FINE DINING IN THE WINELANDS

It was my lady love Caroline Bayly’s birthday weekend last weekend. Last year, we went to the Stellenbosch Hydro (Fat camp). My girlfriend did not take kindly to being surprised to a weekend of lettuce leaves and no wine. However, the multiple massages and treatments smoothed things over. Having learned my lesson, this year we embarked in mission of leaving no foamy entrée or elaborate desert unturned. We hit Rust en Vrede, Bertus Basson in Spice Route and Chefs Warehouse in Beau Constantia on consecutive days. Here is my prognosis:

Rust en Vrede

Look, Jean Engelbrecht know the business of quality. This was our couple night, and from the breathtaking drive and the personal greeting from the gate reception, to the escorted restaurant entrance, and surprisingly the remembering that it was her birthday (I mentioned this briefly) and the fuss made over this – it was an impressive production from start to finish. We did the 6 course pairing menu, and it was consistent with my view of fine dining – the starters were amazing, the mains were serviceable, the pairings were spot on and the service impeccable. The opulent chocolate birthday cake at the end was probably excessive, but impossible to not polish off with due haste. They started us off with the Tuna Tartar, which was wonderful, but then the Carbonara Tortellini hit it out of the ballpark. After that, the Duck , the Beef Fillet, and the cheese soufflé (and I like me a cheese soufflé) all did the restaurant’s rep justice. But the Tortellini is what will bring me back.

Bertus Basson at Spice Route

Now, when you want to celebrate your girlfriends birthday with her parents, and bring the dog, your options narrow down. Luckily, Spice Route out at Paarl is a dog friendly estate, and we know from experience that Bertus Basson will please our pallets. Damn right, he did the job again, and our breakfast was only marred by our failure not to order the waffles (the next table did, it looked delicious). Bertus is an Afrikaner celeb chef, he mixes style up with hometown flavours effortlessly, and I was extremely happy with my selection of boerewors and eggs, which was cooked to perfection. The rest of our table were similarly pleased. The restaurant focuses on classics fused with local cuisine, the atmosphere and view of the winelands is fantastic and the staff are great. The hound gives it full marks.

Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia

Eish. As if we had not overextended the bellys enough, we punched in to Beau Constantia for the big fat Sunday feast with 12 of her closest friends. For the occasion, we secured the private venue at the top of the winery (a refurbed container that seats 14 in total privacy – except you frame your experience with a spectacular view of the Constantia Valley).

Look, it is my kind of eating. They don’t give you much choice, they bring tapas style sharing plates for two, and everything is high quality. However, in between all the bubbly, continuously swopping seats so everyone could get a chance to chat to everyone else and ending up with a raucous dance party that had us trying to kick the ceiling to Johhny Clegg’s Impi, the food appreciation more or less completely went out the window. It was pretty good. I think. Significantly, Chefs Warehouse has managed to do justice to this magnificent location, and it is hard to secure a reservation last minute. That tells you all you need to know… Good job guys.

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