Chilled-out alfresco lunch at Avontuur

Today I’m continuing on my quest to explore the restaurants of the Winelands around Somerset West. We’re visiting beautiful Avontuur for a spontaneous light lunch. Nothing wrong with that.

Avontuur has a sweeping drive that leads up between two fields enclosed by white picket fences and home to families of horses. In fact, as well as for its wine, it’s known as a thoroughbred stud farm – and is home to about a hundred horses. We saw three mothers with their foals in the field just in front of the restaurant. A beautiful sight. The horse/wine combination seems popular – read about our visit to Cavalli by clicking here.

Avontuur has a lovely verandah/terrace area set out with tables looking out across the fields and vines towards Table Mountain. Beautiful, dappled light shades the tables and we were soon settled and perusing the menu. There’s a good choice of salads, fish and meat dishes – today we were tempted by the specials.

First up, mussels in a Thai-style sauce. Simply a match made in heaven. The mussels were amazingly succulent and sweet paired beautifully with the creamiest of Asian sauces. One of those dishes where I wanted to lick the bowl. So yummy!

Lunch at Avontuur

Plump, juicy mussels in a delightful Thai sauce

The hake was served with a crunchy crust on a coconut sauce. South African hake is delicious and the flavours and textures of this lovely tower were delightful.

Lunch at Avontuur

The freshest of hake with a tower of goodies

Lunch at Avontuur

A peaceful scene in green and white

And here’s another lovely sight – the horses and their foals happy in the field in front of the restaurant.

Avontuur exudes serenity with its welcoming service, great seasonal food and sweeping views. It seems like time spent on their terrace is good for the soul…

Lunch at Avontuur

Horses are part of the view at Avontuur

Lunch at Avontuur

The perfect alfresco dining scene

Lunch at Avontuur

Views across greens and blues towards Table Mountain

Today’s price point

Lunch for two (one course each) with a bottle of wine cost R44o (about £28 at today’s exchange rate), including a tip.

Avontuur is just off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

Great tapas at Chalk & Cork in Kloof Street

Today we’re heading to Chalk & Cork on Cape Town’s Kloof Street. It’s the road that connects the centre of the city to all the City Bowl neighbourhoods and is where Long, Orange and Buitensingel meet. More than that it’s a hive of activity with such a range of places to eat and drink you’re going to get confused if you wander for too long. On the up side you’re definitely going to find something that suits your needs.

Tapas-style eating is everywhere these days. Suits me as it means I get to try more of the dishes on offer and can avoid food envy when others’ orders look better than mine.

The slightly strangely named Chalk & Cork specialise in sharing plates. This small, quirky restaurant has a lovely outside area, perfect for Kloof Street people-watching, a small bar area downstairs and a few tables upstairs. It’s a cosy little place with welcoming service and a great feel. And there are corks all over the place, they’re part of the decor –  not so sure what the chalk has to do with it. Anyway, it’s certainly a name that sticks in the mind.

We shared a range of dishes which were all outstanding. The tempura of East Coast hake came with variations of peas – such a clever idea. Pea puree, peas in and out of the pod and pea shots added a beautiful sweetness to the flakey fish with its perfectly crisp batter.

Chalk & Cork hake

Sweet and crunchy hake tempura with peas

The smoked tomato risotto was served with sour cream and charred corn. The smoking certain gave the dish a unique flavour and the sour cream added extra zest.

Chalk & Cork risotto

Soft and smoky tomato risotto

My favourite of the dishes we ordered was the aged beef steak which was served with pickled carrots atop an aromatic green curry sauce. The steak was so perfectly cooked and the sauce had a lovely creaminess and a real chilli kick. Think I’ll have to keep the whole bowl for myself next time. And doesn’t it look beautiful?

Chalk & Cork steak

Beautifully tender beef on a bed of spicy green curry sauce

Finally, this stunning plate of food is their new potato salad with a herb aioli, walnuts, radishes and celery. Wonderfully crunchy and crisp with the herbiest of dressings.

The herbiest of new potato salads

We did also enjoy a plate of lamb meatballs with mint yogurt, peas and fresh basil. Sorry for the lack of photographic evidence.

I will definitely go back to Chalk & Cork. I loved all their dishes, the service was fabulous and it has a lovely, relaxed feel – and an excellent wine list. Most of all, it’s really great value for money.

Writing about Kloof Street turned out to be more of a challenge than I’d anticipated as my autocorrect kept changing it to Aloof Street, which made me laugh (although it was incredibly annoying!). There’s certainly nothing Aloof about this street!

Today’s price point

Two gin and tonics, five tapas dishes and two bottles of wine cost us R638. (Around £40 at today’s exchange rate).

