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.

Lunching at Idiom in the Cape Winelands

Today we’re travelling into the Winelands outside Somerset West, way off the beaten track on a long and winding road to the top of a hill. Yes it did feel like something of a voyage into the unknown. As you can probably gather from the length of that sentence.

Idiom is run by the Bottega family who take great pride in their Italian/South African heritage. As a result Italian varietals are part of the wine portfolio, bringing the spirit of Italy to South Africa. The restaurant opened in June 2016, so it’s a new addition to the ever-growing Winelands collection.

Italian/South African fusion

You won’t be surprised to hear that the menu also has a real Italian flavour to it. And a good helping of South African influences. I particularly loved my starter which was a South Africanised version of one of my all-time favourite dishes, vitello tonnato. Usually it’s a dish of cold, sliced veal that’s covered with a creamy mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavoured with tuna (normally tinned tuna). Sounds like a weird combination, but believe me it’s spectacular.

Today’s version substituted ostrich for the veal. I’m not a big fan of ostrich but was so intrigued by the creativity of the dish I had to order it. The sauce was made with tasty chunks of fresh tuna and the ostrich was some of the best I’ve ever had. It was tender, perfectly cooked and amazingly tasty. What a great start!

South African vitello tonnato in the Winelands

A classic dish with a truly South African twist

The porcini mushroom ravioli was packed with rich, earthy flavours and the home-made pasta was fresh and perfectly cooked.

Italian dishes at Idiom in the Winelands

Little ravioli parcels of mushroom delight

For mains I had beautiful little lamb cutlets, served alongside a mini bobotie (a South African dish of spiced mince meat baked with a custardy egg topping) and a lovely vegetable selection in orange and green – smooth and sweet butternut puree, cinnamon apples, crunchy sugarsnap peas, tender broccoli and pea shoots.

A delectable plate of lamb at Idiom in the Winelands

Lamb chops with a perfect vegetable selection

The pork belly came in piles of graded size – large, medium, small, with crunchy curls of crackling, buttery mash and candied apples.

Pork belly rocks in the Cape Winelands

Tender pork belly with towering crackling curls

The food at Idiom is really good – a clever mix of South Africa and Italy, packed with good flavours and combinations and beautifully presented. And the setting is truly spectacular with far-reaching views from on high across Gordon’s Bay and the sea. The Tuscan-style building and stonework also add an Italian feel to the surrounds.

Unfortunately the service leaves something to be desired. It was hard to catch anyone’s attention and people were slow to respond. Also, our plates weren’t cleared before the next course arrived and we moved them ourselves so the waitress could put our starters down. She walked off and left us sitting there holding our dirty plates until we asked her to take them. Generally the attitude was also unenthusiastic and lacklustre. A shame as it put something of a downer on the whole experience.

A taste of Italy at Idiom in the Cape Winelands

The Tuscan-style restaurant on high with sea views

The grounds at Idiom in the Winelands are an outdoor art gallery

A stunning statue and landscape

These beautiful heads welcome you at the entrance and are the masterpieces of contemporary South African artist and sculptor, Lionel Smit.

Lionel Smit in the Winelands

The stunning sculpture takes in the view

Malay Girls head by Lionel Smit in the Winelands

And here she is from the front

The beautiful setting at Idiom in the Winelands

Stone steps lead up to the restaurant

The vines include a lot of Italian varietals at Idiom

Even the view on the way out is worth a snap

Today’s price point

Our two-course lunch for two, including wine cost R640. That’s about £40 at today’s exchange rate.

Their Bianco (Pinot Grigot) is delicious and costs R100 (£6).

The red Italian varietals were on the expensive side.

A case of limited edition Nebbiolo (6 bottles) goes for R2,700 (£167).

Idiom is at Sir Lowry’s Pass, Somerset West.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in the Cape Winelands? I’d love to hear about it – I’m always looking for new places to try.

Birthday dinner on the balcony at NV80 in Sea Point

We’ve been returning to stay in Sea Point for eight years now and it’s been wonderful to see the area blossom. We now have such an array of lovely restaurants easy walking distance from us that it seems like we should be going out all the time. It would be wrong not to, really.

So tonight to celebrate Terry’s birthday we headed to our local steakhouse in the shiny new shopping centre called The Point in Sea Point’s Regent Road.

I’m not a huge fan of restaurants in shopping centres. But NV80 has been done so well that as soon as you walk in, you no longer feel like you’re in one. Plus it has a lovely wide balcony, just perfect for the balmy February night we were there. Always love a bit of alfresco dining.

