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.

Bistro-style food and lovely wine at Glenelly in Stellenbosch

Today we’re heading back into the wonderful Winelands to the outskirts of Stellenbosch and Glenelly Wine Estate.

In 2003, at the age of 78, May de Lencquesaing bought the estate which was part of the original Ida Valley Farm granted in 1682 by Simon van der Stel. Madame grew up in the heart of Bourdeaux’ vineyards in France and wanted to make South African wine with a French touch – an admirable goal for a 78-year-old. Especially since she had to start from scratch by replacing the existing fruit trees with vines.

It’s good wine, too, as we sampled before we lunched. I particularly liked the unwooded Chardonnay and the Merlot. The 1783 stamp on the label represents the nearly 250 years of the family’s wine history.

Downstairs, looking over perfectly manicured vines towards the mountains is The Vine Bistro. Chef Christophe Dehosse serves up french-inspired dishes using local ingredients.

There are several offal dishes on the menu, all of which we sampled, being something of offal lovers. The pressed pork tongue terrine came with a zesty pickled porcini salad and dollops of aioli. Really love picked mushrooms.

Tongue terrine at Glenelly in Stellenbosch

The pretty terrine piled with pickled porcini

This colourful salad of spanspek (melon), mussels and prawns had a lovely light balsamic and chive dressing.

Vibrant colours and sweetness

The pork trotter was pan fried with a gribiche sauce, which is a mayonnaise-like French sauce. The dish was incredibly rich – a really indulgent starter.

A delicious parcel of richness

For mains I tucked into roast spicy lamb ribs with potato wedges and cauliflower fried with turmeric and fennel seed butter. Lovely crispy bits of lamb, perfectly cooked piping hot rosemary potatoes and  spicy cauliflower made for a lovely combination.

Tasty, crispy lamb with great vegetable accompaniments

The slow roasted Karoo Lamb shoulder came with black olive, rosemary, ratatouille, confit garlic and gratin dauphinoise.

A tasty tower topped with lamb

And how’s this for the ultimate indulgent dish? Roasted veal sweetbread with root vegetables, celeriac puree and fresh tarragon.

That was quite a collection of classically French-influenced dishes.

For dessert the trio of homemade ice-cream and sorbet made for the perfect refresher.

A cleansing dish of ice cream to finish with

A classic French pud with a real South African twist next – Canele bordelais served with fynbos honey, rooibos tea ice cream and caramelised pineapple cream. A canele is a small French pastry flavoured with rum and vanilla, with a soft custard centre and a darker caramelised crust (in case you were wondering!).

Cute caneles with cream and ice cream

And finally, a delicious and varied selection of local South African cheeses, such a pretty plate.

Five cheeses for sampling

Service is friendly and the atmosphere is laid-back, making Glenelly a lovely place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. Oh and Madame is also still here – aged 91 – keeping up the wine-making family legacy with her grandsons.

Today’s price point

Most of our party ate off the set lunch menu which was R310 (£18 at today’s exchange rate) – incredibly good value.

To give an indication of the a la carte, the sweetbreads were R210 (about £12.50) and the lamb shoulder R195 (about £11.50).

Double wine cooling and vineyard views

Glenelly Wine Estate is at Lelie Street, Ida’s Valley, Stellenbosch.

Perfect vines and mountain views

Do you have a favourite Stellenbosch restaurant that I should try? Do get in touch.

Tasty tapas at Spek & Bone in Stellenbosch

Today we’re in the beautiful university town of Stellenbosch. Majestic tree-lined streets, quirky shops and bars and a happy buzz, this university town offers many dining opportunities. One of the newest ones is chef Bertus Basson’s (of the famed Overture) latest venture, Spek & Bone.

The restaurant is named after his pet pig Spek (it means bacon in Afrikaans, poor Spek) and his boxer dog, Bone – who are best friends! There are plenty of pictures of the two of them scattered around the restaurant which is set back from busy Dorp Street down through a narrow passage to a welcoming courtyard shaded by an enormous tree.

