Boasting five of South Africa’s Top 10 restaurants, it’s no secret that some of the best restaurants in the country can be found in the scenic Cape winelands. But if fine dining and tasting menus are not your thing, there are also some magnificent country-style restaurants, child-friendly restaurants, and burger and brunch spots. Here are the restaurants in Wellington, Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Somerset West that received the highest ratings from our panel and made it into the Eat Out 500 for 2017.
With its move from the village of Riebeek-Kasteel to a farm on the outskirts of Wellington, Bar Bar Black Sheep has shifted its offering to heartier country-style cuisine. A trio of soups kicks things off before tempting starters like mushroom risotto, bitterballen and bone marrow on toast. The much-loved fishcakes survived the move, but the Bar Bar lamb burger will appear only occasionally. No matter, other appealing choices on the blackboard menu include fragrant Malay curry and the ubiquitous pork belly. Expect generous portions and bold flavours.
Hearty, traditional SA plates, dialled up a notch with starters like pea soup with shiitake mushrooms and traditional pickled fish with beetroot. Mains lean towards the meaty side: sirloin with monkey gland sauce is plated with old-fashioned pumpkin tart and spinach purée. Regulars also rave about the braised pork belly with gnocchi. Don’t miss Tannie Hetta’s delicious apple tart with custard.
Chef Roland Gorgosilich’s home-cured duck breast with blue-cheese dressing is a deliciously rich beginning. Another worthy starter is the Chalmar beef carpaccio that’s so thin you can almost see through it. The free-range duck leg confit makes a hearty main, served with red-cabbage purée, Brussels sprouts and dumplings. End with classic slow-braised pear compote with home-made bourbon-vanilla ice cream.
Chef Eric Bulpitt, formerly of Newton Johnson, has a love of seasonal ingredients, showcased in dishes like pan-seared False Bay Gurnard in a light creamy broth with spears of warm cucumber, mustard flowers and radish, and farm-reared beef carpaccio with argan oil, pickled elderflower and bone marrow dressing. It’s hard not to choose the PB&J dessert of peanut-butter cake and strawberry jellies.
A wide-ranging menu combines local flavours and Asian inspirations. The fresh Saldanha Bay mussels steamed in chardonnay and garlic are a highlight to start. Mains range from herb-crusted lamb to roasted duck served with potato-and-butternut dauphinoise. Locals love the steaks, which are aged for 32 days. Desserts are bistro staples like apple tarte tatin and a trio of crème brûlées.
The menu blends local flavours with a distinctly European approach. That could mean a trio of wild mushrooms in risotto, gnocchi, or beef carpaccio in a heady truffle vinaigrette. Look out for chalkboard specials like ostrich fillet with spätzle or fillet on the bone with pesto mash. Plating is elegant but without unnecessary flourishes. The cleverly named ‘Non merci’ platter offers a selection of bite-sized desserts.
Famed charcutier Neil Jewell and his charming wife, Tina, have been attracting hordes of fans for years. Great starters include chilled gazpacho with smoked almond gel and beet-smoked trout offset by cucumber, fennel and tapioca. Mains of grass-fed sirloin with potato fondant and mushroom ragù will please carnivores, while vegetarians will love the risotto with braaied patty pan and pumpkin.
Country cuisine at its best, with honest flavours in generous portions. Start with the farmhouse terrine of duck liver and pork shoulder, served with spiced apple chutney, and go on to the farm-reared slow-roasted pork belly with a spicy plum purée, or the amazingly good pan-seared wild Cape salmon served with mussels and corn chowder. A nice vegetarian option is the risotto with courgettes, asparagus and crunchy walnuts. Don’t miss the excellent pear frangipane tart.
Foliage – TOP 10
Chris Erasmus has taken firm root at his own place, attracting a wildly enthusiastic audience. Foraging is the game, with Chris and his staff often to be found in the hills around Franschhoek collecting bounty from the earth. Flavours of sorrel and basil, forest mushroom and wild herb, river greens, nettles and pine rings are all used to brilliant effect. Standouts include braised kudu with bone marrow and slow-roasted pork belly with dandelion and pumpkin seeds.
