A trip to the Midlands should not be done without a stop at Abingdon Wine Estate. While the wine tastings are brilliant, it’s the lazy weekend lunches that make this spot an absolute gem. Eat Out critic Nikita Buxton dons her beanie for a cosy autumn lunch in the countryside.
Cost: R140 average for a main course
Serves: Country-style food
Best for: Homely lunches and delicious local wines
Star rating: Food 4, service 4, ambience 5
The small, fresh and seasonal menu here is packed with comfort. For starters or smaller appetites, the boards are perfect. These come laden with charcuterie, cheese and preserves, or veggie-friendly bites like tangy goat’s cheese tart. The cheeses come from local deli Gourmet Greek and include options like an incredibly creamy charcoal-dusted brie. There’s also the option to add pork crackling – the best I’ve had in a long time – or plump tempura prawns.
The hearty mains have us salivating before we even order. The twice-baked pork belly is cleverly plated on a board with trimmings of potatoes, braised cabbage, apple sauce and that perfect crackling again. Fillet comes chargrilled and pink on a bed of Asian-inspired veggies and noodles in a fresh twist on a meaty dish. The fresh Dargle trout is pink and delicately topped with phyllo and almonds. The accompanying dauphinoise potatoes are rustically served but delicious with the fish.
The standout dish, however, is the slow-roasted and pulled oxtail stew. A bowl of hearty meat arrives steaming and ready to be paired with a mountain of luscious crushed potatoes. Every mouthful melts in the mouth and is packed with a deep, robust flavour. The addition of crispy onions is heavenly.
Desserts here will please the sweet tooth, too. There are rich chocolate brownies with salted-caramel sauce; boozy, perfectly executed crème brûlée with a kick of Van der Hum; a toppling Abingdon mess with ruby-coloured berries; and a glorious ginger tart with homemade Christmas-cake ice cream.
Abingdon’s wines shine here. The KZN vineyard has been making waves since it started producing wines in 2009. Cultivars include a delicious viognier chardonnay and a fresh sauvignon blanc. The bubbly, about which we’ve heard good things, is sadly sold out when we visit. Besides the estate’s bottles, there are some delicious bottles from the Cape’s Hermanuspietersfontein and Meinert Wines. Beer drinkers are also catered for with local craft brews and SAB favourites.
Incredibly welcoming and full of smiles. This family farm runs like a well-oiled machine with Ian Smorthwaite and his daughter Laurie tending to the wine and tastings, and his wife Jane taking the reins as the only chef in the kitchen. As soon as you arrive, you feel as though your friends are treating you to a leisurely lunch in their warm home.
It’s exactly what you want from a countryside restaurant. In warmer weather, guests can sit under the oak trees next to the vineyards as the roosters crow and farm dogs sniff about the lawns. On crisp Midlands days, the small tasting room is transformed into a cosy nook filled with bric-a-brac, an impressive collage of rock concert tickets, stunning paintings, beautifully worn rugs, and three crackling fireplaces. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a happy pup under your table, looking for a chest scratch. It’s so warm and beautiful; you may never want to leave.
On Fridays – weather permitting – head to Abingdon for sundowners in the fire pit, where guests can nibble on boards, sip on wine and meet locals.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.