Just a short drive from South Africa’s Cape Town, is Franschhoek. This small village is set in the heartland of South Africa’s wine country, in a lush valley surrounded by towering mountains (a little like New Zealand’s Remarkables).
I knew we were deep in South Africa’s wine country, but I had no idea we were in food heaven too. It’s an oasis with vineyards are far as the eye can see and countless exquisite restaurants. Many of them are attached to the wineries, serving next level degustation menus.
To look at the town it’s not hard to see it’s been heavily influenced by the Dutch and French. Franschhoek’s history dates back to 1687, when Simon van der Stel and 23 fellow Dutch settlers arrived in the region and set up a halfway station for passing ships. The following year three hundred French Huguenots arrived. The Dutch gave them land in exchange for their vinicultural knowledge. They integrated their cultures and three centuries later have left behind an indelible mark on the valley. Franschhoek is widely regarded as one of the premier viticulture regions in the world, with food to match and an unmistakably Dutch influence on their architecture.
The choice of cellar doors and vineyards to visit is long. Franschhoek has a wine tram that travels around the district providing transport for wine tasting customers. Franschhoek and Stellenbosch have many wines on offer. For those of you not familiar with South African wines, in addition to the usual varietals, South Africa is famous for its Chenin Blanc and also Pinotage which is a grape made by combining Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
We chose to visit just one vineyard, Kanonkop, in nearby Stellenbosch. Many years ago, Tim had received a special bottle of their Paul Sauer from a friend. The wine was so good he had not forgotten it. The tasting consisted of seven wines, including a Rose, and a variety of Pinotages. We tried a recent vintage plus a sample of the Reserve which came from 70 year old vines. They also treated us to an aged Pinotage and we were so enthused we purchaed a bottle each of their 2009 and 2011 library stock…and of course the Paul Sauer wine.
As I’ve said, nothing could have prepared me the high quality of food in this town. When I made this discovery, I made every post a winner and are leaving town heavier than when I arrived.
Epice and Prodege – Both these restaurants were in our hotel, Le Quartier Francais. Protege is the more casual of the two, serving a delicious a la carte breakfast, and evening degustation meal. While we didn’t sample this degustation menu we did eat at Epice, their fine dining restaurant. It was sensational. Pictures speak a 1000 words so take a look at some of these dishes. And if you are thinking seven courses would cost an arm and a leg, wrong R895 ($86.43)
La Petite Colombe – is a food crown in Franschhoek. This restaurant is in the Leeu Estate and is the flagship property of the Leeu Collection.
We were welcomed into La Petite Colombe and escorted to the lounge. Here we had a drink and were served snacks, Yes, they were snacks because they were small, but flavours, textures, colours, were nothing short of Michelin Star. The handmade olive exploded in my mouth, releasing a refreshing and delicious brine.
After the snacks we were escorted to our table, where the serious food was served. Confit mussels, quail, langoustine, lamb and more. Every dish was exciting. The complexity of this food, how it was prepared and presented left me wondering.
Art and architecture
The main street of Franscbosch features many art galleries. The town reminds me of Santa Fe in New Mexico, USA, but on a smaller scale. The art varies from African influences, to local works and some bronze sculptures we fell in love with. Bronze hares made by South African artist Guy Du Toit, appeared in numerous poses outide our hotel, as well as other rabbits playing musical instrumens and the bronze Baboon sitting by the hotel’s swimming pool.
The architecture is a feature too, as the town has been heavilty influenced by the Dutch colonists. They took their ornate gables and high roofs from their architecture at home and adapted it to the Cape climate. The thick white washed walls, small-paned shuttered windows and thatched roofs were designed to keep the houses cool in summer and warm in the Cape winters.
From an array of exquisite boutique hotel, we chose Le Quartier Francais, located right in Franschhoek village. It’s a romantic, boutique hotel and is one of three properties in Franschhoek owned in by Indian billionaire, Analifit Singh. These three properties are part of the Leeu Collection.
Our generous suite had its own secret garden and was beautifully furnished. As I mentioned, the restauarants on the property were superb so no need to venture out for good food.
If good wine and food are your thing, Franschhoek, is a great place to visit. It’s very easy to lose yourself for three days and you’ll come away with some great memories.
Fantastic description of Franshoek. Canonkop pinotage is our favourite!
Franschhoek is a little treasure. So happy we both have great taste in wine!
You would love it too….