Beautifully tasty lunch at Terroir at Kleine Zalze

Welcome to Terroir, Kleine Zalze

What is your favourite restaurant? A question I regularly get asked and one I find extremely difficult to answer. I don’t know how people make their judgements for all those “Best restaurants in the world” lists, it’s  a tricky business. Having said that, today we are having lunch at a restaurant that I would certainly put up there at the top of my list.

Terroir opened in October 2004 and I’ve been at least once every year since then when I visit Cape Town. It’s almost like an annual pilgrimage that I have to make. The restaurant is set on the Kleine Zalze wine estate near Stellenbosch and on a balmy summer day you sit under the shades overlooking the De Zalze Golf Course and the terraces of vineyards. Simply walking down those steps to Terroir gives me a sense of contentment – and of course anticipation for the food to come.

You’re know you’re going to eat beautifully presented plates of seasonal, modern South African cuisine and drink wonderful wine. The menu is chalked up on the board and as the waitress talks you through the dishes on offer freshly baked bread is served. And a bowl of their wonderfully smoky olives. Today we had a choice of four dishes per course.

Bread at Terroir

Freshly baked bread and wonderful smoked olives

Sweet and sour salmon with a difference

It was one of those days when the choice was made easy for me with two dishes I couldn’t wait to try. For my starter I chose this stunning seared salmon dish served with bacon, watermelon, sweet and sour sauce and kewpie mayo. An unusual mix of ingredients but one that worked beautifully. The salmon melted in my mouth, the sauce had a lovely sweet/sour balance with its crunchy watermelon and crispy bacon. Kewpie mayo is Japanese mayonnaise and considered by many to be the king of mayo – it was rich and creamy. And what beautiful colours!

Terroir salmon

The spectacularly sweet and tangy salmon

The perfect prawn risotto

The prawn risotto with Americaine sauce is Terroir’s signature dish – and has been on the menu as far back as I can remember – the only dish that remains on the ever-changing menu. I think there would be such an outcry if it was ever removed that they don’t dare to! I have friends who don’t even look at the menu but simply order prawn risotto every time. They can serve it in starter or main course portions. And yes, it does taste as good as it looks. This version of sauce Americaine (a classic French sauce) is truly spectacular, makes me want to lick the bowl clean.

Terroir prawn risotto

The ever-fabulous signature prawn risotto

Beef tartare to dream about

This is one of my favourite dishes and I’ve eaten it in many, many restaurants around the world. Terroir’s version is served with a soft quail’s egg, basil pesto, charred aubergine puree and asparagus ribbons. And a silken sauce to pour over. Such a pretty and indulgent plate of richness.

Terroir steak tartare

Compact and rich steak tartare

The flakiness of Kingklip

Today’s fresh line fish was kingklip, one of my favourite fish with it’s great firm texture and sweet flavour, It was served on a bed of spinach with chorizo, crispy pieces of squid and mild red pepper.

Terroir kingklip

Flaky, juicy kingklip with squid

Bring on the pork belly

The quest to eat pork belly in every corner of the Western Cape continues. The confit pork belly was served on a luscious pea veloute, with crushed potatoes, delicate sprout leaves and pickled onions.

Terroir pork belly

Sweet and tender pork belly

As I ordered two starters (one instead of a main, not as well as) I decided to treat myself to a truly indulgent side – truffled mac. Bubbling in this beautiful little pot, the rich earthy flavours and creaminess were wonderful.

Terroir truffled mac

Richly earthy truffled mac

Don’t try to resist the pudding

Desserts are equally beautiful like this amazingly dedication mille-feuille of apple with fennel, rose and vanilla ice cream.

Delicately delicious dessert

Terror does a good cheese board selection which several of us opted for. A lovely range beautifully presented with a basketful of crisp breads.

Cheese at Terroir

Tasty local cheese beautifully displayed

Biscuits at Terroir

Crunchy homemade biscuits

Menu at Terroir

Terroir’s blackboard of choices and the view beyond

Another great lunch at Terroir – as these stunning pictures prove that. I love that you can always depend on that. I can see I’ll be back again next year because it’s just too good to resist.

Today’s price point

Terroir is one of the more pricey restaurants in the region – but still great value, especially with the quality of the cooking.

We paid R1,100 for three courses for two people without wine. That’s about £65 at today’s exchange rate.

The wine list offers a good choice, including the estate’s own wine. Their delicious Kleine Zalze Merlot sells for R150.

Terror is at the Klein Zalze Wine Estate off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

South China Dim Sum Bar – Cape Town’s dumpling heaven

How I love a dim sum feast. Consequently I was totally delighted when friends recommended the South China Dim Sum Bar. It’s right at the top of Cape Town’s Long Street (close to the Mountain).

Long Street is a mix of bars, coffee bars, souvenir shops and random other shops, youth hostels and book shops. As a result it’s a busy, interesting road, also known for its attractive Victorian buildings with their wrought iron balconies.

First of all we popped in at The Dubliner for a quick pint (they serve Kilkenny Irish ale on tap). My Irish roots appreciate that it seems like there’s an Irish welcome in a bar everywhere in the world.  A refreshing beer and time to head for some much needed Dim Sum treats.

South China Dim Sum Bar is an understated sort of establishment. It’s a long, narrow room and you sit at small tables on crates or stools – not unlike a lot of the places we experienced recently in Vietnam. The place was buzzing with activity when we arrived and we got the last available table.

There’s a good selection of dim sum as well as a soup and salad option. Must go back to try out their Thai papaya salad – one of my all-time favourites. Today we decided to go for a sampling of the dim sum – gotta get the full picture after all.

Dumplings are served up on paper plates (there’s no frills here), piping hot and obviously freshly made. The chicken wontons came with a spicy Szechuan dressing. And you’re also given a little bowl of soya, hoisin and chilli sauces for extra dipping.

South China Dim Sum Bar

Chicken wonton with spicy Szechaun sauce

My favourites of our order were the beef and lamb potstickers. I love their crunchy outside and they were packed with flavoursome meat.

South China Dim Sum Bar

Beef potstickers with black vinegar

The Har Gow were beautifully soft and packed with fresh prawns, while the Sui Mai offered a delightfully rich combination of pork and shiitake mushroom.

South China Dim Sum Bar

Delightful prawn and pork parcels

South China Dim Sum Bar

The trio of dipping sauces

South China Dim Sum Bar

Lamb potstickers with spicy yogurt

Service is friendly and quick and there’s a great atmosphere as people demolish large quantities of some of the best dim sum I’ve ever experienced. In addition, it’s all really great value.

I spotted the cocktail list too late – they all sounded very enticing therefore I will have to have one on my next visit.

Because I’m telling you there will definitely be another time. And soon.

South China Dim Sum Bar

Enjoy an exotic cocktail with your dim sum

South China Dim Sum Bar

The entrance to dumpling heaven

South China Dim Sum Bar

The menu is chalked up on the blackboard

South China Dim Sum Bar

You can watch the activity in the open kitchen

South China Dum Sum Bar

The lovely blue view opposite the restaurant

Today’s price point

And finally…lunch for two (five dim sum dishes and a bottle of wine) cost us R289 which is £18 at today’s exchange rate.

South China Dim Sum Bar is at 289 Long Street, Cape Town

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.