with garlic mash – all made with lovingly sourced local produce.
Mo & Rose at Soekershof (Outside Robertson)
Classic dishes are masterfully turned out at this chic restaurant with its stunning garden views. Try an artichoke soufflé with MCC sauce or home-smoked duck rillette.
Mimosa Lodge (Montagu)
This wine estate restaurant serves above-average food on Route 62. Think braised pork belly in cumin, rosemary and honey; a spring onion and hoisin crêpe; or green asparagus mousse with truffle and maple syrup for dessert.
Bertus Basson at Spice Route
Allistaire Lawrence creates magnificent heritage food at Bertus Basson’s Spice Route outpost. Tuck into pork belly braised in CBC (brewed on site) or springbok tamatiebredie pie with pickled onions and pumpkin fritters.
Ristorante Pappa Grappa at Wilderer Distillery
Also located on the Spice Route farm, this Italian and German restaurant offers comforting continental dishes like risotto croquettes, springbok ravioli and authentic-tasting seafood pasta. It’s homey and familial.
This timeless restaurant serves up a seasonal menu with skill. Dishes might include luxurious pan-fried crayfish with silky avo crème, and dry-aged rib-eye. Shiny brass and sparkling chandeliers set the mood.
Harvest at Laborie
Crowds visit this relaxed wine estate restaurant for dishes like tempura prawns with soya and avo, and sage-infused risotto. There’s a roaring fire in winter and a wide stoep for summer days.
Boasting views out over the Paarl valley, this comfortable, rustic spot offers a broad menu. Try the antipasti patter loaded with lamb koftas, spring rolls, caul fritters and risotto balls.
This Paarl landmark has been around 10 years and is still turning out scrumptious dishes like calamari-and-chorizo salad; gnocchi with blue cheese and parma ham; and confit duck with egg noodles and orange syrup.
BICCCS is a great option for brunch or lunch with the family. Try the scrambled eggs on homemade croissant or pizza made with 00 flour.
Bread & Wine
While the shady courtyard may be relaxed, the hearty food is a cut above that of your average deli. Tuck into handcrafted charcuterie studded with hazelnuts and black cardamom, or tuck into slow-cooked lamb and some incredible desserts.
Located in a 200-year old restored winery, this restaurant is classy but relaxed. Try the snoek fishcakes – jam-packed with flavour – or a winning rendition of coq au vin, if it’s available.
Café des Arts
This is where the locals go to eat. Home-cured bacon and truffled scrambled eggs make breakfast appealing, while lunch and dinner entice with the likes of hoisin ribs and salted caramel cheesecake.
Traditional ingredients including rarely used herbs and ‘veldkos’ appear here in a menu of heritage dishes. Try the snoek-and-biltong terrine with lemon geranium and wild herbs or a smoked Karoo ostrich carpaccio with numnum sauce and fynbos greens.
Haute Cabrière Restaurant & Terrace
Pop in for tapas and dinner at the cosy restaurant carved into the hillside, or nab a spot on the terrace with its knockout views in balmy weather. Haute Cabrière’s menu revolves around seasonal availability of produce, which is mostly sourced locally or even grown organically on the farm. A selection of full- and half portions, as well as a variety of smaller bites from the Terrace menu encourage guests to relax and sample a variety of pairings.
Le Bon Vivant
This popular Franschhoek eatery reinvents classics in dishes like curry-cured tuna with green-apple panna cotta, and pork rack and cheek with apricot and crackling.
Foliage – nominee
Chef Chris Erasmus is blooming at foliage. Plates abound with seasonal, foraged ingredients, all artfully presented. The risotto of truffled peas, porcini and fiddlehead ferns tastes like the essence of spring, offset by earthy onion. A special treat.
The Kitchen at Maison – nominee
Chef Arno Janse van Rensberg creates colourful contemporary dishes with Asian flavours in a beautiful setting. Veg dishes are innovative – there might be cucumber crackling, carrot purée or onion candy served as a side – while mains like barbecue beef short-rib are satisfying and hearty.
