Of the six most popular wine routes in South Africa, four can be found in the Western Cape’s Winelands region – Helderberg, Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch. For late summer lunches and early dinners – the sun sets at around 8.30 pm in the hot season –the Winelands offer settings of exceptional natural beauty from where you can enjoy internationally acclaimed wines and tasty food. Head out of the city and try these 10 Winelands restaurants.
Babel at Babylonstoren (Franschhoek)
Franschhoek has some of the oldest wine estates and is best enjoyed by first-timers on the wine tram. If you must choose just one place to spend the day though, Babylonstoren – on the Orange and Purple lines – is easily a top pick. One of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, its fine-dining restaurant, Babel, offers sweeping views of Simonsberg. The building used to be a cowshed and was transformed into a modern piece of architecture that combines a Cape Dutch aesthetic with a contemporary glass façade to bring the stunning beauty of the natural landscape outside in. The menu is seasonal and reflects the proprietors’ farm-to-table philosophy with many of the ingredients coming from the 3.5-hectare garden on the farm. As it gets hotter, their sorbets are a perfect summer treat, paired with their Mourvèdre rosé.
Cavalli Estate (Somerset West)
Set in the Golden Triangle, the sub-region from Somerset West to the edge of Stellenbosch considered to produce the finest wines, Cavalli Estate is internationally acclaimed for its architecture, food and vinos. A wine and stud farm, it’s also the first green star-rated restaurant in South Africa, a fact that’s reflected in the landscape and architecture. Diners at Cavalli Restaurant, the titleholder of Eat Out SA’s Most Stylish Restaurant, are treated to untrammelled views of the Helderberg mountain range and the estate’s dam. While you admire the horses cantering on the farm, you can feast on an excellent à la carte menu with six starters, six mains and six desserts. The bill of fare is seasonal, reflecting the collaboration between local producers and the farm’s own foraged ingredients. The curried beluga lentils with crispy tofu, young heirloom carrots, sweet-and-sour mango, homemade poppadum and coconut-and-tamarind sauce comes highly recommended for vegans and meat-eaters alike.
Indochine at Delaire Graff Estate (Banhoek Valley)
From the estate’s location atop the picturesque Helshoogte Pass to the Swallows in Flight art installation in the farm’s elegantly designed Indochine restaurant, the experience is one of luxury and comfort. On the western horizon, diners can see Table Mountain in the sumptuous fine-dining restaurant, which is further complemented by its surrounding verdurous surrounds. The menu, created by head chef Virgil Kahn who has cooked at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze and the One & Only, is a potpourri of Asian influences combined with family Cape Malay recipes. Many ingredients come from the farm’s biodynamic greenhouse and are prepared and presented to display the Cape’s rich culinary history. The linefish sashimi served with Asian herbs, spinach noodles and tosazo dressing is a must-try, paired with the 2020 Delaire Graff cabernet franc rosé.
Idiom Fine Dining Restaurant (Somerset West)
Tucked into the Helderberg basin, this restaurant and tasting room offers diners wines from the Bottega Family’s Da Capo Vineyards, which bear Idiom Wines’ fruit, and some of the finest Italian and Italian-South African vinos. Idiom’s location on the southernmost part of the Stellenbosch wine region makes it the perfect place to drink in the sights of False Bay and the Cape Peninsula – from Table Mountain to Cape Point – all from the comfort of a fine-dining table. Because the restaurant is essentially a glass building with wooden frames and stacked-stone walls and pillars for support, each table in the 100-seater dining hall is the best seat in the house. There’s also seating on the terrace, an ideal spot to enjoy Idiom’s gourmet brunch (served from 10 am to 12 pm) with Italian prosecco.
Jewell’s Restaurant (Paarl)
The Paarl Wine Route is the second oldest after Stellenbosch and famous for its rich, spicy reds and fresh, sparkling whites, with KWV, Fairview and Nederburg among some of its famous estates. Highly esteemed too is the recently reopened Jewells Restaurant at Paarl’s famous Spice Route. Garden seating at the farm-to-table restaurant affords guests the best views of the wine farm and the surrounding Simonsberg and Table Mountain. Sample wines from the Spice Route Tasting Room while noshing on chef Neil Jewell’s charcuterie board or one of baker and business partner Tina Jewell’s fresh, daily breadboards. The husband-and-wife team work from an open kitchen and pair their meals with local wines. Their signature pork chop comes highly recommended, paired with the Spice Route Obscura White.
