Tag Archives: stellenbosch

Fine Dining at Overture at Hidden Valley Wines in Stellenbosch (2020-12-05) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 15 APR 2021

While my 40th birthday unfortunately fell in the middle of South Africa’s strict Covid-19 lockdowns (hello swing-ball in my garden and a rainbow cake from Chantelle), thankfully we were a little more lucky come December when Chantelle’s big 40 also came rolling into town. Kids safely dropped off with the grandparents in Bellville, we turned our attention to the big one – an exquisite five course gourmet dinner at the highly acclaimed, awarded winning Overture restaurant.

On the edge of Stellenbosch, tucked away in the foothills of the Helderberg Mountain above the vineyards of Hidden Valley Wines, Overture holds the distinction of being restaurateur and chef extraordinaire Bertus Basson’s first restaurant. Established in 2007, Overture quickly began winning accolade after accolade, swiftly rising up in the ranks of South Africa fine dining establishments, and with it, elevating the name of Bertus Basson. Known for celebrating South African produce like ethically-sourced fish and organic maize, these days head chef Drikus Brink and his kitchen team continue the mission of serving honest, simple, produce-driven cooking based on classical techniques.

Well that’s what the website says anyway. ‘Simple’ isn’t how I would describe the incredible menu at all! We opted to pair a wine tasting with our five course meal, an excellent idea as the broad spectrum of excellent wines suited each dish to perfection. From start to finish the food was exemplary. The canapés, the raw yellowtail, the roasted aubergine, the pork belly, the beef, the beetroot, the dessert – absolute fine dining heaven.

The plating, the simple stone decor, the view over the vineyards, the mountains, the brass fittings, the wine, the sculptures, having Bertus and his wife enjoying a meal an arm’s length away from us – this was an absolutely incredible experience for a foodie such as Chantelle and definitely one that was much enjoyed!

Art and Architecture in Stellenbosch (2020-08-16) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 10 APR 2021

Last year was of course filled with many quiet moments and even more quiet spaces. It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then I get the opportunity to leave the girls behind with Chantelle and venture out on my own little photo walkabout – which is exactly what happened on one pleasant Sunday afternoon back in August of last year. So hello to the naked oak trees, classic architecture, and the oh so many pieces of art on public display of Stellenbosch and its university campus grounds!

Established along the banks of the Eerste River in 1679 by Simon van der Stel, the then Governor of the Cape Colony, the achingly beautiful Stellenbosch is recognized as the second oldest town in South Africa. Surrounded by mountains, filled with ancient oak trees, and home to much of South Africa’s historic wine industry, the relatively wealthy Stellenbosch is a town well worth visiting.

It is also worth mentioning that although technically Stellenbosch isn’t a university town as such, the reality is that it very much is, with the Stellenbosch University campus, faculty buildings, and student residences occupying much of the heart of this old town. What this then translates to is that when the students aren’t on campus then the town becomes a LOT quieter – and because the university is integrated into the town, you are able to casually stroll around these magnificent examples of old architecture whenever you like. In other words, there are a lot of pretty buildings waiting to be seen!

My casual stroll with camera phone in hand took me past the grandiose Dutch Reformed (NG Moederkerk) church, the eye catching red of the Stellenbosch University Museum, through the Jan Marais Square (Red Square) and over the underground Stellenbosch University Library, and past the majestic faculty buildings and large residences that so many students call home during the academic year. I walked alongside the surging Eerste River, down the historic Dorp street, and past so, so many art galleries just stuffed with the treasure of artistic endeavour. Seventh heaven for someone like me then!

Lunch from Vadas Smokehouse and Bakery at Spier in Stellenbosch (2021-03-20) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 05 APR 2021

Having now spent a good long time exploring the grounds of the excellent Spier wine estate, taken in all the art installations of the Spier Light Art festival, and watched the birds of prey soar at Eagle Encounters, the girls decided that it was time for something to eat. So we sauntered back along the main path towards the beautifully restored Werf area, strolling across its rolling green lawns, clambering over the big granite boulders, and passing underneath the ancient oak trees, before coming to a stop in front of a patchwork of red and black table umbrellas standing out in front of a classic Cape Dutch style building with Vadas emblazoned on its side in unmissable bright red.

