south africa wine region stellenbosch © Will Travel for Food

Vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture around South Africa’s wine region

After our 5-day safari in the middle of the bush at Kruger National Park, we hopped on a plane in Johannesburg and landed in Cape Town two hours later. We rented a car and headed east to visit some of Western Cape’s wine region. Apartheid and the ensuing international embargo on the country lifted about 20 odd years ago and South African wine has gained in popularity ever since.  It is one of the world’s best wine producing region with its first production dating back to 1659. Most of the South African wine production is concentrated around Cape Town in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Constantia, which all enjoy a very Mediterranean climate.  While I was in the Western Cape, I visited Constantia, Stellenbosch and the Franschhoek Valley located within the Paarl wine region. Vines in these regions extend as far as the eye can see on either sides of the very picturesque and winding roads. The rolling hills punctuated by the occasional lonesome tree beg for a picture-taking stop at every turn. Every vineyard is more breathtaking than the next and the choice of which one to visit is overwhelming. I spent days researching the many options and in the end, I thankfully had some help from the very nice folks at the Wines of South Africa who pointed me in the direction of some of these absolutely amazing wine and food options.

Almost every vineyard within these regions boasts its own fine dining restaurant offering extensive lunch and/or dinner services. The underlying philosophy that dominates among chefs and restaurants in these regions (and in the rest of the country for that matter) is one that focuses on local and seasonal ingredients. With most of the region being blessed with a fertile soil and a slightly more moderate climate than our northern one, the task of relying on local produce is made easier. However, what astonishes is that every vineyard carefully cultivates its own vegetable and fruit garden, in addition to working closely with local producers. This South African market cuisine is complemented by the usual proteins we all know but also by some specific local fish and game, including a variety of wild antelope. A wide variety of local cheeses is also available as well as local olive oil which most restaurants serve. The most beautiful part of all this is that all these fine dining establishments are much more affordable than their European and North American counterparts and the wine is almost as affordable as the bottled water! Win win, you say?


Constantia is the oldest wine region in South Africa, its first wine harvest dating back to the 17th century. First famous for its vin de Constance, a sweet fortified wine, it now produces a variety of other wines, most famous of which is its Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the closest wine region to downtown Cape Town, located about 20 minutes south of it on the Cape Peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic ocean. If you don’t have a car in Cape Town, you can can easily grab a taxi and go to one of these two gourmet locations for lunch, dinner or a vineyard and wine tasting visit.

Where to eat in Constantia:

The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel, 93 Brommersvlei Road, Constantia, Cape Town

greenhouse restaurant constantia south africa © Will Travel for Food

The Greenhouse restaurant in Constantia

The Greenhouse is located inside the beautiful colonial estate of Relais & Châteaux’ Cellars-Hohenort Hotel. Cape Town’s first Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef, Peter Tempelhoff mans the stoves with expertise at this very elegant restaurant. The limited seating is reserved for some lucky 45 diners seated in several luxuriously-decorated adjoining dining rooms. The cuisine here is modern and inspired by South African ingredients, flavours and cultures. The service is professional without ever being stuffy or pretentious. The Greenhouse offers a seasonal 4-course tasting menu as well as 7-course fish-centric or meat-centric menus. It is worth noting that they also offer a 4-course or 7-course vegetarian tasting menu. The wine pairings are divine and worth “splurging” for (between $25 and $35 for the 7-course menus). Although I was there at night and couldn’t really enjoy the views, they are apparently spectacular, whether those of Table Mountain or the award-winning gardens.

Constantia Uitsig Wine Estate, Spaanschemat River Road, Constantia Uitsig Wine Estate, Cape Town

la colombe restaurant cape town south africa © Will Travel for Food

La Colombe restaurant in Constantia

La Colombe ranked number 12 on the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants of the World Awards in 2010. It was also attributed the Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Africa and Middle East Award. Those are some of the reasons why it was part of my list. Another reason was the fact that its name was present on every list of good restaurants to eat at in the Western Cape. When that many people are listing it as one of their favourites, you stop asking questions and you just go. Good thing we did because it was a truly lovely dining experience.