With a nod to local flavours and cuisine that harks back to early Cape cooking, it’s just as well the menu comes with a glossary. Highlights are curried-snoek spring rolls with chutney and paaper bites (spiced and fried samoosa pastry); free-range chicken with curried lentil-and-shrimp roti and yoghurt kerriesous; and glazed pork belly with creamy vanilla mash and pickled spekboom. The crème caramel scented with wild rosemary and pelargonium is an apt ending.
The Kitchen at Maison – TOP 10
Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg continues his farm-to-plate philosophy with a delight in Asian flavours and a South American twist. Almost every dish is served on a small tapas-style plate. Expect dishes like local trout ceviche with blood orange, suckling pig with salt-fermented parsnip, and dark chocolate mousse with orange segments and deep-fried quinoa.
Chef Pierre Hendriks brings a European sensibility to local ingredients. The fare of the day could start with fresh oysters, bitterballen, curry-cured tuna with wasabi crumble and green apple panna cotta, or goat’s cheese with beetroot cannelloni. One of the best mains is the excellent duck breast with crisp duck liver, apple-and-celery salad and a hint of spice. The fresh line fish of the day with a herb crust, fried lemon risotto and mushroom tomato ragout is also a sure bet.
Classic food is the mainstay, but there are outliers like an Asian venison tartare with beautiful textures and zing. The extravagant bouillabaisse is filled with perfectly prepared seafood, and for meat lovers, the venison loin is lifted by a spicy honey-cinnamon jus and a pretty slice of pommes Anna. Desserts show a lighter touch, with options like panna cotta and ice cream made with the estate’s dessert wine.
Lunch is a stylish affair with starters like heirloom tomato salad with basil, crispy fried goat’s cheese and olive purée. Mains are hearty; look forward to dishes such as glazed pork belly with thyme-and-apple chutney, potato gratin and buttered cabbage; Peking duck breast with carrot purée, baby spinach and fresh plum sauce; and crispy-skinned chicken supreme stuffed with tarragon-chicken mousse, served with corn purée and roast chicken jus. Desserts range from chocolate molten cake with raspberry sorbet, honeycomb and pistachio to black-cherry-and almond-clafoutis with buttermilk ice cream.
No longer focusing purely on heritage food, chef Michelle Theron turns out Cape winelands dishes with robust flavour in this beautiful restaurant. The inventive menu delivers hearty portions. Dine à la carte by day, or return at night for the five-course tasting menu. Mains herald hearty dishes like Glen Oakes farm pork with risotto and roasted apple; and a healthy portion of Laingsburg lamb shoulder served with slivers of homemade sausage.
Grande Provence lives up to its name, with spectacular views of rolling vineyards and mountains. The menu uses classic French techniques but plays with modern flavours. Standouts are black risotto with wild mushrooms and confit chicken; butter-poached lobster with ponzu, kombu and dill; and tender 18-hour sous-vide lamb.
Chef Ryan Smith takes snapshots of local ingredients through the lens of classic techniques. It’s far from the usual fare: glossy black balls of sago bob in miso broth with salty snoek. Slivers of warthog are layered with charred onion ash, root vegetables and onion purée; beef short rib is paired with coffee jus and parsnip crème caramel. Playful desserts might include basil-crème-filled sugar ’cannelloni’ with crisp green apple, and salted-caramel bavarois with spiced pear.
The eight-course African surprise menu here changes regularly according to what locally sourced ingredients are available to be bought or foraged. What never changes is the technical perfection of the preparation in the kitchen, the delightful harmony and aesthetic unity of the presentation, and the wow factor on the palate. Highlights might be a potjie with sweetcorn custard, popcorn made from Madagascan peppercorns, and crunchy kohlrabi pickled in hibiscus water.