Welcome to the road to Spek & Bone

Despite being a new opening there’s already a lot of history here. The wall on the left as you come in used to be the original market of Stellenbosch. And the huge tree you’re sitting under is the oldest fruit-producing vine in Stellenbosch. So take in your surroundings before settling down to peruse the menu which is a range of tapas-style dishes.

We started with this amazing dish of pork crackling topped with maple bacon. The lightest of crackling with great crunch combined perfectly with the slightly sticky sweetness of the bacon.

The amazing potato dish was cooked in camembert and topped with crispy bacon and thinly sliced spring onions.

Next up, fish tacos. Fresh tuna with a mix of avocado, cabbage, red onions and peppery radishes. Love a fish taco and these were beautiful with the crunchy vegetables and zesty flavours.

The Chalmar sirloin was served with a Monkey Gland baste, mushrooms, spinach puree and croquettes. Perfectly cooked medium-rare steak and a wonderful marriage of ingredients. Loved the depth of flavour of the spinach which somehow lifted the whole dish.

Spek & Bone is wonderful. We stopped off there on our way home from a visit to Franschhoek (more of which later) where we’d eaten rather a lot over the past 24 hours, so tapas suited us perfectly and we didn’t order that much. Having said that, I thought the portions were very generous.

I did feel somewhat conflicted eating bacon and crackling considering the name of the restaurant. But don’t worry, Spek is safe. The story on the menu assures us that he will never be eaten – “he sleeps on the couch and we love him dearly”. Thank goodness for that.

Right next-door is the legendary store – Oom Samie Se Winkel (which means Uncle Sammy’s shop), a Victorian-style shop that sells all food, gifts, souvenirs, antiques and all sorts of goodies. It’s a Stellenbosch institution since 1904 that’s set out over 10 rooms and it’s really well worth a visit.

Pop in and visit Oom Samie

Today’s price point

Lunch for three cost R540 (£32 at today’s exchange rate).

This included the dishes above, a lovely bottle of Rose and service.

Spek & Bone is at 84 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch.

A fabulous lunch in the Winelands at Clos Malverne

There are few better ways to spend a Saturday than dining in the Cape Winelands (well, for me anyway). Long, lazy afternoons with beautiful sunny views and amazing food and wine. Like at Clos Malvern which is set deep in the Devon Valley near Stellenbosch.

The restaurant has a wrap-around balcony with fabulous views across vines and mountains. Get a table outside and settle in for the delights of their four-course tasting menu. You can go a la carte but believe me, the tasting menu is the way to go. Great choices and even better value for money, today we got four courses for R398 (about £24 at today’s exchange rate). For that, as well as the food, you get a welcome glass of their delicious bubbly and a glass of wine with each course. Plus if you buy a case of wine to take home (and who can resist doing so?) you get R200 off your bill.

The vineyard is owned and run by the Pritchard family and the restaurant serves seasonal, contemporary dishes that are the masterpieces of Executive Chef Nadia Louw Smith.

There are several choices for each course, making for some serious decision making. Quite a few of Nadia’s dishes have a bit of Eastern inspiration, like my fabulous starter – spicy, creamy seafood pot with chilli, coriander, ginger, prawns, calamari and mussels. I could have eaten a whole vat of it! The most delicately flavoured creaminess and the freshest, perfectly cooked seafood to compliment it. I’ll be dreaming of this dish for a while.

The delicately creamy and spicy seafood pot

The smoked sea bass was served with sweet pea aioli, pea shoots, lime dressing, salmon eggs, crispy capers and a red pepper coulis. The flavours and colours of summer.

Sea bass that’s pretty as a picture

The chilled asparagus vichyssoise came with spring onion and lemon creme fraiche, marinated asparagus, a parmesan crisp and a hint of truffle. Rich and velvety with that delicious truffly undertone, a real bowl of luxury.