Both smokehouse and bakery, Vadas sources most of its ingredients from local producers (with the chicken, eggs and meats supplied by Spier’s Farmer Angus), making it a proper farm-to-plate business. Armed with the spectacular backdrop that is the manicured lawns, trees, architecture, and landscape that is Spier, Vadas pumps out all manner of elevated dishes that you would expect from a smokehouse, such as smoked beef brisket, juicy smoked pork with a bourbon BBQ sauce, and even smoked pork belly with apple ketchup. (And yes, there are plenty of other options available for all the kids and vegetarians out there).

Of course, the bakery component isn’t to be left out either, producing some incredible slow-fermented, fresh sourdough breads plus a treasure trove of sweet pies such as blueberry & nectarine pie, chocolate cream pie, pecan pie and lemon meringue pie. If none of that tickles your fancy though, Vadas is also pretty famous for their most excellent Pasteis de Nata – the increasingly popular Portuguese custard tart that seems to be popping up all around Cape Town at the moment!

Breakfast with a View at Jordan Wine Estate in Stellenbosch (2020-12-06) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 14 MAR 2021

Geologist Gary Jordan and economist Kathy Jordan have as a husband and wife team been making world-class wines since 1993, on a 300 year old farm which their parents purchased back in 1982. Now standing at 104 hectares in size, the Jordan Wine Estate produces a bevy of award winning wines from the range of grape varietals that it has planted in its vineyards, and like any good wine estate in the Cape Winelands today, Jordan offers a full visitor experience with its award winning signature restaurant, more relaxed bistro, luxury accommodation options, picnics on the lawn, and of course the all important tasting and tours.

At this point in the game, despite the global Covid-19 pandemic swirling all around us, Chantelle was certainly enjoying quite the nice 40th birthday (which was definitely going much better than what mine did due to the stricter lockdowns of earlier in the year). Having treated her to a spectacular evening of fine dining at Bertus Basson’s immaculate Overture restaurant at Hidden Valley, the morning of her birthday saw us shuttle through in search of the rather hidden Jordan wine estate, where we were booked in for a sumptuous morning of breakfast with a view.

Opting to dine ‘al fresco’ on The Bakery@Jordan’s recently completed wooden deck, we sat in the shade of its huge overhanging trees, looking out over lush green lawns, pretty shrubs and a very tranquil dam, with the rolling hills and distant mountain vista of Stellenbosch laid out before us. Eggs benedict with a thick Hollandaise sauce and good coffee completed the scene, as we eagerly got down to the serious work of relaxing a little before the next celebration event kicked off.

Scones, Tea and Jam at Hillcrest Berry Orchards outside Stellenbosch (2020-08-30) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 13 MAR 2021

Without a doubt, Hilllcrest Berry Orchards has now for years been our family’s most favourite spot to tuck into scones with jam and cream. Perched up high on one of the slopes of the gorgeous Banhoek Valley, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch just before you reach Pniel, its welcoming terrace offers spectacular views over the surrounding mountains and is perfectly positioned to catch all those warming rays of sunlight. In other words, the perfect spot for a cup of tea or a plunger of coffee!

Hillcrest Berry Orchards is of course primarily a berry producing farm, though they are far more famous for their huge array of delectable jams produced from those aforementioned berries, packaged in their very recognizable, cutest of little glass jars. The farm shop is where you’ll find a full assortment of frozen berries, jams, dessert toppings, relishes, jellies, berry vinegars, liqueured berries and gifts, as well as freshly picked berries when they are in season during the summer months. In addition to the farming and jam producing activities, the farm also offers accommodation options in the form of two comfortable self catering cottages.

Then of course there is the eatery section of the business. Armed with a cosy fireplace warmed interior section and the gorgeous outdoor terrace, Hillcrest Berry Orchards is open for the always important business of eating throughout the year, offering a good choice of meal options that cover both breakfast and lunch, as well as a very enjoyable high tea experience. That said, we pretty much only ever visit there for their delicious scones, topped with a selection of interesting jams and of course that divine Devonshire clotted cream of theirs!

Obviously, with the various Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns that kept us indoors pretty much the whole of last year, getting out and about really wasn’t a thing (for anyone), but we did at least manage to squeeze one very unplanned visit to a quiet Hillcrest Berry Orchards in, following a day of escape to see the fields of yellow canola at Dassiesfontein and gather chocolate supplies from Huguenot Fine Chocolates in Franschhoek.