A glorious garden sprouts delicious produce that’s being picked even as diners arrive. In the kitchen, it’s transformed into comforting, country-style food by chef Christiaan Campbell. Start with beef tartare hidden inside flutes of nasturtium leaf with baby potato chips and pickled onions. Family-style dishes for sharing include salt-baked trout; fillet with sausages, bonemarrow and béarnaise; wonderfully rich slow-cooked pork belly; and roasted leg of lamb with a glossy sauce. For dessert, break open a perfect whirl of Italian meringue to find hazelnuts, rhubarb cubes and nutty honeycomb inside.
Mexican food comes to Franschhoek at this new eatery. Order dishes for the table to share, like spicy nachos flash-grilled with bubbling cheese, and tuna, chicken or slow-cooked beef tacos accented with guacamole, sweetcorn hash and braised onions. Add a plate of cheese quesadillas with smoked chicken, tomato and cream cheese, and you’ll be set. Very popular are the sweetcorn nuggets with chipotle-chilli dip and chilli-and-lime chicken wings. Finish off with spiced churros with dark-chocolate dipping sauce.
Babel remains a trendsetter in the farm-to-fork scene, serving freshly picked produce from the estate’s massive garden. A thoughtfully simplified menu includes colour-coded salads, platters of seasonal vegetables, and poetically described dishes like warm beetroot falafel with beetroot hummus; chargrilled beef fillet on the bone; wild mushroom risotto, made with rice grown on the farm; and chocolate milk-tart fondant with rooibos ice cream.
The relaxed atmosphere belies the quality of cooking here, with chef Johan Stander dishing up a superb menu that blends continental classics with local produce and Asian influence. Look forward to marinated tofu with red-cabbage kimchi, spiced pork neck with smoked apple sauce, gruyère-and-cauliflower soufflé, and superb Franschhoek trout with Puy lentil ragout. There’s a kids’ menu for under-13s.
Local produce shines on the plates of chef Carmen Muller, 2015’s Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star. The food-and-wine pairing might feature Franschhoek trout with tonka-bean velouté and almond gremolata; barn-raised quail, purple fig-and-pomegranate glaze and spiced red cabbage; and braised veal brisket, pickled wild mushrooms and celeriac purée. Alternatively, the chef’s menu options include caramelised lamb on ricotta gnudi and pasture-reared pork belly coated in crackling ‘popcorn’. Dessert of the day might be dark-chocolate torte with peanut-butter ice cream and fudge.
Chef Nic van Wyk and his team are doing something special here. Food is deceptively simple, with harmony, balance and restraint shown in dishes like celeriac-and-parsnip soup with wild-mushroom brioche; tempura prawns with smoked chilli oil; pasta with mussels, chorizo and saffron; and beef fillet groaning with delight under a blue-cheese-and-grappa sauce. Desserts are imaginative and delicious. Try the lemon-curd mille-feuille with raspberry coulis and Italian meringue.
A seasonal country menu is built around the estate’s iconic wines, using produce from their own vegetable, fruit and herb gardens. Try a boerewors roll with sparkling-wine mustard, Asian pork neck with braised cabbage, and deboned lamb rib with earthy turnips and farmhouse mash. Vegetarians are treated to fresh flavours of salads (baby beetroot with whipped goat’s cheese) or risotto with roasted butternut. Leave space for traditional pecan pie with buttermilk ice cream or a Winelands cheese platter with preserves.
Classic bistro dishes feature touches of SA flavours on a creative, artistically presented menu. Standouts are oysters; citrus-cured trout with guacamole ice cream; pea-and-herb risotto with macadamia nuts and smoked fromage blanc; and beef sirloin with braised shin, basil mousseline and creamy butternut purée. Desserts are artworks on the plate, with fantasies of marshmallow, parfait, chocolate air and whisky jelly.
Everything on the menu is good for you. It’s all planned around produce that’s grown or farmed here according to biodynamic practices. A small, simple offering has choices ranging from soups, salad and hearty dishes like a beef burger with brie to chicken-and-mushroom pie. Vegetarians will be content with goat’smilk-cheese soufflé or pasta. Straightforward desserts include chocolate brownies and baked lemon pudding with custard.
