Where to stay in Franschhoek, South Africa: Mont Rochelle

The heaven that is Mont Rochelle

Franschhoek is one of those places I keep going back to. I simply have to. This small town deep in the Winelands of the Cape, just about an hour from central Cape Town, is known as the food capital of South Africa. For good reason – there are certainly more restaurants than you can possibly eat in on one visit (or even several!). And there’s even more wine to taste. A serious gourmet heaven in the most beautiful of surrounds.

Today we’re heading for the paradise that is Mont Rochelle. This intimate 26-room hotel is part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition Collection. It’s set in expansive grounds just outside the centre of town with fabulous views across the vines and valleys towards the majesty of the distant mountains.

Mont Rochelle: hotel

The beautifully stylish hotel awaits, across the vines

Here’s what I loved about it.

The welcome and the service

You’ve barely stepped foot out of your car when you’re enveloped in the warmth of Mont Rochelle. Peter is waiting to enthusiastically welcome you and before you know it you’re on the verandah taking in the breathtaking view with a glass of bubbles in your hand! I certainly felt instantly at home.

All the staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgable without being intrusive. Some of the best service I’ve ever encountered makes Mont Rochelle an even more enjoyable experience.

The beautiful suites

Having finished our bubbles, we were escorted to our Cap Classique Suite in the Vineyard Wing. And some suite it turned out to be, too! An enormous bedroom, ensuite bathroom with spacious shower and deeply inviting bath and large lounge area with inclusive mini bar make up the interior. It’s certainly breathtaking.

Mont Rochelle: bedroom

A hotel room that’s the ultimate in comfort

Mont Rochelle: lounge

And then there’s the elegant, spacious lounge

Gotta love an expansive bathroom. Unfortunately due to the dreadful drought so I didn’t have the chance to luxuriate in this mega-bath. Think it’s worth going back for that alone. Not that I need an excuse.

Mont Rochelle: bathroom

Being clean and fresh has never been so stylish

And then you go outside. The double verandah leads to a private, heated plunge pool and looks out across rich green vineyards and valleys towards the towering mountains in the distance. This is the sort of place you’re never going to want to leave. Like ever.

Mont Rochelle: verandah

Looking back over our private plunge pool to our double verandah

Mont Rochelle: hanging chair

Terry chills out on the hanging chair

Mont Rochelle give all guests a signature duck, so cute. Here are mine chilling by my plunge pool.

Mont Rochelle: pool

Little Mont Rochelle ducks chill too, by the pool

Beds are turned down and scattered with rose petals while you’re out exploring the delights of Franschhoek.

Mont Rochelle: petals

Petals, robes and slippers ready for you after dinner

The pools

The main pool has even more spectacular mountain and valley views. It’s heated and lined with plenty of comfy loungers with a bar at one end for a reviving poolside cocktail or a glass of the local wine. The perfect place to soak up the sun and relaxation in luxury.

Mont Rochelle: pool

The perfect pool complete with sun loungers

Our suite also had its own heated plunge pool, twinkling invitingly in the sun with more fabulous vineyard and mountain views.

Mont Rochelle: room view

Chill out overlooking the private pool towards the valley

The stunning design and art

As well as being set in fabulously beautiful natural surroundings, Mont Rochelle is stylish and packed with quirky art. And there are plenty of surprises in store with myriad nooks and crannies to explore. Like this beautiful fountain.

Mont Rochelle: fountain

The picturesque fountain and beautiful valley views

And the Mont Rochelle rhino looking majestically across the valley.

Mont Rochelle: rhino

Love the Mont Rochelle rhino hiding in the garden

And also the clambering goats in the restaurant. I really wanted to take one home.

Mont Rochelle: goats

Quirky goat statues grace the restaurant

Mont Rochelle: Miko

Miko is stylish and unique in its design

The feast at breakfast time

Start off your day with a wonderful selection of tropical fruit, pastries, cereals and other cold delights. Passion fruit is my favourite and these were real beauties.

Mont Rochelle: breakfast fruit

Perfect passion fruit tops the tower of fruit

Before moving on to ponder the delightful cooked options on offer. A full English is always hard to resist and this was a substantial plate complete with all the favourites.

Mont Rochelle: full English

Starting the day with a tasty full English breakfast

I treated myself to a twice baked cheese souffle with mushroom sauce, crisp bacon and creamed spinach. What an indulgent start to the day.

Mont Rochelle: souffle

Souffle for breakfast, the ultimate morning indulgence

Beautiful Franschhoek town

As hard as it is to tear yourself away from the luxuries of Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek also has a lot to offer. The best way to explore the picture perfect town and taste the incredible range of local wine is on the legendary Wine Tram. You can read all about my hedonistic day of wine tasting here.

And finally, explore the lovely, individual shops, stop for a coffee at Sacred Ground (my favourite name for a coffee shop), and certainly try out one (or some) of the amazing, high quality restaurants. I’d particularly recommend Marigold in the main street for fabulous Indian cuisine. You can read about our dinner at Marigold here.