The wonderful mix of asparagus and truffles

Second course – what a treat to have a course between the starter and the main – and I went meaty. The oak-smoked carpaccio was served with mushroom dust and topped with shimiji mushrooms, humus, sundries tomato strips, dried olives, gran padano and vinaigrette. Who knew dust could taste so good!

Carpaccio piled with little delights

The roast chicken croquette was served with sweet and sour cabbage, thyme and lemon sour cream, caramelised onion puree and a brown onion jus.

A rich and earthy chicken croquette

My South African pork belly tasting odyssey continues (yes, it’s become an odyssey) with this amazing slow roasted dish with confit baby onions, apple jelly, shimiji mushrooms, butternut puree, five spice jus and black garlic mash. What a lovely and exotic combination.

Luscious pork belly and crunchy crackling

The tender, rare springbok loin was bobotie spiced and plated up with creamy butternut and feta risotto, whole grain mustard pickled baby onions (love what she does with her onions) and a red wine jus.

Perfectly rare springbok and creamy risotto

There’s usually a curry on the menu – and it’s always beautifully spiced. Today several of our party tucked into the Badami lamb korma – a traditional Indian curry with almonds, chillis, saffron and cardamom served with savoury rice, sourdough bread and raita.

Lamb korma and all the accompaniments

As an occasional dessert eater, I was thrilled to see my absolute favourite of puddings as an option – panna cotta. Flavoured with saffron, it was served with frozen grapes, strawberries, vanilla meringue, mango coulis and a spearmint shortbread. Beautifully creamy it went perfectly with the fruity spread – and I loved the frozen grapes.

A delightfully colourful dessert plate

The lemon tart came with lime and coconut liqueur ice cream, chilli caramel and a sesame brittle. As it was Trevor’s birthday the next day I organised with the kitchen to make his a birthday dessert plate – happy birthday Trevor. The classic lemon tart went beautifully with the tropical flavours of the ice cream.

Lemon tart and birthday greetings

And here’s the view, just heavenly.

Stunning views across vines to the mountains

Inevitably we left clutching our case of Clos Malverne’s wonderful wines (too much of a bargain to resist that R200 off). I particularly love their bubbles, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet/Merlot blend. Now every time I sip on one of them I’ll be mentally transported back to the glorious Devon Valley.

Clos Malverne is at Devon Valley Road, Stellenbosch

The joys of Jordan Day

Today is Jordan Day. I’ve decided it needs to be officially a Day, one with a Capital D, that has to be set aside every year (at least) for a visit to this wonderful restaurant nestling in the Cape Winelands.

The restaurant is the baby of genius chef George Jardine, whose latest addition in Stellenbosch (which opened a few weeks ago) I visited recently. You can read about it by clicking here.

A beautiful setting with wonderful far-ranging views, friendly service and simply the most amazing food make Jordan Day one of the most looked forward to and enjoyed in the year. The menu changes daily based on the best seasonal ingredients available.

Even if you’ve never been here before you know you are in for a treat when the bread arrives. Three different types – warm, delicate mini ciabattas, plump, round vetkoek (a fried dough bread common in Afrikaans cookery – kind of like a savoury doughnut) and chunky seed bread. Served with delicate bowls of hummus, garlic mayo and pumpkin seed pesto. A delightful dipping start to lunch.


A beautiful board of bread to get started

The menu has five choices each for starter and main and even then it’s hard to pick! I had to focus and work on eliminating least favourite-sounding dishes, which in itself wasn’t easy. I guess it doesn’t matter hugely as plates to gasp at are delivered all round.

The line caught ceviche of yellowtail was served in an aromatic plum dressing with buffalo milk labneh, red onion and coriander. Fresh, fruity, summery and beautifully colourful.


A vibrantly tasty, light fish dish

Double-herbed calves liver was served with smoked garlic dressed lentils, crispy kale, parmesan and charred onion. I love calves liver and this is one of the best versions I’ve tasted, the herby flavours delicately infusing the richness of the meat. The lentils were also wonderful and the lightness of the kale made for a perfectly rounded dish.


