If you thought that Durbanville was just a great slice of suburbia you see on the N1 as you leave Cape Town, do think again. This is a world very much of its own, with great places to eat, famous wine estates to explore, congenial pubs to lose yourself in, and some quirky shopping to be done.
Of course, it is a village that has grown up, so don’t expect the glitz and glamour of the southern suburbs or the Atlantic Seaboard, but you will find the people as friendly and as welcoming as the small town they live in. Napoleon’s secretary, on his way back to France, was a guest at Altydgedacht, and described it as being “at the extremity of the civilised world.” Well, a lot has changed since then, and the area now offers everything from charming little wine farm bistros to Latin-inspired eateries. Here’s our pick of the best places for feasting in Durbanville.
Situated in a delightful heritage house with big bay windows that belie the modern interior, this place has a great garden out back with a veranda overlooking a play area for the kids. Breakfasts are very popular, with excellent egg options featuring things like savoury mince, smoked salmon, chicken livers, and even slow-cooked venison. Cape comfort food like lamb knuckle curry, oxtail, coq au vin, and generous steaks are just the thing for hearty eating.
Attracting a large crowd of young people who are out to party with a vengeance, this large Latino-themed place has a long bar that’s always busy. Expect treats like six kinds of nachos (yes, including the traditional version with cheese, guacamole and salsa), wraps with rump steak in a sour cream and sweet chilli sauce, great hamburgers and steaks. Excellent beers and knockout cocktails like the Cuba libre, mojito and daiquiri add to the ambience.
Almost all the wine estates on the Durbanville Wine Route have restaurants (of varying degrees of desirability). One of the best is this one at Nitida. The deck is the place to be in summer, overlooking the farm dam where a plume of water shoots endlessly into the air, but the windows of the restaurant also showcase the valley as far as the distant Paarl Mountains. In winter a welcoming fire keeps things cosy inside. The food is served in generous portions without any precious French edges, and the hamburgers are enough to make a grown man cry with happiness. Try the mixed platter for two and order some of their excellent wines to go with it.
Continuing the feeling of pampered luxury, Chocolat has some of the most gorgeous décor you will find anywhere, with cosy nooks and windows that look out onto the shrubbery. You’ll feel like you’re in some cute French provincial town: the quiet hum of conversation is so civilised you’ll find it difficult to leave. The menu is extensive, with two of the most popular items being the giant croissants with preserves and the flapjack stacks served with berries, chocolate and syrup.
This famous estate, well known for its award-winning wines, has been in the Louw family for six generations, so it’s quite natural that they would want to share their cuisine with you. Though the restaurant is open during the week, the prime time to visit is for the lavish Sunday lunch at R195 at head. Expect things like lightly smoked hake chowder, slow-roasted beef brisket, honey-glazed pork loin with caramelised sweet potato and other veggies, and a suitably rich ending.
Situated in the most majestic site in this area, this fortress-like building dominates the skyline, with spectacular views all the way down to the sea and the iconic Table Mountain over on the southern horizon. Great glass windows take full advantage of the sights, letting in plenty of light. In the summer the deck is a good place to be, provided the wind isn’t pumping. The cuisine is selected to show off the famous wines in the cellar, with meat and chicken dishes very much to the fore.
If you’re looking for excellent homemade bread the way your grandmother used to bake it, this is the place. Generous loaves, the kind you want to slather butter on and finish in one piggy sitting, need to be ordered in advance as they sell out every day. All the goodies here are homemade, including milktarts, herzoggies, biscuits and rusks – and even a doily or two – which is very reassuring in this day of mass production.
You can almost feel that many famous characters have passed through this historic venue that’s steeped in atmosphere. (Like Jean Parker, for example, the matriarch of the Parker clan and one of the first women winemakers in the Cape.) Various seating options are available (weather dependent), including in the cellar, under the giant bedouin tent, at the dam, or on the grass under umbrellas. Robust flavours and generous portions of pies, quiches and burgers make meals here perfectly pleasant, especially when washed down with their excellent wines.
If you can resist any of the cakes on offer here, you’re made of strong stuff indeed. The striped awning indicates that you’re in an extraordinary confectionary – if the delicious aroma of baked goodies doesn’t give you enough of a hint. A chandelier here and there adds a note of glamour. Quiches, muffins, bruschetta topped with smoked salmon, and even sandwiches on low-GI bread (for those who don’t know where they are) offer alternatives, but here the cake is king!
Please don’t think this is one of those places specialising in olives in all their forms – as fabulous as some of them can be. Rather, it’s a much-loved family business serving super pizzas. Not only that, but it has a charmingly rustic pub with plenty of atmosphere too. Wine barrels stand around, wood fires burn to take the chill off, and there’s a great deck for summer. Think beers, big screen TV in the bar, frozen cocktails and fun times. Fill up on burgers, pizzas (one with boerewors topping, natch) and sweet endings.
Elegant fine dining has a home in Durbanville at Pistachio, with its award-winning wine list paying tribute to some of the superb grapes of the region. Beautifully furnished with many shiny surfaces to lend a bling effect, the restaurant offers the aromas of excellent food, the whizz of smooth, friendly service and a space for earnest conversation. Functions are also very popular and they handle them with panache. Live music every Saturday helps raise the ante, and a menu of duck à l’orange, bouillabaisse, and snails signals serious eating.
Lavishly furnished with plush high-back sofas, this is just the place to unwind after a hectic morning in town. Soet is divided into congenial areas, each with its own mood, and there is a long bar where you can get something stronger than a cup of tea. It’s very popular with the ladies who lunch, as they can also shop for some glamorous clothes while they put their feet up. The play area for kids is also a great reason to go.
If you get the urge for Mexican food on the run (tacoways – get it?) or even to enjoy leisurely, this is the place, situated on one of the main roads with no pretension to glamour. The food is what keeps it all together. Various kinds of nachos, tostadas, fajitas, burritos, empanadas and tacos will have you talking like Speedy Gonzales in no time. Toppings and fillings of chilli beans, chicken, pulled pork and even fish, with nary a boerie in sight, will satisfy any hunger pangs.