Of course in a foodie heaven like Franschhoek there are always new restaurants opening. So there’s just the excuse I need for another visit. Bring it on!

Mont Rochelle is at Dassenberg Road, Franschhoek, 7960, South Africa.

Lunch in the Winelands at wonderful Terroir

Today we’re heading for lunch just off the R44 outside Somerset West in the Cape Winelands. Finally! Because I’ve been waiting for my return to Terroir for what seems a very long time!

Terroir is on the Kleine Zalze wine estate and opened in 2004. I’m pretty sure I’ve been every year since then! And it’s always an absolute pleasure to sit under the trees looking out towards De Zalze Golf Course, tucking into their amazing food. It’s certainly one of the most relaxed dining experiences you’ll ever have.

While we pondered our choices, the breadboard arrived to sighs of delight. The bread was served with a babaganoush puree, sage butter and smoked olives. Slices of ciabatta and tomato bread, still warm for the oven made the perfect partners to the silkily indulgent sage butter and the amazingly sweet and intense babaganoush puree – so good I’m going to have to make some myself.

Terroir: breadboard

The perfect start: bread, olives, sage butter and babaganous puree

What’s on the menu

There’s a choice of four starters and four mains, chalked up on the large blackboards.

The yellowtail ceviche was served with mango chipotle and a zingy grapefruit dressing. The perfect mix of sweet and sour with thin slices of melt-in-the-mouth fish. Another perfect summery dish.

Terroir: yellowtail ceviche

The prettiest of ceviche in shades of green and yellow

Terroir’s prawn risotto is legendary, served with the spicy Americaine sauce and topped with flavoursome prawns. It’s so creamy and bursting with flavour you almost want to cry. This is the restaurant’s signature dish and the only thing that remains permanently on the menu – apparently when chef Michael Broughton tries to take it off the protests can be heard echoing through the Winelands. Quite right, too.

Terroir: prawn risotto

The signature prawn risotto with stunning sauce Americaine

And now for an onion tart – something I’m very partial to. But this is no ordinary onion tart, with its crumbed goats cheese, honeyed figs, sage and sweet barbecue sauce atop the lightest, crispest sheet of pastry. The crunchy balls of cheese were quite a revelation and the amazing balance of sweet and savoury meant every mouthful seemed to dance in my mouth. One of my dining companions muttered between every mouthful about ordering another one…it seemed too good just to settle for one helping!

Terroir: onion tart

A mouthwateringly beautiful tart

Because it was so good I have to show it to you twice.

Terroir: onion tart

Close up to the delectable onion tart

The beef fillet was served on a swoosh of mushroom puree with Anna potatoes and baby carrots. I don’t know who Anna is but her potatoes are something out of this world. And that mushroom puree pulled all the elements together so beautifully. Pretty as a picture, too.

Terroir: fillet

The tenderest of fillet makes a beautiful plate

For a side we shared a dish of beetroot, hummus and pumpkin seeds. A totally yum combination.

Terroir: beetroot and hummus

Our lovely pink and white side

Seared springbok loin comes with dollops of vibrant pumpkin puree, beetroot, gingerbread (which is nestling under the beetroot) and the most incredible whisky sauce. The combination of flavours and textures in this dish produced something totally heavenly. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Seems like I can almost taste it!

Terroir: springbok

What a stunning springbok dish

Dessert you can’t resist

Terroir is one of those places where you simply can’t resist the puddings – and nor should you – they are truly memorable. This beautiful concoction of mango served with honey oats crumb, mascarpone, passion fruit and coriander again offers the incredibly perfect combination of flavours and textures.

Terroir: Mango dessert

What a plate of sweet and zesty deliciousness

And for those with not much of a sweet tooth there’s always the cheese plate. Substantial chunks of cheese perch on top of a crisp flat bread with the sweetest of pickled grapes and a zingy chutney. Clever!

Terroir: cheese board

Inspired serving idea – you don’t really even need the board

The Sacher comes with caramel crunch and kirsch ice cream. Sacher is a type of chocolate cake or torte that was invented by Austrian Franz Sacher in Vienna in 1832. Clever him! This wonderful version of the dish that will certainly satisfy even the most demanding of chocolate lovers.

Terroir: Sacher

It’s chocolate tart heaven to finish off with

As well as the lovely wines from the Kleine Zalze farm you’re eating in, there’s also a good selection of others – so you’re spoilt for wine choice.

Terroir: Wine

Our wine breathes in the decanter at the end of the table

Terroir: blackboard

The important job of dessert description

Today’s price point

Terroir is one of the top restaurants in South Africa and one of my favourites in the world, yes the whole world! Consequently it’s a bit of a more expensive dining experience than most of the meals we’ve enjoyed recently. Having said that it’s still on the low side for such a great experience –  amazing value for money.