Lunch in La Colombe’s elegant yet relaxed country-chic dining room comes with a great view of the sunny courtyard outside and vineyards beyond. The South African fresh, simple and elegant market cuisine at this establishment has French and Asian influences and is inspired by local ingredients. The à la carte lunch menu was brought to our table on a board and carefully explained by our lovely and knowledgeable waitress. In addition to that, 2 or 3-course set menus are also available. The service is courteous, unpretentious and absolutely impeccable and each plate is a work of art. Although the dictionary-size award-winning wine list can be daunting, just ask the very helpful sommelier who can recommend great wine pairings with your meal. You can also pick a wine or a great bubbly from the Uitsig Wine Estate that La Colombe is located on. Don’t forget to walk around the lovely property after lunch to check out the grounds, the vines and the lovely Cape Dutch architecture!



Stellenbosch is one of South Africa’s second oldest wine regions and accounts for about 15% of the country’s production. It is an absolutely breathtaking region to visit! Stellenbosch was our first stop when we landed in Cape Town. It is a short 30-minute drive east of Cape Town and its airport. If someone had dropped me there without telling me where I was, I could’ve sworn I was in the south of France or Tuscany or anywhere around the Mediterranean really. The unmistakable silhouette of the Stellenbosch mountain range is the only telltale sign that you are not in Kansas – or in this case, Europe – anymore.

Where to eat in Stellenbosch:

Jordan Wine Estate, Stellenbosch Kloof Road, Vlottenburg, Stellenbosch, Western Cape

jordan restaurant stellenbosch south africa © Will Travel for Food

The gorgeous landscape and food at Jordan restaurant in Stellenbosch

Lunch at Jordan was one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I had in South Africa. This was our first stop in the Western Cape after our bush safari at Kruger National Park and what a delicious introduction to South African cuisine this was! The drive to the Jordan estate is a beautiful one that zigzags its way around several estates. The spectacular views of the valley and the Stellenbosch mountains from the top of the hill estate’s dining room and terrace, the beautiful food, the open kitchen showcasing the talented team, the minimalist and serene decor, the impressive wine list and the delicious collection of perfectly-ripened local cheeses all contribute in making Jordan a must-stop if you’re in the Western Cape. The meal starts off with a beautiful homemade bread service (The Bakery at Jordan is a now a new addition to the estate) that will be hard to resist but resist you must because the portions here are generous and you will want to enjoy every last morsel. The food at Jordan is beautiful yet not dainty, refined yet not precious. The wine list includes the estates award-winning products as well as some of the region’s best wines. Whatever you do, do not miss a chance to visit the cheese room and taste some of the country’s best cheeses sourced from small producers and often not available for retail elsewhere. A word of warning, give yourself some time after lunch to linger around the breathtaking property and enjoy the views.

Lunch at Jordan was generously offered courtesy of The Jordan estate and the Wines of South Africa



Located about 75 kilometers east of Cape Town, Franschhoek (“French Corner” in Afrikaans) is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. It was established by Huguenot refugees who named their farms after the towns they came from. Most of these farms have kept the same names and been converted into vineyards. The French Huguenot settlers used the skills they learned in France to help establish the South African wine industry. The town of Franschhoek is a nice little one, bohemian in spirit and dotted with cute shops, art galleries, bakeries, cafés and restaurants.

Where to eat in Franschhoek:

Corner Berg & Wilhelmina Streets, Franschhoek, Western Cape

the tasting room restaurant franschooek south africa © Will Travel for Food

One of the best meals I had in South Africa at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek

The Tasting Room was one of the restaurants I was most excited about! It is located within Le Quartier Français hotel, a gorgeous Relais et Châteaux establishment in the heart of Franschhoek. It ranks number 63 on the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants of the World Awards in 2013 and has been a presence on the list since as far back as 2002. The dining room is simply decorated, with bright accent colours and African art adorning its walls. There are no white table cloths on the tables and no dress code, which makes The Tasting Room feel casual and comfortable. The only menu available at The Tasting Room is an 8-course tasting menu that you can pair up with some incredible local wines. Relais et Châteaux Grande Chef Margot Janse’s cuisine is African-inspired and full of surprises when it comes to presentation, ingredients, cooking methods and service. The modern techniques and beautiful presentations are a constant revelation with every amuse bouche, dish and dessert. Some of the very local ingredients we discovered while we were there included waterblommetjies, baobab, kapokbos, kabeljou, mebos and sour figs. The extremely pretty second dish on our tasting menu was entitled “A spring walk through Franschhoek” and consisted of greens and herbs foraged from around the restaurant. It looked, smelled and tasted like a perfect spring day in a field of grass and wild flowers. The service is impeccable yet casual and so much fun! It is punctuated with anecdotes about certain products and producers that are meant to educate and amuse. I cannot stress how much fun and delicious this dining experience was and I absolutely recommend taking the short drive from Cape Town, staying at Le Quartier Français (or Delicious Hotel) and dining at The Tasting Room.

