Ilse van der Merwe
Babel is a bold, stylish restaurant where only the freshest ingredients are showcased in their seasonal simplicity - true to their “pick, clean and serve” approach. The farm remains a firm trendsetter in the local farm-to-fork scene, serving freshly picked fruit and vegetables from their massive garden daily.
Expect a limited, thoughtfully simplified menu with three salad starters (red, yellow or green), four choices for mains (fish, beef chicken or vegetarian) and three or four options for dessert. Mains are accompanied by side platters for the table, filled with seasonal roasted vegetables and golden roasted potatoes. Menus are presented in either English or Afrikaans with an almost poetic affinity for beautiful words.
The red “stirring” (starter) includes a warm beetroot falafel with fresh autumn fruit and vegetables, and is served with beetroot hummus and sumac yoghurt. The char-grilled beef fillet on the bone with a side of bone marrow and olive balsamic vinaigrette remains a favourite option. Chef’s specials include wild mushrooms risotto, made from arborio rice grown on the farm. Desserts include local favourites like a chocolate milk tart fondant, rooibos ice cream and poached guavas. An open kitchen allows guests a view into the kitchen preparations.
Babylonstoren’s own range of wines are showcased on the winelist with a notable mark-up compared to cellar prices.
Service is excellent. With a reservation, the gate security will be aware of your name and group numbers upon arrival. Guests are welcomed by a host at their cars and escorted with a flashlight (at night) or an umbrella (rainy weather). All staff are fully bilingual, friendly and well spoken.
Babel’s interior is modern contemporary with white walls, massive artworks on the walls and huge glass windows. Housed in an old cow shed, a golden thread of understated style is weaved throughout the farm with a focus on naturalism and simplicity.
If you’re visiting during daytime, come early to wander through the expansive vegetable garden and pop in at their farm shop. Both are really worth the visit. The grounds and restrooms are wheelchair-friendly, although walkways are covered in gravel and peach pips. Bring comfortable shoes and a hat for hot days, and wellies for rainy days.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.
Hetta van Deventer Terblanche
Babel does not follow rules or fads. Do not expect trendy pulled meat, or over-sized lamb burgers on the menu. The watchwords here are freshness, vibrance and creativity. One can easily fall for the deceptive idea that simplicity is easy, but it takes real expertise to create a sophisticated plate of food that looks as crisp and taste as great, as theirs do. The menu is dictated by what is seasonal and ripe in the garden, with lots of fruit, vegetables and brilliant colours on the plate. The starters consist of three different colour-coded options – green, yellow and red. Each starter includes a large selection of leaves and vegetables, as well as some rarely seen varieties, for example tamarillos, but it also includes fowl, meat and fish. Main courses are more focused around a single main ingredient, for example artichoke, quail, fillet on the bone, fresh fish or lamb, with totally delicious accompaniments like mint and fresh coconut salsa with the lamb. Typical South African ingredients are celebrated, such as curry spices, spekboom and waterblommetjies. Dessert continues the sensory feast with combinations such as bitter and sweet, salt and sweet and sour and sweet.
The wine list includes the wines from the estate, as well as a good selection of other local wines. There is a notable mark-up from cellar door prices.
The service embodies the spirit of generous South African hospitality. Staff members go out of their way to welcome, inform, direct and serve visitors. Although the atmosphere is casual, without a hint of pomp and ceremony, staff are excellent ambassadors for the brand, delivering great service.
The restaurant is all white, glass and wood with a modern vibe, and decorative touches featuring foliage and vegetables.
The beauty and tranquility has to be seen first hand to be truly experienced. Make a day trip of it – take flat, comfortable shoes for walking through the 8 hectares of garden, enjoy the clivia walk through the "puff adder", greet the donkey family, show the kids the insect hotel, smell and pick the ripened fruit ... It is a feast for all the senses.
The Babylonstoren gardens are known far and wide with its vegetables, fruit, and herbs growing in abundance. Therefore, it isn’t strange to find that almost all the fresh produce used in the restaurant comes from their own soil. There are three spectacular salads available – red, green and yellow – each with multiple ingredients influenced by the colours in the gardens. The red one is a Caesar salad with warm pickled beetroot, salmon gravlax, aubergine, blood orange, pink oyster mushrooms, pomegranate, prosciutto crisps and a classic anchovy Caesar dressing. The result is a fabulous mix of similarly hued flavours and textures. The other salads include warm pumpkin fritters (yellow) and braised bok choy hearts (green). Mains include oven roasted almond-crusted trout with fennel jam and a superb flame-grilled beef fillet on the bone with Jerusalem artichoke and Bordelaise sauce, which is delicious. Desserts range from flavours of sweet (warm doughnut with kumquat and cinnamon sugar,) bitter-sweet (baked brie with blood orange pâté and black olive tapenade,) savoury and sour (lemon and Parmesan soufflé,) to sour (poached guava with savoury custard and beetroot crumble.) The homemade breads and estate olive oil are an added treat.
Obviously the wines of the estate feature prominently, but there are other treasures available, like the Morgenhof Brut Reserve, and the Rupert and Rothschild Baroness Nadine Chardonnay.
Impeccable and knowledgeable, with a most appealing touch of country warmth.