Pork Belly Lunch at Sweetwell outside Stellenbosch (2021-01-16) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 06 MAR 2021

Having enjoyed an enthralling, thought-provoking morning of wandering about the magnificent Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch, Chantelle and I decided to further make the most of not having the kids with us by going out for a nice lunch. In the mood for Eisbein and knowing fully well that they do indeed do a good one, I suggested the restaurant at Sweetwell, situated along the R44 on a farm plot in Raithby (on the outskirts of Stellenbosch).

Pulling in at the Hennie & Allison Cronje owned farm, the clouds were grey and heavy but the rain thankfully all gone, meaning that the ivy laced, hydrangea decorated terrace was looking mighty inviting, even more so thanks to the absolute dearth of people. Again, great for us wanting to avoid crowds during this Covid-19 pandemic, but of course horrible for people trying to keep their businesses alive. Anyway, we walked up to the stoep, located a table and got comfortable, only for me to come to the stark realization that Eisbein was not currently on the menu.

Of course, in retrospect this makes complete sense. Eisbein is something that has to be prepared long in advance, and so if you aren’t guaranteed customers, it is probably best not to offer it at all. At this point in time, reducing wastage HAS to be on the mind of anyone running a food related business, that’s for sure! In any event, no problem, because the one thing Sweetwell also does particularly well is pork belly, and as expected, it was decadently good -that pork crackling, pure genius! (Of course, this was unfortunately still during the alcohol ban phase of our South African Covid-19 lockdowns, so no delicious wine to pair it with – and as we all now know, Coke Zero doesn’t quite cut it! :D)

Although their on-site deli is now a thing of the past, Sweetwell is also home to two pretty neat lifestyle/home decor businesses in the form of Rustic Rose and Casa Caro Lifestyle, plus there is then Sweetwell as an event venue option itself, with its pretty, manicured exterior and its vibrant, visually interesting interior – perfect for high teas, bridal showers and the like.

Walking under the Pine Trees of Paradyskloof in Stellenbosch (2021-01-23) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 MAR 2021

Previously, on our way to the sublime Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden on the outskirts of the Paradyskloof suburb of Stellenbosch, we passed by what looked to be an informal parking area in front of a gate that in turn guarded a pine plantation – but which most importantly appeared to freely allow people to walk or ride through it. As it turns out, we had passed the gate into Eden Forest, otherwise known as the Paradyskloof nature area, another mountain bike and hiking mecca for Stellenbosch locals.

Forming part of the comprehensive Stellenbosch Trails system (maintained through a partnership between the Stellenbosch Municipality and the Stellenbosch Trail Fund community organisation) that crisscross the lower ranges of the Stellenbosch mountain, the Paradyskloof gate puts you slap bang in the middle of the trail network that stretches from the University of Stellenbosch owned Coetzenburg rugby fields on the left, all the way across to the vineyards of the Mont Marie wine estate on the right.

The area is littered with well maintained mountain bike trails covering both single and jeep track options, including the popular Mark Gordon created and cheekily named G-Spot MTB Trail, to test your skills out on. Of course, the trails aren’t restricted to people racing about on bicycles either, offering plenty to tackle for the hiker marching about on foot. Fynbos, mountain ridges, views for days, and of course as this particular section of the trails indicate, a Pine Forest to waddle through.

Towards the end of January, Chantelle and I chanced the sweltering Summer sun and took the girls out for a walk under these very trees, which they begrudgingly did and hopefully enjoyed. (Its always hard to tell because the initial excitement wears off pretty quickly and then the bargaining with rewards has to swoop in to save the day). We marched about without aim or any sort of plan, and so didn’t necessarily walk particularly far, but it was a good workout accompanied by some crisp clean air – in other words exactly what one wanted after being cooped up for so long following the various earlier Covid-19 lockdowns.