It was plenty of food for four people.

Chalk & Cork is at 51 Kloof Street, Cape Town.

Beautifully fresh dishes at stylish Cavalli

Today we’re heading just outside Somerset West to Cavalli. Set on a hill with stunning views of Cape Town and the majestic Helderberg mountains, it’s a working farm with an olive grove, lavender fields, vineyards and citrus trees.

It’s also home to the Cavalli Stud (it means horses in Italian) – the family breed and train world-class Saddlebred horses. It’s a sprawlingly beautiful property in shades of green all enclosed with white picket fences – there’s definitely a touch of the Southforks here.

Environmentally friendly fine dining

The restaurant was recently awarded the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism award for architecture and landscapes in Bilbao. It’s certainly a striking, contemporary building which uses a Geo-exchange system – using the dam to heat and cool, solar energy and a waste water treatment plant to recycle 93% of the estate’s water. Because of all these amazing environmental incentives it’s been named the first Green-star rated restaurant in South Africa.

Cavalli describe their food as “everyday gourmet”. They grow their own seasonal herbs and a wide range of vegetables and stress the importance of using local and sustainable ingredients. A lot of thought has gone into the combinations in dishes, the colours, textures and flavours – consequently you’re served plates of beautifully plated food packed with taste.

The menu at Cavalli

I love carpaccio – therefore it is one of my  most-ordered starters. Today’s was a particularly spectacular example. The beef was seared and served with shaved radish, ginger soy dressing, pickled shimeji and Thai basil. Tender, flavoursome meat with crunchy, zesty toppings and a wonderful light dressing that really brought all the ingredients to life.

Carpaccio at Cavalli

Fabulous carpaccio with an Asian twist

The glazed duck breast was served with mango puree, sweetcorn salsa, nam prik and a coconut reduction. Duck, mango and coconut make for a wonderfully refreshing combination.

Tasty duck breast nestles on salsa and puree

And of course we had to sample the pork belly – I’m still trying to taste every pork belly dish in the Cape, but think it’s a massive and intimidating goal – even for me! It seems like there’s a version on every restaurant’s menu. This was acorn-fed and served with nam jim vermicelli, bok choi, laksa sauce and roasted peanuts.

Succulent pork belly with noodles and crunchy crackling

My choice today was the fish dish – probably one of the nicest I’ve had this year as it turns out. The seaweed-crusted line fish (sea bass) was served with butter-poached prawns and mussels, chilli tagliolini and sauce nacional. The sea bass was wonderfully sweet with a crunchy topping and the seafood melted in my mouth. And the little pile of noodles were perfect to help mop up the creamy, buttery sauce.

A pretty and delightfully tasty fish dish

The grass-fed beef sirloin was served with estate beans, gem squash emulsion, pear chutney and potato dauphinoise. A delicious work of art on a plate.

A beautifully delicate plate of sirloin

A lot of the dishes clearly have an Asian influence which I loved. And you could really taste the freshness of all the ingredients.

Stunning mountain views

And then there’s the views! Vines, mountains, farmland, fynbos, wildflowers and blue, blue sky.

The view at Cavalli

The view across the farm to the mountains

The restaurant overlooks a lake – love the sculptures

And I really loved the rose-gold ice bucket which perfectly matched our lovely bottle of Rose. It seems like Cavalli certainly does everything with style.

Shades of pink and rose gold

In addition to the fabulous food, Cavalli is also worth a visit for their art on exhibit and fabulous wine tasting area.

Today’s price point

We paid R955 (£60 at today’s exchange rate) for lunch for four (two starters and four main courses).

There’s also an amazing wine list with a huge range on offer, including a selection from Europe if you feel like pushing the boat out. Whites and roses start from R125 (£8) a bottle, reds from R135 (£8.50).

Cavalli is just off the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West.

Great foodie shopping at Cape Town’s Oranjezicht Market

Today we’re heading to beautiful Granger Bay close to Cape Town’s Waterfront. How I love a food market and the Oranjezicht farmers market is absolutely fabulous. It’s a community farmers-style market for independent local farmers and artisanal food producers that’s set overlooking the sparkling sea.

There’s plenty of seating where you can relax and munch on the many dishes available and a wide range of stalls to delight. The tempting displays definitely make me buy more, but as I love everything I’ve bought there that’s really not a problem.

Oranjezicht farmers market

The market looks out over the azure sea

As you walk in you’re greeted by a fabulous floral display, include vibrant bunches of perfect proteas – South Africa’s national flower.