The room is completely glassed in, letting in a lot of light. One wall is tiled and features a large illustration of a bull and the menu for the day. The almost clinical theme, thanks to the use of plenty of white, is carried through to the wine carafes, which have laboratory style marking. The kitchen is open to the diners’ view and in summer the garden area is most desirable for a stroll afterwards.
Make the time to do a wine tasting, and to visit their fabulous deli for charcuterie, breads, and cheeses. There is a R10 entrance fee to the estate which is donated to the Babylonstoren Trust for the upliftment of their community.
Bianca ColemanThe apparently permanent half-price sushi, dim sum and cocktails are a winner, but the rest of the menu should not be overlooked either, especially the seasonal winter specials, which offer great dishes at excellent value for money. It's a place to see and be seen if you're sitting in the courtyard, but there are less conspicuous corners inside. Earn points with a loyalty card. (July 2013)
Reinette GeldenhuisDaily specials and inspired dishes can be found on the white tile 'board'. Prices are upmarket, yet affordable. When walking through the incredible garden, the chef can only be inspired and directed to the kitchen to cook some uncomplicated meals. Recommended for a lazy, long lunch. The meal portions are generous, therefore it would be gastronomically unwise to indulge in the freshly homemade bread, pickled fennel slivers and pesto with cold-pressed frontoio olive oil from the farm. Interesting combinations of colourful freshly picked fruit and vegetables will entice the creative eye when you order a salad. The grilled lightly smoked Franschhoek trout with quince and fresh coriander paste drizzled with burnt sage butter is evident that the focus is on supporting and encouraging local suppliers. You will be amused and amazed when ordering the fillet with anchovy butter and Babylonstoren shiraz sauce, as it arrives on a (designer) plate with a bull's head, which immediately reminds you where your food comes from. The bittersweet taste of the dark chocolate fondant with clotted cream will leave a lingering taste in your mouth. (July 2013)
Petro LotzBabel is the perfect place to bring tourists. It represents our food heritage, creativity and architecture. I can't think of a better outing on a clear Autumn day than to explore the incredible garden and finish with a long lunch with top South African wines. This is one of the most inspiring restaurants I have ever come across. The innovation in both food and décor, the use of incredible seasonal produce and locally sourced ingredients and the presentation of the food blows me away. I love the marriage between uber design and earthy old-fashioned grounding in all aspects of this magical place. The novelty of the glasshouse in the middle of the garden adds to the enchantment. I can go on and on... The menu is courageous and daring - in the hands of a less gifted designer it would have been a haphazard mess. But here, with just the right amounts of restraint and full-blown creativity, diners are presented with plates of wonder - symphonies of colour and flavour. The trout dishes are exceptional; the artisan bread, cheeses and charcuterie are the stuff dreams are made of. The incredible use of vegetables and the colour-coded salads make this restaurant a vegetarian's dream. (July 2013)
Friends of ours were at a wedding recently at Babylonstoren and invited us for pizza in the bakery/farm shop the next night. Wow! It was really the best we've ever tasted, and we've been around! Fantastic and innovative combinations with the best crust - yum. We returned the next day and bought delicious fresh bread, and I do mean delicious. The place is a gem!
Poor service, lack of management. Yellow starter which was pumpkin fritter with yellow fruit - so bad that none of us managed to eat it. Heavy doughballs. Main meals and desserts average. A lot of hype for a really stylish venue and thats where it ends.
Babel never lets me down. The service is great, the staff super friendly and the food is always fresh, innovative and outstanding. This time we were able to visit the gardens which was very interesting. Look out for the forthcoming Clivia tunnel.
I just had to comment this site before we left the country! We were recently in Babylonstoren during our weeklong stay at Stellenbosch, and fell in love with the bakery and charcuterie! My husband is Parisian and needless to say rather snooty regarding his 'le pain', but he was blown away by the offerings! Delicious is not enough words, we also had the pleasure of meeting the baker Karin,as delightfull as her breads.
Merci mademoiselle le Boulanger!
Sophie and Jean-Luc
Honestly. What is all the fuss about? Having read all the magazine reviews I was expecting something out of this world, but trust me it isn't. It's lovely, but certainly not the pick of the winelands. The R10 'entrance fee' even for diners immediately sets the wrong tone. The food is nice, but not exceptional. The limited feedback on this site says it all. Overall - underwhelmed.
Well worth the trip from Cape Town. The food was sumptuous! The fresh produce from the garden certainly adds something special to the meal. Flavour combinations were very interesting. What makes the experience really stand out though beyond the great food, are the little touches – the friendly service, the fresh herbs in olive oil to accompany the bread, the kitchen combining the red and yellow salads because we couldn’t pick between them. No wonder one struggles to get a reservation!
The menu is pleasantly different and the service is efficient and personal. Worth a visit!
Like the concept but the food really lacked flavour. At least my prime rib was good - should have rather just paid the twenty rand to look at the garden.
Our booking at this much vaunted and unique Cape Winelands venue was impeccably handled, and reconfirmed. The welcome was warm, efficient and courteous.We loved the concept and it can only get better. Minor gripes about the pork belly perhaps a little too overcooked and dry, and the dessert wine not as chilled as we'd have liked, however the gardens, the ingenious gift of vegetables on departure, the style and the atmosphere entices one to return and to spend the night there.