Food and flowers at beautiful Vergelegen

Today we’re heading to Somerset West and the somewhat unpronounceable Vergelegen. It means “situated far away”. The land was granted to the Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700. Since then it’s developed into beautiful gardens that attract visitors from all over the world, a vineyard making lovely wines and also a favourite dining venue. You can choose from three restaurants.

We visited Stables at Vergelegen for a special birthday brunch. We sat outside on a sparkling blue day overlooking the gardens and mountains beyond and happily tucked into Eggs Benedict.

Fabulous garden and mountain views from Stables restaurant

Eggs Benedict at Vergelegen

Delightfully indulgent eggs Benedict

Fabulous gardens to explore

After brunch, a meander through the award-winning gardens. There are 17 of them to explore and a lot of amazing trees – like the Old English oak which is over 300 years old and believed to be the oldest living oak tree in Africa.

The Cape is in the midst of a drought at the moment – resulting in serious water rationing so the gardens were a little dryer than usual, but still a sight to behold. I loved the hydrangeas, they made me homesick for the English summer.

The beautiful hydrangea gardens

The rose garden is packed with bushes in different sizes and colours and wonderful scents. At its centre is the stunning sculpture of Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation and it’s said that myrtle, roses, doves, sparrows and swans were sacred to her. She must be very happy with her Vergelegen home.

Aphrodite’s statute in pride of place in the rose garden

The herb garden offers more lovely aromas all neatly packaged into a little octagon of perfectly trimmed hedges.

The beautiful herbs at Vergelegen

Rosemary scents the air in the herb garden

Historical Camphor trees

There are five history Camphor trees at Vergelegen, believed to have been planted in 1700 by van der Stel. They were declared national monuments in 1942. The other Camphor trees on the estate are all seedlings from these magnificent five – Camphors obviously are of great importance to the estate. Camphors at Vergelegen is their signature restaurant which was ranked the 10th best restaurant in South Africa in the 2016 Eat Out Mercedes Benz Awards. Better go back and try that one.

Or if you’re after a relaxed al fresco lunch rather, why not Picnic at Vergelegen? Tables are set in the beautiful centuries-old Camphor forest and a tasty picnic brought to you. It’s a charming way to spend an afternoon.

Picnic under the shade of the Camphor trees

Vergelegen is at Lourensford Road, Somerset West.

Christopher’s in Covent Garden

It’s time to go back to a Covent Garden favourite. Christopher’s is one of London’s original American restaurants, paving the way for many. It opened in 1991 and very quickly became a firm favourite just down from the Covent Garden piazza. Having closed for renovation, it reopened this May so of course I couldn’t resist the chance to visit.

The building opened in 1870 as London’s first licensed casino. I’d forgotten how stunning it is. The worn, original stone spiral staircase made me think of how many people had tramped up and down before me. And when I walked in I was dazzled by how fabulous the light-filled room is and as for the view! A classic London landscape through the huge windows across Waterloo Bridge that makes me happy and proud to be a Londoner.

And then there’s the menu, let’s just say there’s plenty to choose from.

I loved my cucumber starter with perfectly thinly sliced cucumber carpaccio-style and the softest, sweetest of burrata. Simple, summery starters don’t get better than this.

The freshness of summer captured on a plate

The freshness of summer captured on a plate

Fresh asparagus was simply grilled, lightly dressed and served with pecorino. Classic and perfectly executed.

Amazing grilled asparagus with pecorino

Amazing grilled asparagus with pecorino

I rarely order chicken in restaurants, I cook with it a lot and after all chicken is chicken. Isn’t it? This amazing dish of lemon and herb rubbed chicken with French beans, chorizo and wild mushroom hash proved me totally wrong. I loved the richness and depth of the flavours and the tender, juicy chicken.

Chicken with chorizo and wild mushrooms

Chicken with chorizo and wild mushrooms

I love it when a dish comes out and it’s not at all what you were expecting (in a good way). Three little rounds of perfectly seared tuna topped with dollops of different sauces, including minted horseradish cream and Creole mustardi. Totally yum. Tuna dish of the year so far?

Seared tuna with three different sauces

Seared tuna with three different sauces

There’s a pre- and post-theatre menu that’s great value at £16 for two courses or £22 for three. Or you could head for the downstairs bar and tuck into something off the comprehensive all-day bar menu with, among other things, a mouth-watering range of classic American sandwiches like the Reuben and Philly steak.

Or how about weekend brunch? More classics like corn beef hash and eggs benedict as well as lighter options, detox juices and, wonderfully, a Bloody Mary bar where you can build your own BM! That idea gets 10 out of 10 from me. Welcome back Christopher’s! We’ve missed you.

What a stunning space

What a stunning space

Christophers is at 18 Wellington Street, Covent Garden.

Brunch on the sea front at Sotano

So we’re still in Cape Town but we’ve moved to the other side of the mountain to wonderful Sea Point. That means long walks along the promenade breathing in the sea air and patting as many dogs as I can (I’m just a bit of a dog lover).

This weekend we had my beautiful Australian niece Rachel staying with us so on Sunday I simply had to introduce her to the promenade…let’s just say we went for a very long walk!

We did manage a stop off at Sotano in Mouille Point for brunch. It’s on the side of the road looking out towards the sea and does a fantastic breakfast/brunch menu.

We ordered two different dishes which were perfectly divisible in half so we managed to each try them.

I do love Eggs Benedict and have tried it all over the world. And this was one of the best, poached eggs served on a lightly toasted croissant with perfect hollandaise sauce and Black Forest Ham.

Eggs Benedict, simply one of the best breakfast dishes in the world

Eggs Benedict, simply one of the best breakfast dishes in the world

Rachel opted for the wild mushrooms sauteed with onion, garlic, parsley and butter, served on toasted rye bread and topped with a poached egg.

Flavoursome mushrooms with plenty of garlic

Flavoursome mushrooms with plenty of garlic

A highly recommended spot for brunch (their lunch/dinner menu is also lovely).

And it’s perfectly situated as not only do you have the sea on one side, the stunning Green Point Urban Park is behind it. The perfect place for another walk!

Sotano is at 121 Beach Road, Mouille Point

The perfect peaceful spot for brunch

When it comes to eating out, Cape Town really is the king. Today we had the desire for a nice cup of coffee after a bout of food shopping (it was about 10am).

So cousin Sally suggested we try a little cafe she’d been meaning to visit. This is where inside knowledge is so important – Starling’s Coffee Shop is tucked away behind a hedge, on a main road and really isn’t somewhere you would stumble upon. As you peer through the gate the piles of vegetables tell you this is an eating establishment.

It’s a quaint little cafe with a lovely courtyard-type garden at the back with plenty of shade. And a delicious-sounding menu. We were intending just to have a coffee but it all sounded so good we decided we had to have something to eat, too.

Here’s my fantastic combination of poached eggs with parmesan, pesto and rocket. The eggs were truly fantastic, free range from Spier, a local wine farm that also specialises in farming using biodynamic principles. Animals, including cattle, sheep and chickens are raised on pastures to contribute to the fertility of the soil.

An amazing combination, one that I’m going to be repeating myself at home soon. And the perfect poached egg is hard to beat (something I’m still trying to achieve myself). Yummy!

Oh and they have an urban food market on Wednesdays. I’ll be back!

A wonderful breakfast/brunch to savour

A wonderful breakfast/brunch to savour

Starlings coffee shop is at 94 Belvedere Road, Claremont