Whales, rocky mountain ranges, fragrant fynbos and infinite landscapes of golden wheat and canola fields: the Overberg is one of the most memorable expanses along the Western Cape’s south coast. The area also harbours quite a few gems in the restaurant department – not least of which is a top 10 restaurant in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, and the winner of our award for Best Italian restaurant in Swellendam. We consulted the 2014 Eat Out 500 to bring you a list of some of the best restaurants in the area as rated and reviewed by our editorial panel.
Gabriëlskloof (Between Botrivier and Caledon)
Tuck into traditional, hearty food and excellent estate wines on the covered verandah or sit inside for a more formal ambience. The menu changes frequently, but you can expect fresh, homemade fare like succulent pork belly served on buckwheat noodles and red cabbage. Alternatively, the deli selection offers a great hamburger and a range of tasting platters. The average main meal is R100 and corkage fee is R35.
The Alfresco Deli (Barrydale)
“Proe die karoo” (taste the Karoo) at this authentic country kitchen. Wholesome meals are made from scratch and the daily chalkboard features enticing dishes like wild porcini and lentil soup, inventive salads and a cheese platter piled high with deli meats, ostrich pâté, Karoo figs and peaches. For dessert, try chef Beate Joubert’s indulgent desserts like the French chocolate cake with green fig sauce, and a classic lemon meringue cheesecake. The average main meal is R80. (No BYO.)
Clarke of the Karoo (Barrydale)
Take a seat on the porch or in the sun-kissed courtyard and enjoy wholesome, hearty fare complemented by a selection of wines, beers and local brandy. The focus is on meat – though they do serve a couple of vegetarian options – and the menu features everything from a Karoo lamb burger and mild, aromatic Karoo lamb curry to gammon steak and Moroccan chicken. They also have house specials, such as an eland patty with port-based Cumberland sauce. The average main meal is R95 and corkage fee is R35.
Fresh at Paul Cluver (Elgin)
Chef-owner Niki Hall-Jones uses seasonal ingredients from the estate’s ample garden to create gorgeous country-style meals at the 2012 winner of Best Country-Style Restaurant. Tuck into items like caramelised onion and camembert tart; broccoli and blue cheese soup; gammon pie simmered in apple cider; and pan-fried Norwegian salmon served with lemon-butter crème fraîche. There are excellent estate wines on offer as well as local Everson’s cider. A dessert highlight is the homemade orange ice cream with fresh fruit, rosewater and mint. The average main meal is R120.
The Gallery Restaurant at South Hill Wine Estate (Elgin)
Chef Damian Dearlove whips up generous portions of classic bistro fare, including starters like rich chicken liver and green peppercorn parfait served with buttered bruschetta. Mains include an excellent chargrilled beef rump with cauliflower gratin and sautéed potatoes, and Kashmiri lamb curry with aromatic spices and pilau rice. Choose from a selection of French-style desserts including a
rich crème brûlée and, of course, Elgin apple tart with cinnamon anglaise. The average main meal is R180. (No BYO.)
The Hungry Monk (Greyton)
Grab a seat on the sunny terrace, select a local wine or craft beer, and peruse the menu for a range of Spanish tapas with a surprising Asian twist as well as seafood and curries. Highlights include the fragrant vegetable spring rolls with glass noodles, veggies and shiitake mushroom, and the monkfish bites coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. You’ll also find fish and chips, green chicken curry and lamb curry. Dessert is a treat with plum and coconut tart, spiked brownies or banana fritters with ice cream and honey. The average main meal is R140 and corkage fee is R35.
Searle’s Trading Post (Greyton)
Beloved by the locals, this welcoming eatery serves up fresh, uncomplicated fare with hearty treats like grilled lamb chops and fragrant curries. A great breakfast and pizza menu, and a sizeable, well-priced wine list are also a huge drawcard. Grab a seat amongst the collectibles and vintage jewellery and if you’re lucky, you may be able to catch a local musician playing on the eatery’s little stage. The average main meal is R100 and corkage fee is R40.
