One of the things visitors to South Africa remark on time and time again, is how surprised they are at the quality of both our wine industry and our restaurants. Most of them have a vague idea that as a country we are a dark horse, but they are not quite prepared for how good we really are (and the fact that our prices are a fraction of what you would pay for something similar in Europe or the USA).
While there are great restaurants countrywide, for sheer quantity of quality, Cape Town is by far the most celebrated culinary city in South Africa. And, within the greater Cape Town area, the town of Franschhoek (old Dutch for ‘French Corner’) is the jewel in the crown. If France has special regions like Champagne and Bordeaux and if California’s got Napa Valley and Australia the Yarra Valley, then South Africa’s trump card is undoubtedly Franschhoek.
Just over a mountain pass from its bigger wine industry sister, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek is only 45 minutes from Cape Town, a ridiculously worthwhile journey when you consider the incredible eateries and wine farms available to you. You literally cannot swing a cat without hitting an award-winning chef or someone offering you outstanding wine. Go on, grab a moggy and try.
We can go on ad nauseum with a massive list of places you should check out, but we won’t. Instead we’ll give you three must-visit, must-try, must-see options that we have come to know and love.
While it’s easy to compartmentalize your sensual experiences in Franschhoek by visiting stand-alone places that only do wine, only make beer, only serve food and only focus on accommodation; if we’re honest we love the fact that Leeu Estates does everything and does it exceptionally well. From the award-winning Mullineux and Leeu Family wines, to the subtle luxury of the Leeu Estates rooms and cottages to the spa treatments, the cuisine of The Dining Room, the comfort and resources of The Reading Room – Leeu Estates has everything you could ever need in Franschhoek.
That said…we do encourage you to explore a bit. Like when it comes to lunch…
La Petite Colombe
Cape Town’s renowned La Colombe restaurant is a frequent feature on the world’s best restaurant lists. They now have La Petite Colombe in what was the old Le Quartier Francais space out in Franschhoek. Set in the centre of town with a sunny deck and warm interior, this is the kind of place we bring guests wanting an unforgettable fine dining experience at the hands of chef John Norris-Rogers. Go for lunch (and the gourmand menu) so you can take in the breath-taking views of this mountain winelands town while indulging in a multi-course extravaganza. Taste buds tantalized, mind blown, you can thanks us later.
And now for something completely different…
Forget the wine, the amuse bouche, the manicured lawns and art galleries for a moment and consider zipping down jeep tracks and mountain trails on the 4×4 equivalent of the scooters you used to push around on as a kid. Equipped with mountain bike style front and back brakes and big tyres, the Scootours scooters are designed to be abused and the Scootours guides will take you on a variety of downhill trails to suit both your skill level and appetite for adrenalin. It’s really quite easy. You get on, you push, you cruise and, from time to time, you hit the brakes. All this while taking in the mountains, vineyards and kloofs of one of South Africa’s picturesque valleys.
If you can’t get to Franschhoek, Scootours also operates in Cape Town and Stellenbosch.