Note: Reservations have to be made well ahead to score a spot at this restaurant. It is easier if you are a guest at Le Quartier Français or its slightly more affordable sister establishment Delicious Hotel (see below).

Môreson Farm, Happy Valley Road, Franschhoek

Bread & Wine Restaurant is ideal for lunch or a weekend brunch. Located on Môreson, the family farm and vineyard associated with Le Quartier Français, it offers lunch service daily. The chef’s specialty is his home-cured charcuterie with a South African twist. The restaurant has the feel of a big, high-ceiling barn with eclectic and rustic-chic furniture. The cuisine is simple, fresh and inspired by the beautiful surroundings.

19 Huguenot Road Franschhoek

Deluxe Coffeeworks has two branches in Cape Town and one in Franschhoek. The latter holds a special place in my heart since it was the first “bloody great” cup of coffee I had after having been in South Africa for over a week. There was no chance of getting a good coffee in the middle of the bush at Kruger and that was fine but I desperately needed a good latte after the first week ended and the one at Deluxe hit the spot! The actual shop is small, lovely and decorated with vintage and industrial objects. It boasts a delightful little terrace outside where one can linger while sipping on a great cup. Deluxe roasts and supplies beans all over the country. It’s a great spot to get a great cup if you’re in Franschhoek.

Klapmuts Simondium Road, Franschhoek

babylonstoren stellenbosch western cape © Will Travel for Food

Vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture around South Africa’s wine region

I loved the afternoon I spent walking around the 8-acre fruit and vegetable garden at Babylonstoren where I encountered chicken, ducks and donkeys. The farm is one of the best preserved and oldest werfs (or Cape Dutch farms) with some of the buildings dating as far back as 1690. The gardens are formal in structure and inspired by the mythical gardens of Babylon. Over 300 varieties of edible plants are grown as organically as possible and watered by a system that uses gravity to bring water from a stream into waterways. I have rarely seen a garden so beautiful and so well attended to. The fact that you can reach out, pick something off the tree and eat it is just an added bonus! Guests are invited to join in the harvesting, pruning, planting or picking of the fruit, herbs, nuts, spices and vegetables and you can find out what is being harvested on a daily basis by checking their website. The garden supplements Babel, the on-site restaurant, as well as the garden Spa and the limited guest accommodations. Babylonstoren is also one of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture I encountered while in the Western Cape with is lovely gables, thatched roofs and whitewashed walls. Don’t forget to stop by the shop to purchase some of the estates’ wines, charcuterie, cheeses and olive oils to bring back home.

Note: Please note that if you’d like to take a guided tour of the gardens, you need to book ahead of time. 

Where to stay in Franschhoek:

Corner Berg & Wilhelmina Streets, Franschhoek, Western Cape

le quartier francais hotel franschooek south africa © Will Travel for Food

The beautiful breakfast spread and grounds at Le Quartier Français hotel in Franschhoek

The elegant rooms and suites at the Relaix et Châteaux Le Quartier Français are located in several adjoining buildings all connected by gardens and pools. Some of the suites are as large as my apartment and they all boast free WiFi, fine linen, plush towels, pool and garden access and a Nespresso coffee machine among other amenities. If you don’t need to be in such luxurious surroundings, Delicious Hotel, Le Quartier Français’ hip sister, is located just a few steps further and is also connected by gardens and a smaller pool to the rest of the establishment. It offers smaller rooms that despite their names (Itsy Bitsy, Teeny Weeny and Bigger Than a Bikini) are not too small and just fine. They are equipped with almost the same amenities as the other rooms and have a view of their very own small pool and lush gardens. If you do book a room, make sure to add breakfast in the beautiful Garden Room to your booking. Fresh fruit, granola and pastries, an array of freshly-squeezed juices as well as hot breakfast choices are available with a lovely view of the courtyard.

dessert-at-le-quartier-francais south africa © Will Travel for Food

A lovely and spectacular dessert at The Tasting Room: baobab, coconut, honeybush and caramel

For more photos of my stay in South Africa’s wine country, check out my Facebook album here.

Don’t forget to check my Google Map of the Western Cape region and all the places I visited while there and stay tuned for my next blog post on what to do and where to eat in Cape Town!

For more information on South Africa’s wine country, see

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