Creation Wines (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley)
Nestled in the centre of a bounteous valley, this wine farm and restaurant maintains a strong focus on local produce and creative pairings, with most menu items prepared using Overberg ingredients. Opt for a wine-pairing menu with canapés or tuck into a main, which comes with the full wine tasting on the house. Highlights include roast duck breast and confit leg with buchu, Grenache syrup and shallot jus; braised pork belly with five spice, pork wontons, mashed potato and prune-and-Darjeeling pureé; and springbok loin with sautéed valley mushrooms, fondant potato and cranberry jus. Consider the wine and chocolate pairing for dessert. The average main meal is R130. (No BYO.)
Mogg’s Country Cookhouse (Hemel-en-Aarde)
Mother-and-daughter team Jenny and Julia Mogg offer a seasonal menu featuring innovative flavour combinations like crunchy Caesar salad dressed in rich aioli and sprinkled with deep-fried anchovies; smoked trout with sautéed prawns, crème fraîche and lime and wasabi dressing; and slow-roasted lamb shank with demi-glace port sauce and roasted garlic. Another highlight is the chicken and prawn tamarind curry with sambals and a deep-fried poppadum, while the Mississippi mud pie with caramelised pears and cream makes for an irresistible dessert. The average main meal is R120 and corkage fee is R35.
Restaurant at Newton Johnson (Hemel-en-Aarde)
Chef Eric Bullpit’s talent landed The Restaurant at Newton Johnson in the Top 10 at the 2014 Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards, so you can expect a real treat. This is country cooking at its best – no foams, gels or other tricks here. Highlights include a starter of light, crimson beetroot soup with mascarpone and fennel; slow-braised Swartland boerbok with buttery umngqusho, grilled cabbage and a dollop of mustard cream; and aged Chalmar beef with herb crust, potato gnocchi and pickled beetroot. The wine list is limited to Newton-Johnson produce and a few surrounding estates, but sommelier Bafen Johnson creates beautiful pairings with the food. Lunch is R240 for two courses, R310 for three and R480 for six, while dinner is R310 for three courses and R485 for six. (No BYO.)
The Barefoot Cook (Hermanus)
Enjoy a homely, cosy ambience paired with great comfort food made from fresh produce and a quality selection of wines from surrounding regions. The menu has a somewhat retro feel and features items like mushroom and sherry soup; kidneys on toasted ciabatta; chicken curry; herbed fish cakes; and beef bourguignon. Highlights are the moussaka with creamy béchamel and rich mince, and the bright green spinach risotto with a poached egg and sundried tomato. The dessert menu features favourites such as crème brûlée, and Stilton and port. The average main meal is R110 and corkage fee is R40.
Fabio’s Ristorante (Hermanus)
Order authentic Italian fare to enjoy with a great list of local wines. The menu features plenty of meat and fish dishes, inventive salads and 23 cheesy pizzas. Highlights include the tender beef, smoked springbok carpaccio, pasta with creamy prawn and clam sauce, and smoked salmon in rich garlic and tomato sauce. The meal is best concluded with a Kahlúa semifreddo and quality Italian grappa. Once you’re done, visit the deli and take home some authentic Italian goodies. The average main meal is R120. (No BYO.)
The Pavillion (Hermanus)
With a menu designed by Relais & Châteaux Grands Chef Peter Tempelhoff, the restaurant offers imaginative fare prepared using fresh, sustainable ingredients. Highlights include seafood soup with traditional rouille sauce, croutons and gruyère; grilled Walker Bay sole with mash and creamy mussel velouté; grilled rib-eye steak with tomato fondue and fine beans; and a delicious malva pudding with custard. Gorgeous views of the cliffs of Hermanus and a fabulous wine list complete the picture. The average main meal is R130 and corkage fee is R50.
Seafood at The Marine (Hermanus)
An elegant white and grey colour scheme creates a luxurious space where you can enjoy an eclectic offering of fresh seafood. A provocative option is the thinly sliced octopus carpaccio in an olive oil-based vinaigrette with gooseberries, while the steamed mussels in creamy white wine, lemon and thyme sauce is a classic highlight. The wine list features local wines from the Overberg region, Walker Bay and Hemel-end Aarde Valley. The average main meal is R165 and corkage fee is R50.
Napier Farm Stall and Restaurant (Napier)
A central potbelly stove and old bridles suspended from the roof set the scene for a cosy, atmospheric breakfast or lunch without any frills. Expect comfort food at its best, including a breakfast of creamed kidneys, sausage, chips and bacon; oxtail casserole; tomato bredie and curry; fillet steak sandwich with a sweet smoor; and rich homemade chocolate cake or creamy milktert. The average main meal is R80 and there is no corkage fee.