Herby liver plays a starring role in a wonderfully constructed dish

I love oysters and order them frequently when in South Africa.  They’re fresh, tasty and light. I’ve been told you use more calories eating them than they contain – I’ve embraced that as the total truth. Today’s oyster offering was in a league of its own. Saldanha Bay oysters were prepared three ways with spicy tapioca, chorizo and plum and with spinach and mousseline – third one served warm. I must admit to being dubious about warm oysters but this baby was the best of a very good lot. A healthy chunk of spinach on the base, a luscious sauce on top and a warmed-through oyster that melted in my mouth. Mousseline is hollandaise sauce with whipped cream added to it. Enough said…just please bring me more!


Oysters lifted to higher heights

On to mains. The porcini dusted Glen Oaks pork fillet came with lightly grilled eve figs, swiss chard, potato fondant and peppered jus. Who knew porcini dust was so good? I wanted to lick it off the plate, making sure I got every tiny speck. The pork was slightly underdone and oh-so tender and flavoursome. Wish I could cook pork like this at home.


And now for the prettiest dish of the year (so far at least). The warm salad of roasted East Coast hake came with orange dressed endive, organic young beeets, dried orange and peas, making for an absolute artwork. Succulent flakes of warm hake with the freshest crunch of salad.


How’s this for a stunning salad?

The aged Chalmar sirloin was presented medium rare (chef’s recommendation) with a soft herb crust, creamed young spinace, glazed marrow and charred red onion. A beautiful combo of ingredients all prepared to perfection.


A simply superb sirloin dish

Crispy hand cut chips couldn’t be resisted, and I’m glad I didn’t try – you can tell just by looking at them that they’re going to taste amazing.


Order a portion of chips for the table – you’ll love them

If you’re a Jordan virgin there’s one thing you have to know. You’ve got to have dessert. Their honey and poppy seed souffle is legendary. It’s huge, fluffy, light, creamy, sweet and delectable. No matter how full you are you’ll be able to fit one in – believe me, I’ve done it myself.


Jordan’s souffle is the King of desserts

Luckily most people on our table ordered the magical souffle so I knew I was in for several sneaky mouthfuls. Which meant I could also make the vital visit to their cheese room. Oh those aromas as you enter this special little place for cheese lovers! Today there were 15 cheeses on offer – all South African. Cheese choices don’t get harder – or easier – so much good stuff on offer.


Some of the wonderful cheeses to sample

My selection of cheddar (two portions for cheddar lovers on the table to sample), goat’s cheese, camembert and gorgonzola was sublime. Great cheese brings me joy – served here with the sweetest of preserved figs – I was basking in Jordan joy.


My chosen cheeseboard

You can’t visit Jordan without tasting their fabulous wines. The farm is over 300 years old and the latest guardians of the land, Gary and Kathy Jordan, have been making wine here since 1993. And it’s great wine. So great that you can’t leave Jordan without a case of their legendary unoaked Chardonnay. So we didn’t.

Happiness is summer feet and a case of Jordan Chardonnay

Happiness is summer feet and a case of Jordan Chardonnay

This was visit number four for me to Jordan – four very memorable visits. And I can’t wait for visit number five. Bring on the next Jordan Day.

Jordan is at Stellenbosch Kloof Road. You can find out more here:

Restaurant Jardine in stunning Stellenbosch

Today we’re heading to the bustling university town of Stellenbosch. I love the Cape Winelands and try to dine out in one of the many amazing eateries there as often as I can. That usually involves heading for a wine farm set deep in the countryside. Which means I’ve driven past Stellenbosch many, many times but very rarely driven into the heart of the town. Well, that’s not going to happen anymore. I’d forgotten how beautiful Stellenbosch is. The amazing architecture of the ancient university buildings (the Arts Department was founded in 1874), the magnificent trees lining the roads, the bustle of students going about their daily learning (lucky them to be studying in such an amazing place) and the fabulous pavement cafe lifestyle.