A concise offering of upmarket bistro cuisine. Embracing seasonality and local produce, some from the estate’s gardens, it’s a globetrotting menu with plenty of Asian influences. Standouts include sticky glazed short ribs with miso onions, and the salad of chargrilled broccoli with spicy nam prik dressing. Local and Euro flavours abound, too, in the likes of dukkah-crusted springbok shank and succulent line fish with shaved fennel salad.
These guys deliver on their name with a choice between burgers, grills (pork ribs, lamb rump and lamb T-bone), steaks (200g-300g sirloin, rump, fillet, dry-aged, New York cut, côte du boeuf, T-bone) and a few local favourites (pork belly, lamb shank, pie of the day, risotto and oxtail). Roasted bonemarrow comes standard with steaks, plus you can add sauces or sides like onion rings, crumbed mushrooms and signature chips, which are golden nuggets of twice-fried delight.
Genki has been winning the hearts of Stellenbosch aficionados for years. Apart from varied sushi that includes new-style sashimi, tataki, hand rolls, reloaded rolls, nigiri and roses, there are platters to delight those with bigger appetites, as well as the popular tempura, done with tiger prawns, line fish, shiitake mushrooms, vegetables and calamari
This casual eatery by PJ Vadas invites guests to enjoy a leisurely meal under the oak tree or on the terrace in summer, or near one of the crackling fireplaces in winter. Start your day with brioche French toast or something more substantial like smoked brisket with toasted focaccia or the barbecued pulled pork with a poached egg and beans. For lunch, order the bread with spreads or a charcuterie board from Neil Jewell. No visit is complete without flaky pastéis de nata.
Chef Virgil Kahn gets Asian flavours magnificently spot on. Tickle your taste buds with kimchi and seafood broth with mussels, oysters, cabbage and line fish to begin the meal. Mains shine bright with the glorious beef rendang curry served in an non-traditional manner with fillet of beef, lemongrass and coconut. Sides of tapioca and raita are refreshing and texturally pleasing, while the spices leave a lingering bite.
The affordable tasting menu is so incredibly delicious. It’s wonderful to sit back and let the chef delight you. A sublime board with king oyster- mushroom tart, buffalo mozzarella, confit garlic and watercress might be followed by delicate cured yellowtail, pan-roasted veal sweetbreads, or roasted and braised springbok. Chef George Jardine is known for his pretty desserts, and the heavenly Valrhona torte with milk-chocolate mousse and white-chocolate ice cream does not disappoint.
Joostenberg is a popular stop for families on weekends. The restaurant offers a menu of hearty bistro fare where meaty dishes dominate. Their pâtés, terrines and rillettes are legendary, served with bread and pickles. Pork features in dishes like pork sausages with apple sauce and mashed potatoes, pork cheek and chorizo casserole; the beef burger with triple-cooked chips is highly recommended, and dry-aged beef steak is cooked to perfection, served with a red-wine-and-mushroom sauce and potato Lyonnaise.
Acclaimed chef George Jardine continues to wow guests with his impressive cooking style at this popular winelands restaurant with breathtaking views. The menu is seasonal and inspired by South African flavours with dishes such as Kroon duck ham with wood-fired young parsnips, roasted red sea bass with creamed lentil sprouts, and a not-to-be-missed honey-and-poppy-seed soufflé.
This is high-flavour country. Breakfasts include Scotch eggs, pork-sausage sandwiches, and beef brisket with cauliflower hash cakes. Lunch brings flatbreads and tostados with toppings like sweet-sticky pork belly, and monster burgers with attitude in spades. Order a cut from Ryan Boon Speciality Meats and have it with chips and salad. End with waffles dripping with butter and syrup.
The seduction begins at the entrance. Servings are ample and voluptuously presented, like a baroque painting on a plate. Deliciously salty truffle risotto is a standout, but the best are the duck-fat roasted potatoes – worth the visit alone. They’ve introduced a Sunday roast to their offering.