B’s Steakhouse (Onrus)
Beloved by locals, this busy small-town steak joint serves up traditional steakhouse favourites. Starters include creamy chicken livers, calamari, snails and button mushrooms, while mains are a mix of steak, pork ribs, lamb chops and seafood – a highlight being the 550g T-bone served with café de Paris butter and chips. Enjoy a range of comforting desserts like apple strudel, chocolate hotspot and a traditional crème brûlée. The average main meal is R105 and corkage is R30.
Hook, Line and Sinker (Pringle Bay)
Husband-and-wife team Stefan and Jacqui Kruger have established Hook, Line and Sinker as a destination restaurant, serving up tasty, succulent seafood cooked to perfection in cast iron braai dishes over an open fire. The day’s menu is relayed to you at the table, but may include a shrimp bisque starter, wild prawns, farmed kob and local yellowtail in a mildly spicy tomato sauce. If you can handle the heat, the chef’s homemade habañero sauce steeped in molasses will put hair on your chest. The average main meal is R120 and corkage fee is R30.
Located in a picturesque country cottage, the eatery serves up home-cooked favourites with a sophisticated edge. The menu is short and simple, featuring starters like gruyère soufflé and signature devilled lamb kidneys. Mains include chicken ballotine with leek custard, sundried tomato and sage risotto; roast beef; and pork belly with beetroot chutney and lentils. Order from the varied wine list and sate your sweet tooth with dessert classics like lemon tart, flourless chocolate cake and apple pie. The average main meal is R130 and corkage fee is R35.
Madré’s Kitchen (Stanford)
No two days are the same at this delightful restaurant where an ever-changing chalkboard menu features comfort food at its best – most of which is prepared with produce fresh from owner Madré Malan’s garden. Expect summer quiches, sandwiches, vine-wrapped camembert and lamb stew with fresh waterblommetjies. A shady terrace overlooks a sweeping lawn with a kids’ playground and dam. The average main meal is R85 and corkage fee is R30.
Housed in a little whitewashed cottage, Mariana’s whips up country-style food like patat sop, springbok pie and roulade with spinach, slow-roasted tomatoes and nutty cheese. A highlight is the Stanford platter, which is piled with pickled vegetables, freshly baked bread, homemade ricotta and salami. For dessert, try the ‘chocup’ that’s part mousse, part panna cotta and served in a teacup. Regrettably, children under 12 are not allowed. The average main meal is R128 and corkage fee is R40.
Springfontein Eats (Stanford)
Michelin-starred chef Jürgen Schneider serves up seasonal set menus that draw inspiration from the ingredients and vegetables foraged from the estate gardens. On the daily menu you may find anything from a mock truffle soup of wild mushrooms to cured local trout with fresh purslane, and pig snout terrine with baby marrow flowers. The superb wine list focuses on local estates. Pay R295 for three courses, R395 for four courses, R495 for five courses, and R595 for six courses. (No BYO.)
Koornlands Restaurant (Swellendam)
Expect exotic starters like smoked crocodile sashimi; moist smoked kudu carpaccio with jalapeno and parmesan shards; and warthog samosas with mango chutney. Mains include springbok fillet, ostrich fillet, slow-roasted lamb shank, and fragrant Malay chicken curry. The small, well-priced wine list features local wines from the Robertson area and the dessert menu includes favourites like malva tart and pavlova. End off the evening with after-dinner drinks and coffee in the bar. The average meal is R130 and corkage fee is R30.
La Sosta (Swellendam)
Innovative Chef Cristiana Ariotto dishes up a unique selection of contemporary Italian fare, earning her restaurant the title of Best Italian Restaurant at the 2014 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards. A highlight is the four birds – chicken, guinea fowl, turkey and duck, shredded and encased in cabbage parcels – but you can also expect pastas like buckwheat ravioli with tallegio cream, and gnocchi with mushrooms and lemon oil. Peruse the wine list for the finest Italian offerings and homemade limoncello or order a decadent trio of desserts. The average main meal is R300 and corkage fee is R45.
*This article was edited on 12 January to correct an error regarding a restaurant’s location.