Even better, today we were having lunch in the latest opening from one of my favourite chefs, George Jardine. He’s the genius behind Jordan which I’ve blogged about several times before and happily plan to be again soon! The new offering is on buzzing Andringa Street opposite the national monument that is the Stellenbosch Hotel. We wove our way past so many eating establishments on our short walk there from the car park it’s lucky we were focussed and stuck to our original plan. Seriously, we could have ended up anywhere, there’s so much on offer.

We were seated in this laid-back little restaurant in the cobbled, covered verandah area, where it feels like you’ve been welcomed to someone’s house.  Well, it was someone’s house once so that makes sense.

The simplest of menus was presented to us. For R160 (Just over £7 at today’s exchange rate -what great value) we could look forward to two courses. First up the garden salad and then three choices for mains.

I always love it when I see those two words on a menu in a good restaurant. I had the one of the best salads ever in the fabulous Borgo Santo Pietro in Tuscany a couple of years back, made simply from whatever they retrieved from the garden that day. Today we were presented with this fabulous board of greenery. The crunchiest of endive (love a good endive) and a richly creamy gorgonzola dressing. The simplicity of a few, perfect ingredients offering a wonderful combo of flavours. A lovely light start for lunch on a hot summer’s day.


Shades of green and tastes of cheese

The salad was served with freshly baked mini ciabattas and an indulgent garlic mayo. I’m not a big bread eater, but even I couldn’t resist these warm parcels of deliciousness.


Even the bread’s beautiful at Jardine

For mains we had the choice of a vegetarian gnocchi, a fish dish and steak. The aged Chalmar sirloin was served with celeriac puree, creamed kale with mustard dressing and veal sweetbreads. I’m surprised how often people misunderstand what sweetbreads are and where they come from. They’re from the thymus gland which is in the throat or neck of the animal. I’m guessing they’re called sweetbreads because they do taste pretty sweet and they have a lovely soft consistency, a bit like fresh bread. Who knows? Anyway, they worked really well with today’s dish providing a different flavour and texture to the richness of the steak – which was outstanding. Topped with a vibrant green herb crust it was tender and one of the tastiest pieces of meat I’ve had in a while. Interestingly our waitress didn’t ask us how we wanted it done. I wasn’t nervous because I trust in the chef’s expertise and expect he knows better than me how the dish should be cooked – and I expect it’s not going to be overcooked. I was right and the medium rare dish arrived looking and tasting like a masterpiece.


The sweetest of sweetbreads sandwich in the sliced steak

Today’s fish dish was baked line caught silverfish with a soft gruyere crust, creamed spinach, confit garlic and pomme dauphine. Not a fish I’ve seen on menus before, we were told it’s like bream, the good news is that it’s seriously tasty. The sauce was amazing and the little crunchy potato balls a joy.


Silverfish that deserves gold stars

Time for dessert. Sorry, we just couldn’t resist! As regular readers will know I’m not a big pudding eater but am a lover of panna cotta, so it gets me every time. Today it was coconut milk panna cotta with aromatic sago and air-dried and fresh summer fruits. Served in a little kilner jar, it’s a beautiful looking dessert. Creamy, lightly coconut-y panna cotta is made even more delicious by the little sago bubbles that burst in your mouth. And the tiniest slivers of air-dried mango, pineapple and apple are a delightful addition. There was also fresh passion fruit drizzled over the top – three of my favourite fruits in one jar.

The Valrhona chocolate terrine came with summer berries and white chocolate mousse and delighted the table’s chocolate lovers.


Happiness is a tableful of dessert

Jardine had only been open for a couple of weeks when we visited. It’s a small, intimate space with a homely feel and wonderfully friendly and welcoming service. I like the idea of offering limited choices on the menu – you know the dishes are all going to be perfectly presented.

And if you’re heading that way, I’d highly recommend that you stay the night and spend some time meandering along those Stellenbosch streets. It’s a town well worth spending hours in. And of course it also means you’ll have more time to test out some of the myriad bars and restaurants. I think I’ll do it myself next time.

Jardine is at 1 Andringa Street, Stellenbosch.