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français – 2015 Top 10
The Tasting Room came in at number three in our most recent awards – and took home the Service Excellence Award for the second year running. Expect to be wowed by Margot Janse’s South African storytelling menu. In the past it’s featured dishes like ‘day at the beach’, where fish and seaweed play with buchu, Eugenia and Natal wild plums. It changes frequently, so go with no preconceptions and allow the staff to take you on a journey.
Lust Bistro & Bakery
Nordic wood tables, exposed beams and a sunny terrace creates bright, airy feel at this modern bistro. Expect stylish plating and generously portioned dishes such as aged sirloin with wild mushroom and sherry sauce, or succulent pork belly.
Pierneef à La Motte
Here chef Michelle Theron treats classics innovatively, and has retained some of the emphasis on local heritage food. Kick off with Cape bokkom salad, and move on to cider-braised pork with salted caramel, celeriac and piquant apple sauce. Outdoor tables are appealing in the summer, and a fireplace makes things cosy in the winter months.
The Restaurant at Grande Provence
Darren Badenhorst is a talented young chef, and the setting – especially the shaded outside area – couldn’t be better. Try globally inspired dishes like risotto with barrel-smoked langoustine, white mussels and seaweed brittle, and salt-cured duck dim sum in an umami-rich broth.
Reuben’s Restaurant and Bar
Expect small plates, enticing specials and comforting classics at the famous chef’s eponymous restaurant. Think pork belly with pumpkin purée and chilli-caramel jus and traditional malva pudding.
In its new location, Ryan Smith’s restaurant has become one of the places to eat in Franschhoek. The constantly changing menu features utterly delicious dishes like tapioca mushroom ‘pudding’ and peri-peri duck parfait with lemon jelly and green-bean chutney. Don’t miss the excellent soufflés.
The Werf Restaurant
Christiaan Campbell (formerly of Delaire Graff) has taken over the reigns at Boschendal’s bright, airy restaurant. The menu draws inspiration from the magnificent garden, and everything is seasonal, sustainable and local. Think delicate pickled octopus or braised beef short-rib with dumplings.
The smarter of the two restaurants at Babylonstoren, Babel focuses on fresh, vibrant dishes directly from the garden. Guests feast on colour-coded salads and ingredients like spekboom, waterblommetjies and artichokes.
Greenhouse at Babylonstoren
This striking glass greenhouse makes a beautiful venue for lunch under the trees. Fare is simple, from build-your-own sandwiches to satisfying boerie rolls and magnificent cheesecake.
Restaurant at Glen Carlou
Vineyard views set the tone for contemporary cuisine with continental influences. Tuck into ostrich fillet with a biltong croquette or a gruyère soufflé.
The Tasting Centre at Rupert & Rothschild
Chef Carmen Muller took home the 2015 Nederburg Rising Star Award for her wine-driven menu at this gorgeous wine estate venue. Expect made-from-scratch bread with salted truffle butter, pasture-reared beef, pork and glorious farm duck in a cherry and juniper berry pie.
96 Winery Road
A visit to this cosy restaurant is like dropping in on an old friend. Try deep-fried calamari with coriander and chilli cream, pork belly strips, or the Ferrari of burgers.
The Bakery at Jordan
This more relaxed restaurant on the Jordan Wine Estate offers magnificent views and a concise, delicious breakfast and lunch menu. Breakfast on croque madame on brioche, or lunch on corn-and-ginger broth with sourdough or a chalmar beef steak pie.
Nic van Wyk is turning out robust country dishes with a touch of creativity at this child-friendly restaurant. The risotto is exquisite, or try dishes like sweet-and-sour rib salad, roast-chicken pie or slow-braised lamb shoulder.
A modern interior is offset by quirky heirlooms. The menu may feature almond-crusted game loin, or beef short-rib with parmesan gnocchi. Don’t miss dessert.
Delaire Graff Estate Restaurant
Exquisite views over the Banhoek Valley set the scene for Michael Deg’s inventive seasonal menu. Think Karoo springbok loin with liquorice jus, or pork shoulder terrine with beer jelly.