This picture-perfect coffee shop ticks all the boxes with its beautiful and homely food and drinks and friendly service. Their baked creations are a irresistible – both in appearance and taste.
Chef Pieter Vlok fuses influences, ingredients and flavours from around the globe. Breakfast and lunch offer uncomplicated bistro fare in generous portions. Daytime highlights include freshly baked bread, warm squid salad and the house pork belly. The seasonal dinner menu may include aged beef fillet, giant prawns, line fish or brinjal gnocchi. The desserts are tasty, with sweet endings like rich chocolate mousse.
The first thing you’ll notice is the abundance of vegetarian and vegan dishes, from quinoa falafel to wild-mushroom-and-chickpea curry and a black-bean burger option. Then Patagonian calamari or brandied peri-peri chicken livers might leap out at you, the grilled rib-eye, or perhaps free-range duck breast. Wood-fired pizzas are popular, but the kitchen is capable of so much more.
The concept is simple: a three-course menu based on what’s in season and available locally. Chef-patron Jason Comins brings out the natural flavours of ingredients and complements them with just the right amount of seasoning, herbs or aromatics. Whet your appetite with creamy cauliflower-and-chorizo soup or a beautiful deep-red beetroot tarte tatin. A slow-cooked meat dish such as Karoo lamb shoulder with root vegetables and a crisp salad is served family style, for guests to help themselves. Dessert might be a classic like feather-light floating islands.
Overture – TOP 10
Bertus Basson is back in the Top 10, thanks to his laid-back and seemingly effortless excellence. The three-course menu commences with irresistible bread and four mini starters, before moving on to farmyard terrine, Chalmar sirloin with short rib, roast cauliflower and gremolata, and velvety chocolate mousse.
This homely Italian bistro is a great place to escape bustling Stellenbosch for a quiet lunch, glass of wine or coffee. The food is authentically Italian, so you can expect a good range of dishes from the antipasti, primi and secondi menu. Daily specials such as meltingly delicious osso bucco and stuffed veal are highly recommended.
This contemporary restaurant on the outskirts of town has a light carbon footprint, using produce from the organic garden and sustaining staff with the surplus. Although the à la carte menu is diverse and mouthwatering, the food-and-wine pairing menu remains most popular and great value for money. Expect local favourites like smoked-snoek samoosas, chicken-liver terrine, slow roast beef brisket and line fish with fennel-and-lemon mash.
Chef John Shuttleworth’s dishes contain elements that are hot, cold, and at room temperature. The menu changes regularly, and every course has three options, each as tempting as the next. Highlights include the hazelnut-crusted seabass, and crown-roasted duck breast with boudin blanc, buttered cabbage and white-onion purée.
Bakery, wine shop, ice-cream parlour, bar and coffee roastery in one, this establishment is a monument to artisanal collaborations. At the heart lies the bakery, whose wares are showcased on the menu with additions like creamy scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, slow-roasted tomato, wholegrain-mustard béchamel and gruyère. Lunch items includes burgers, pizzas and platters of local produce.
Luke and Jessica Shepherd are the formidable team behind this restaurant, the first winner of the Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award. They make guests feel at home with their honest hospitality and food that’s down to earth, unpretentious and absolutely scrumptious. Lunch is served as a generous three-course platter-style feast. The menu changes weekly but might include leek, potato and parsnip soup with fried sage from the garden; red-wine-braised beef and pumpkin barley risotto; and apple cake with cider-butter sauce and home-made lime ice cream. The beetroot tarte tatin is an absolute dream.
A meal at Terroir is a series of dilemmas for return diners. The first is with the moreish presentation of the bread, spread and smoked-olive platter. Then, the choice of starter: the many-times-tried-and-always-enjoyed prawn risotto with sauce Americaine is always a winner. There’s also a mighty mental tussle over the choice of mains. Chef Michael Broughton knows pork, so the confit pork belly with Jerusalem artichoke and crispy shallot tempts, but you might choose another winner, like the sous-vide beef fillet. The dark chocolate bar with peanut ice cream and trimmings is a very successful ending to the meal.