Oyster heaven

I love oysters and at NV80 you can have them three different ways. Plain, with Bloody Mary jelly or Vietnamese dressing. Beautifully fresh with amazing toppings, the Vietnamese ones are my favourite oysters ever. I do love the flavours of Vietnam.

Tasty oysters at NV80 in Sea Point

Tasty oysters to dream about

The Trinchado is pan-fried cubes of lean fillet of beef saved with a tangy lightly spiced sauce. The tenderest of fillet that melted in the mouth and a lovely zingy sauce. And not a small portion of it either – seriously, it’s almost main course size.

Tender trinchado at NV80 in Sea Point

Tender trinchado in a silken sauce

As well as their steak specialities, NV80 also has a good selection of fish and seafood. The salmon teriyaki was grilled and marinated in teriyaki and served with mash and drizzled with sweet soya and sesame dressing. A beautifully presented dish with great flavour and textures.

Succulent salmon at NV80 in Sea Point

Succulent salmon nestles on creamy mash

NV80’s steaks are fabulous and the king of them all (in my opinion) is the sirloin steak on the bone. I always have a bit of a debate in my head before ordering it – because it is HUGE – 600g. Way more than I can eat in one sitting! But the good news is that the restaurant has a doggy bag at the ready and I joyfully took home my leftovers. And as a result I could make a lovely Vietnamese salad (I know, we’re back in Vietnam!) for dinner. So three meals in one really. Recipe coming soon.

It’s a legendary steak this one, mouth-wateringly flavoursome. I probably shouldn’t bother looking at the menu and debating choices, I know it’s the way I’m going to go ultimately.

Giant sirloin at NV80 in Sea Point

My super-big sirloin on the bone

Also love a bit of creamed spinach and it goes especially well with steak.

Creamed spinach at NV80 in Sea Point

Luscious creamed spinach to accompany

As well as the lovely food, there’s such a great buzz about NV80 with its background of animated chatter and laughter. And the service is wonderfully welcoming, friendly and informed. When we left it seemed like half the restaurant thanked us for coming and hoped we’d had a good evening. We really had. Can’t beat that wonderful Sea Point hospitality.

Today’s price point

We paid R626 for our food tonight. That’s about £38 at today’s exchange rate.

NV80 is on the first floor of The Point at 76 Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town.

What is your favourite restaurant in Sea Point? Do get in touch and let me know.

 

 

Classically perfect pasta at Morgenster

I’m taking my job very seriously this month and trying to bring you news and lovely pictures from a range of Cape Winelands eateries. So today we’ve popped in for a casual mid-week lunch at 95 at Morgenster.

Morgenster is a thriving wine and olive farm which dates back to 1711. They are known for their Bourdeaux-style blends and their Italian Collection wines. All of which are fabulous. Plus they offer a  top range of olive oils.

The restaurant 95 at Morgenster is the baby of Italian chef Giorgio Nava, whose lovely original restaurant, 95 Keerom, is in  central Cape Town. The menu is inspired by the food of Milan and there’s a good selection of salads, antipasti, pasta and meat dishes.

Our taste buds got awakened by the sound of all the pasta dishes. My homemade ravioli of slow baked Karoo lamb shoulder was served with sage butter and parmesan. One of those pasta dishes that makes you want to sigh with delight with every mouthful. The richness and softness of the lamb, the flavoursome pasta pillows and that amazingly silken butter sauce. Truly a pasta dish to dream about.

Luscious ravioli in sage butter

You can’t beat a classic Italian dish perfectly done. The handmade tagliatelle came with a slow cooked beef ragu and fresh herbs. You can tell just by looking at this picture that it was a lovingly prepared ragu with great richness and depth.

Rich and tasty ragu with flavoursome fresh pasta

We actually got to Morgenster a bit early for lunch so settled on the restaurant’s lovely verandah overlooking the dam and mountains and enjoyed a pre-lunch coffee. Love the attention to detail here, with footprints in the foam.

Who left their footprints in the coffee?

You eat in dappled sunlight under a slatted roof (as you can see from the pictures of our lovely pasta dishes). And this is the expansive view of water, mountains and azure sky.

Food always tastes better with a view

Morgenster is at Vergelegen Avenue, off Lourensford Road on the outskirts of Somerset West.

Today’s price point

We paid R320 (about £19 at today’s exchange rate) for two delicious pasta dishes and a bottle of Merlot.