Delheim Garden Restaurant
This charming estate restaurant serves Cape comfort food with some German influences. Tuck into deliciously rich chicken liver pâté, slow-roasted pork belly stuffed with apricots and almonds, or Karoo lamb shank in red wine and rosemary.
Eight at Spier
A true farm-to-table experience awaits. Try the hearty cauliflower-and-gruyère soup or the chicken-and-mushroom pie, and don’t miss the flourless chocolate cake. There’s a nearby jungle gym and plenty of room to run outside.
Genki Sushi and Japanese Tapas Bar
The leafy courtyard is buzzing most nights, thanks to the excellent sushi and Japanese tapas served here. Try melt-in-the-mouth new-style sashimi or feather-light tempura shiitake mushrooms.
Helena’s Restaurant at Coopmanshuijs Boutique Hotel
This is an elegant spot for spectacular renditions of traditional winelands food. Look forward to dishes like rack of lamb with Cumberland sauce and krummelpap; cider-braised pork cheeks; and Japie se gunsteling for dessert. Seats on the stoep allow a great view of Stellies sidewalk culture.
The Hussar Grill
The Stellenbosch outpost of this chain offers excellent steak in a huge variety of guises. Book a table in the courtyard if you can.
Indochine – nominee
Chef Virgil Kahn brings his deft touch to Asian cuisine. Green peppercorns, Vietnamese coriander and lime feature in melt-in-the-mouth duck, while a mussel-and-whelk laksa brings China and Malaysia together on the plate. Plush interiors give way to breathtaking views.
Jordan Restaurant – 2015 Top 10
George Jardine and Kyle Burn turn out food bursting with flavour at this beautiful wine estate restaurant. There might be moreish Kroon duck breast with sautéed duck liver and cauliflower jus, or revelatory buttered fettucini with Jerusalem artichokes. Either way, this tranquil, warm restaurant will soothe your soul and belly.
Joostenberg Bistro & Deli
This is hearty, country-style dining, perfect for a long, lazy family lunch. Mains feature the likes of free-range beef bourguignon and pork sausages with apple sauce. There’s also a great selection of meat, fruit, veggies and bread to take home from the deli.
Long Table Restaurant and Café
Offering dreamy views of the winelands from its perch on the slopes of the Helderberg, this cosy restaurant serves robust dishes like slow-cooked oxtail skilpadjies on risotto; pan-fried lamb kidneys; and one of the best burgers in the winelands.
Set atop its namesake ridge, this elegant spot boasts views all the way to Table Mountain on a clear day. The menu focuses on Cape comfort food with European flavour. The pear frangipane art with roasted pear sorbet is outstanding.
Lucas Carstens and Pete Goffe-Wood have taken the reins and are reputedly working on a memorable new menu for the fine restaurant of this boutique hotel. Exquisite playful décor and friendly, knowledgeable service make for a welcoming experience.
An eclectic but tasty menu features everything from pizza to chicken liver parfait with brioche, stone fruit and apple jelly. The large deck offers views over the dam and Helderberg mountains; in winter, a cosy fireplace beckons. There’s also a jungle gym.
Oppie Dorp Restaurant and Wine Bar
Pull up a chair in the oak-shaded streetside area and feast on bistro fare including great slow-roasted lamb or nibble on lighter sarmies and salads. Tourists (and curious locals) will enjoy the crocodile.
This gorgeous, country-style spot is only open during summer, and then only for lunches from Thursday to Sunday – so make sure you book ahead. The three-course set menu changes weekly, but might feature superb charcuterie, angelfish pâté, duck with paprika and smoky lentils, and panna cotta. Tables spill out onto the grass, beneath a leafy canopy or large umbrellas.
Overture – nominee
Bertus Basson continues to deliver moreish cuisine with local character and a hint of nostalgia. Tuck into oysters; octopus in a tangy Asian dressing with avo, cucumber and pear; or beef brisket with ox liver and parsnip purée. Puddings are also superlatively comforting.
Pan e Vino Food & Wine Bar
An Italian hidden gem with highlights like feather-light mash with tender saltimbocca or a magnificent ragù. There’s a cosy fire in winter.