Oranjezicht farmers market

Beautiful bunches of proteas to take home

Fresh produce

This has got to be the best place in Cape Town to stock up on all the fresh stuff you’re going to need for your week. The fruit and vegetable displays are stunning and everything is of the highest quality. Boxes of fresh figs, massively juicy watermelons, plump grapes, carrots in myriad shades, tomatoes, chillis, herbs, leaves, garlic…well, pretty much whatever that’s seasonal and delicious. Make sure you take a bag – you’re not going to be able to carry it all if you don’t! I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Oranjezicht farmers market

Chillis in different shapes, sizes and colours

Oranjezicht farmers market

How’s this for a vegetable display…almost makes me want to become vegetarian

More chillis to add spice to your life

A fresh herb selection and beans that are purple and yellow

Oranjezicht farmers market

Heirloom tomatoes – juicily bursting with flavour

A table full of squash is a work of art

Oranjezicht farmers market

Love the pink oyster mushrooms…and you can even grow your own

Some of the wonderful fruit on offer

There’s also plenty of great-quality meat, cheese, bread, fish and sauces available.

Snacking opportunities and takeaways

As well as all the fresh produce there’s so much to tuck into at once to keep your shopping strength up – or to take home for later feasting. Baked goods, fresh bread, samosas, sushi, pies, wraps, Vietnamese rolls, eggs Benedict, steak rolls in many forms, bacon and egg croissants, bagels..it’s astounding. Here’s a small selection of what’s on offer.

Oranjezicht farmers market

You’ll find plenty of sweet treats to indulge in

Perfect little pies made in a muffin pan

Oranjezicht farmers market

The sweetest and most custardy of Portuguese custard tarts

Oranjezicht farmers market

The chefs are busy with bacon and potato rosti

Oranjezicht farmers market

The colourful sushi selection is described with passion

The prettiest of plants are also on display

Oranjezicht market

There’s a lot of eating on the go happening here

This is some market – seriously, I could go every week and take a batch of pictures like this showcasing different products – there’s so much on offer here. My advice is to go and see for yourself – and go soon, cos you’re going to want to go back again and again.

You’ll find the Oranjezicht City Farm Market at Granger Bay Boulevard, V&A Waterfront, Cape town.

It is open every Saturday from 9am to 2pm.

Read more about the Oranjezicht City farm by clicking here.

 

Where to eat and drink on Cape Town’s Bree Street: Part One

So today we’re heading for Cape Town’s Bree Street. It’s on the edge of the City Bowl District (CBD) and I’ve watched the street develop into one of my favourite Cape Town areas. It seems like every year when I return a whole raft of new bars and restaurants have popped up and all the old favourites are still there. Consequently it’s a real challenge to keep up!

In fact, there’s so much going on I’m going to do a series on places you must visit in this buzzy street (lucky you). Here’s Part One.

Every year Bree Street has its Open Streets Day in January. Open Streets is a worldwide movement where a street is closed to traffic and all sorts of events take place. It’s a trend that’s growing in popularity around the world and such a great idea to watch people coming together to enjoy live music, street art, street food and eating and drinking in many of the lovely places.

The Station on Bree

Like at The Station on Bree. They bill themselves as the only underground station in Cape Town and all their signage is modelled on London’s tube system. As a Londoner I felt instantly at home here (I have spent many hours on the Underground after all!!).

Welcome to The Station on Bree

There are plenty of nooks and crannies to be discovered at The Station.

Follow the Underground signs to find your perfect spot

We settled in on the pavement under the enormous tree to enjoy some chilled Castle Light beer and people watching. We even won some Castle Light sunglasses – what style.

Showing off our prize sunglasses

Part of the street was turned into a work of art which everyone contributed to

La Parada

I eat at La Parada regularly – my love for Spain and its food is well documented. The best place in Cape Town for an authentic Spanish experience and food. Close your eyes and it seems like you’re in Spain. There are several La Parada restaurants in Cape Town now – one at Constantia Nek and one in Camps Bay- but this in my opinion is still the best one.

Tender salt and pepper squid and crispy patatas bravas

Fabulous mushrooms topped with a soft-poached egg

Delicately creamy croquettas

An amazing plate of pork belly

Of course, you don’t have to wait for Open Streets to visit Bree Street. Thankfully! Any day is a good day. And on the First Thursday of every month, as well as all the usual attractions,  you’ll have the chance to enjoy art and cultural exhibitions.

I’m going for dinner there next First Thursday. Hooray.

Watch this space for more on my series on Bree Street.

Do you have a favourite place you frequent here? I’d love to hear about it.

The Station on Bree is at 207 Bree Street.

La Parada is at 107 Bree Street.

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.