Walk now complete, we next drove our sweaty selves around Stellenbosch, doing general sightseeing and even popping into Adam & Eve Collab to scope out their newly announced on the side Ceramic painting initiative, followed by a drive out and visit to an even better option when it comes to decorating and glazing your own ceramic creations, the aptly name Ceramic Cafe in Raithby, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. Naturally the girls are now very adamant that we immediately set aside some time to spend a Saturday afternoon doing this! And then of course the aforementioned rewards earlier proffered needed to be honored, hence the final photo of the girls eating soothing McFlurry ice creams in the very crisply air-conditioned halls of McDonalds at Waterstone Village in Somerset West. (Honestly, at this sweaty point in the day I didn’t actually mind doling out this reward! :D)

Exploring all the way to Chapter 4 Eatery outside Stellenbosch (2020-08-29) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 13 DEC 2020

The Western Cape experienced some truly cold weather this winter, enough to spark snowfall on most of our higher peaks, which of course then meant lots of chasing about to view this wonderful and relatively rare occurrence for a territory not exactly used to receiving snow. As it stood, even our lowly peaks of the surrounding Helderberg mountains managed to get a bit of icing sugar on the top of their heads and so into the car Chantelle, the girls and I clambered to see if we could get a slightly better Helderberg view.

This particular sightseeing trip saw us first head out to Sir Lowry’s Pass Village and up to Knorhoek Estate, taking the steep road right up to Da Capo Vineyards and the beautiful Idiom Winery and Restaurant on the slopes of the Helderberg range. (The view of course was stunning, and if we didn’t have the girls with us in the car, we probably would have indulged in some wine tasting at their majestic tasting centre.)

Oh well. Down the mountain we came and back in Somerset West, we pulled over on Reservoir Road to take in the stunning view of the white frosted peaks. And also the mom who was diligently taking photos of her daughter doing ballet photos with the mountains as a backdrop. Clearly we are not ‘influencer’ enough!

From there I sought out a new place that I had caught wind of via Google Maps, a small green cluster in the heart of Somerset West referred to as Silver Tree Gorge (or Silwerboomkloof). As it turns out, Silver Tree Gorge is a small protected valley that is home to a forest of rare Silvertree, the silver-coloured tree member of the Protea family that is actually indigenous to the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. This clump, far removed from its normal habitat is somewhat of an anomaly, so it was kind of cool to stumble upon.

By this stage the girls were moaning about being hungry, so after a nice drive around the idyllic Spanish Farm suburb of Somerset West, I set course to the Cape Garden centre outside Stellenbosch, more specifically to a small little eatery called Chapter 4 Eatery – opened by the former owner of our once beloved Mondeor Garden Kitchen.

This little jaunt to the nursery for pizza and milkshakes was actually our very first restaurant visit following the big Covid-19 lockdown, but it was exactly what we needed. Super quiet, lots of space, and a little bit of outdoor fun equipment for Jessica and Emily to stretch their limbs out on. Nice.

Bunnies and Decor at Root 44 in Stellenbosch (2019-11-10) Markets | Photo Gallery 11 APR 2020

Having already wrapped up some stall browsing and pancake snacking at the always vibey Winelands Markets at Blaauwklippen (aka the old Blaauwklippen Family Market), we decided to also pop our heads in at the equally enjoyable Root44 market more or less just down the road, pretty much only because it had been quite a while since Chantelle had last visited there.

Situated on the Audacia Wines estate (right next to the big Mooiberge strawberry farm with all its crazy colourful scarecrows), Root44 is a sprawling market space with its ample food and craft traders operating out of big sturdy marquee tents, absolute loads of seating for visitors (both covered and uncovered), space for the kids to get rid of their energy, and constant music to entertain the seemingly never ending stream of people paying them a visit every Saturday and Sunday from 09:00 all the way to 16:00 in the afternoon!

Lots of beer and wine swirl together with all manner of prepared foods across a variety cuisine styles, all mixing it up with a wide variety of crafters showing off their wares. Simply put, there is usually a little something for pretty much everyone that visits. In addition to all of that, the fact that the market is situated in the Stellenbosch winelands also means then that the experience comes with some pretty spectacular mountain and vineyard views, thus making it a particularly perfect spot for groups of friends or families to congregate and enjoy a lazy day outside in each other’s company.

Chantelle, the girls, and I enjoyed a leisurely explorative stroll through all the big tents, managed to gather a small helping of various snacks from the food stall section, and amazingly found a table to claim and hunker down around. Also, as expected, I took a lot of photos.

And yes, those are indeed giant wooden bunnies in the picture above.