The Restaurant at Clos Malverne
The wraparound balcony offers views of the vineyards, and the Simonsberg and Helshoogte mountains. Food-wise, expect comforting dishes like seven-spice crusted rump with red-wine jus and mustard-basted springbok loin on cauli purée. Vegetarians are not neglected.
Rust en Vrede – nominee
This refined, traditional fine-dining restaurant serves gorgeous slow food. Think herb-crusted lamb loin with tender braised shank and rich sweetbreads, or pork belly with a marron tail. The highly recommended Estate Experience menu takes four hours but offers a unique gastronomic journey with rare wines.
Schoon de Companje
This is a tempting palace of artisanal treats for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Try the wild mushrooms with sour cream and sage; or the bacon-and-leek sarmie with mustard cream cheese. There’s live music on Saturday nights.
The Table at De Meye
A country-style gem. A three-course set menu is served family style, and might feature wonderful beetroot tarte tatin, chicken roasted in verjuice with a creamy sauce, and pancakes with Van der Hum. Tables spread out on the lawn each have their own shady tree.
Terroir – 2015 Top 10
Coming in at number eight at the most recent Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards, Terroir continues to serve unpretentious fine dining food suited to its leafy, cobbled courtyard. Don’t miss the prawn risotto with sauce Americaine if it’s on the menu – it’ll ruin you for all future risottos. The desserts are also sublime.
The Thirsty Scarecrow
This relaxed venue offers great bistro food like beef-and-ale pie, beef brisket and slaw in a soft bun, and thin-based pizzas. The deck overlooking the strawberry farm is often buzzing, and is particularly popular for cocktails.
Towerbosch Earth Kitchen
Country-style dishes are served with skill and panache. On Sundays a special family feast is hosted, with standouts like roasts, duck-fat potatoes, flavoured butters, and home-cured bresaola.
Wild Peacock Food Emporium
This family-run deli serves affordable meals drawn from the fabulous produce they supply to surrounding restaurants. Try smoked duck, 28-day aged sirloin with gorgonzola potatoes, and the fresh oysters. Grab a seat on the stoep in summer.
Camphors at Vergelegen – nominee
It’s no surprise that this fine dining restaurant on the historic wine estate offers exquisite dishes inspired by the cellar. The lamb loin with herb-crusted lamb saddle, tongue, sweetbreads and lamb neck is outstanding, and the ‘milk and honey’ pre-dessert is a knockout. Outdoor tables overlooking the lawn, with wandering peacocks, are first prize.
Equus Dine at Cavalli
Weekday lunches offer a pared-down bistro menu, while evenings and Sunday lunch lean towards fine dining. Look forward to prawns and brioche toast with shellfish butter for lunch, or coriander-cured venison with chakalaka for dinner. The gorgeous, airy space and stunning gardens won the Boschendal Style Award in 2014.
Fred & Max Eatery
A relaxed spot to chill out with friends. The menu features tacos with chilli mince, onion relish and sour cream; inventive salads; and tasty breakfasts like flapjacks with chocolate sauce and maple syrup.
The Restaurant at Waterkloof – Top 10
Entering the Top 10 at number six for the first time, Gregory Czarnecki impressed judges with his vibrant cooking and incredible attention to colour and styling. Flavour combinations are inspired in dishes like the marron with piquant grapefruit and peas with truffled buttermilk. The contemporary glasshouse space offers stunning views across False Bay.
Stables at Vergelegen
The Vergelegen estate’s more relaxed restaurant gathers crowds for lazy breakfasts like eggs Benedict, and sweet or savoury French toast. For lunch, tuck into great pizzas, and bistro style faire like confit duck and bouillabaisse.
This elegant restaurant offers great alfresco dining in summer. The menu centres around comfort, with dishes like duck-and-cherry pie, twice-baked cheese soufflé with chive cream, and pulled pork buns.
Wondering how we came up with this list? These are the restaurants in the Swartland, Breede River Valley, Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Somerset West that received the highest ratings from our critics’ panel and made it into the Eat Out 500 for the 2016 edition of Eat Out magazine.