Starters are from R135 (approx £8.00)

Main courses are from R250 (approx £14.70)

Desserts are from R130 (approx £7.60)

I was so inspired by my sublime lunch at Terroir I left clutching Michael Broughton’s recipe book, determined to create some of his amazing dishes at home. Wish me luck! I might even invite you round for dinner!

Terroir: Book

Time to recreate Terroir’s magic at home

Terroir is on Kleine Zalze Wine Estate just off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

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.

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.

Another great Franschhoek restaurant: Ryan’s Kitchen

Today we’re having dinner in the beautiful Winelands town of Franschhoek. About an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the valley of Franschhoek (which means French Corner in Afrikaans) was originally settled in 1688 by 176 French Huguenot refugees. There’s a definite French feel to the town with many of the settlers naming their new farms after where they came from in France.

Which means the town has a strong wine culture which, along with the stunning scenery and architecture, make Franschhoek one of the most desirable towns in South Africa. It’s also often described as South Africa’s gourmet capital as it’s packed with so many top-quality restaurants. Tonight we chose to have dinner at Ryan’s Kitchen.

It’s a welcoming, modern space with an open kitchen that’s buzzing with activity. Our table was close enough to the action to watch the meticulous presentation skills that every chef is clearly required to have to produce the beautiful plates of food that we enjoyed here.

Ryan’s goal is to produce modern South African cuisine using local ingredient, all prepared with imagination, flair and ingenuity. And he certainly didn’t disappoint.

First up, the breadboard of the year was delivered. How we loved his fabulous beer and cocoa creation, bread has never had a more enticing aroma. The other selection was an equally delicious turmeric bread.

One of the best bread offerings ever

And then what we weren’t expecting – an amuse bouche feast. Croquettes, a pea marshmallow and tasty potatoes topped with smoked fish. Wow!

Close up on the wonderful croquettes

A spoonful of pea marshmallow, who’d have thought?

Smoky fish and delicate potato flavours

Now that got the meal off to a great start…particularly as we were feeling incredibly hungry after a day exploring on the Wine Tram. And we hadn’t even started on our starters yet.

The duck egg 63C was served with seasonal salad greens, asparagus cream, rye wafer and black garlic aioli. A wonderful mixture of flavours and textures with the perfectly (and scientifically) cooked egg. A proper fresh start.

Beautiful colours and flavours bring the whole dish together

Here’s a real innovative dish – a pulled duck koeksister with sweet potato, chicory, vegetable dice and coconut broth. A koeksister (a traditional Afrikaans treat)  is usually sweet – fried dough infused with syrup or honey (loads of it).It’s derived from the Dutch word koek which generally means a wheat flour confectionary. So today’s revelation was a savoury version, full of rich and luscious pulled duck served in a creamy broth.

Koeksisters don’t get better looking than this

The Karoo lamb belly was slow cooked and served with smoked green chakalaka, sweetbreads and spiced peanuts. Chakalaka is a traditional South African relish, though it’s normally tomato-based, Ryan has taken it to a different place – love what he’s doing with the local favourites.

A vibrant plate of lamb delight

The grass-fed beef sirloin steak was served with lime and lemongrass, coconut creamed spinach and heirloom carrots. More Asian flavours being introduced here with delicious results.

A delicate tower of steak with an Asian touch

Another great South African ingredient – springbok – was served with runner bean relish, pressed potato, fried eggplant and broccoli puree. Perfectly rare with crispy accompaniments.

Tasty springbok with a touch of green

Phew, that was all quite something. There’s a lot going on in Ryan’s dishes – though I’m pleased to say we all thought everything worked really well together.

The portions are certainly substantial and with the unexpected addition of fabulous bread and amuse bouche we were all feeling rather replete.

But that didn’t stop us from ordering dessert – and thank goodness for that. This is one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten, never have I experienced such a souffle spectacle. The smoked plum souffle was cooked with curry leaf and served with buffalo yogurt ice-cream. It was fluffy, pink and melt-in-the-mouth, like clouds of heaven delivered to our table. As well as adding that perfect pinkness,  the plum gave a lovely tart flavour.

The queen of all the souffles

A dessert so good I had to show it from two angles

We also shared the vanilla custard which came with mango, mango sorbet, candied pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed ice-cream.

Delicate beauty on a plate

Now that was quite a feast. It’s definitely hearty fare at Ryan’s Kitchen so I’d advise working up an appetite before you tuck into his inspired dishes.

Thanks to my friend Candy and her great photography skills for the pictures of the duck koeksister and springbok steak – my efforts were blurred…yes, it does happen, especially when you’ve spent the afternoon wine tramming around the stunning Franschhoek valley.

Ryan’s Kitchen is at 1 Place Vendome, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. You see it’s very French in Franschhoek.

Coming soon!

Find out all about our adventure on the fabulous Franschhoek Wine Tram.

You’re gonna want to climb onboard, believe me.

 

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.