La Petite Colombe (Franschhoek)
Recently relocated to the Leeu Estate, the sister restaurant to award-winning La Colombe Restaurant in Constantia now gives fans even more reason to drive out to the lush countryside. They can enjoy the picture-perfect beauty of Franschhoek in a restaurant that’s set in a five-star luxury estate. It doesn’t get much more exclusive than that. The boutique hotel property is surrounded by mountains and the vineyard is at the centre of its verdant lawns. Guests can enjoy all these sights and a view of the Franschhoek Valley River in the backdrop. While embracing the whitewashed Cape Dutch-style architecture, the restaurant’s interiors are decidedly modern but still classic and elegant. Having recently opened at the new venue, there’s a lot to look forward to when the new summer menu is launched.
The restaurant on the foothills of the Helderberg Mountain calls Hidden Valley Wines home. The word “charming” does not quite capture its beauty. An upstairs dining area means guests can enjoy views of the vineyard and surrounding mountains almost at eye level because of the high elevation of chef Bertus Basson’s award-winning restaurant. Floor-to-ceiling windows further enhance the view. At this time of the year, asparagus features prominently in their dishes as they use only seasonal, locally grown produce to minimise their carbon footprint. So for a seasonal treat, try the Edwin Heim asparagus served with an Usana free-range soft egg, home-cured pork belly, hollandaise and chives.
The Table at De Meye (Stellenbosch)
There are few better ways to spend a summer afternoon than by lunching under a canopy of oak trees on the lawns of a boutique wine farm in the Muldersvlei area. That’s exactly the experience that husband-and-wife team chef Brendan Thorncroft and Leigh Williamson create for guests at The Table, where long wooden tables with minimal décor and tolix chairs are scattered around the estate for guests to enjoy their meals in an idyllic country setting that’s an authentic Winelands experience. There’s also seating inside the white-washed farm building. With a farm-to-table philosophy, the menu is seasonal but actually changes from week to week, and sometimes even more than that, to ensure dishes are created from the best and freshest ingredients.
Tokara (Helshoogte Pass)
Set on the crest of the Helshoogte Pass near Stellenbosch, this restaurant boasts a panoramic deck affording patrons sweeping views of the Jonkershoek Mountains, Stellenbosch and False Bay. It’s also an iconic building with the largest publically displayed collection of William Kentridge’s Porter Series tapestries. This summer, Tokara’s new three-course set lunch menu is a must-try – freshly baked bread with olive tapenade, heerenboontjie hummus and farm butter followed by a poached pear served with blue cheese, oak lettuce, a caramelised walnut salad and a herb-and-yoghurt dressing. Pan-seared trout with asparagus, garden greens, pomme anna and lemon beurre blanc is served as a main, and a dessert of fresh berries, crispy meringue, chantilly cream and vanilla crème anglaise rounds out the experience. Many ingredients come from the estate’s organic garden and the seasonal dishes find perfect harmony with Tokara wines.
Rust en Vrede Resturant (Stellenbosch)
Rust en Vrede is considered one of the best wineries in South Africa and has the distinction of its wines having been among the selections served by Nelson Mandela at his Nobel Peace Prize dinner. The restaurant has also been distinguished by a number of awards and continues to be one of the most popular fine-dining establishments in the Winelands. Set in the estate’s verdant setting, the classic whitewashed Cape Dutch-style building is updated by modern large glass doors and windows for diners to better enjoy the views of the vines and hills. The restaurant, which is housed in what used to be the wine estate’s original cellar, recently reopened and among the new summer dishes to try is a pepper-crusted Chalmar fillet served with a glass of the Rust en Vrede Estate Vineyards Syrah on the Winemaker’s Lunch menu.
Did we miss your favourite restaurant with a breathtaking view in the Winelands? Let us know in the comments section below.