Chef Richard Carstens brings together local and Asian ingredients in dishes that pop off the plate. Starters tempt with the likes of beef tartare, trademark trout, and mushroom ravioli singing with garlic, lemon and truffle. For mains, the roasted duck is layered with rich, comforting parsnip and eggplant, while the smoky miso beef is faultless, with sweet-potato purée, spinach and buckwheat. End with caramel-poached pears with lemon ice cream.
This is homely country cooking with no frills. Fresh bread and butters are presented with starters such as roasted creamy butternut soup, saffron risotto with prawns, and tempura chicken livers. Generously portioned mains include braised lamb shoulder on mash with gravy, and satisfying grilled sirloin with hand-cut chips, confit tomatoes and caramelised red onion. The family-style Sunday feast is very popular, where roasts are served with the likes of duck-fat roasted potatoes.
Restaurateur Giorgio Nava and Giulio Bertrand, the owner of Morgenster, are a match made in heaven. Giorgio brings fabulous meat from his farms (used at Carne) and Giulio the wine and magnificent olive oil. Start with a salad of seared beef or fried squid, then move on to rich gorgonzola gnocchi, Karoo lamb shoulder ravioli with sage butter, excellent beef fillet with olive oil, rosemary and garlic, or seared calf’s liver. Save room for La Meringa 95, a dessert of meringue, zabaglione and berries.
A welcome addition to the fine-dining scene, with young chef Jean Delport (ex Rust en Vrede, Terroir and others) using classical French techniques and fresh ingredients to good effect. The Szechuan pear starter with parmesan custard will awaken taste buds; don’t get carried away by the ‘nibbles box’ of chorizo croquettes and superb butter, because you need to save room for salt rib, hazelnut purée, beef fillet, tongue and beurre noisette.
Camphors at Vergelegen – TOP 10
The Tour menu at Camphors showcases chef Michael Cooke’s way with farm-fresh ingredients. highlights include the cheese-and-wine course with a pecorino pastry pillow, cream cheese croquette, and home-made NikNaks; a wonderfully textured green sunflower-seed-and-sunchoke risotto; a French-inspired potjie with mussels, scallops and samphire; and a delightful pre-dessert with lemon verbena and dehydrated milk and honeycomb.
Country cooking at its very best, with generous portions and no pretence. Start with twice-baked cheese soufflé with chive cream, salt-dried cherry tomatoes and roasted pine nuts, or seared beef carpaccio with roasted beets and creamed horseradish, then go on to slow-roasted pork belly with fresh ginger, chilli and caramel sauce or the superb prawn-and-fish cakes with marinated marrows and home-made tartar. Finish with a fabulous rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream and custard, just like Gran used to make.
The Restaurant at Waterkloof – TOP 10
Master Chef and current chef of the year, Gregory Czarnecki reigns supreme at this up-market venue, consistently turning out food that looks great and tastes even better. Expect dishes like whipped goat’s cheese mousse, sea-bass ceviche with salty snoek, Joostenberg Vlakte duck breast with oven-roasted turnips, and a blood peach panna cotta with Tahitian vanilla vacherin. The menu is available as two courses, three, or a degustation with or without wine pairings.
Enjoy a breakfast of artisanal meats, cheeses, preserves and pickles; eggs Benedict, royal or Florentine; buttery croissants or fresh buttermilk scones from the bakery. The lunch menu offers light meals with really good sandwiches, pizzas and excellent sirloin burgers, but the bistro spin is particularly evident in the mains selection of classic cassoulet, risotto, duck confit, bouillabaisse and grills, all served with richly flavoured French reductions and sauces. Some ingredients are sourced from the estate’s gardens.
These are the restaurants in the Cape Winelands that were rated highly enough by our panel of critics to appear in the Eat Out 500, the best 500 restaurants in the country, as featured in Eat Out magazine 2017. Meet the critics here.