The Better Half (TBH) recently celebrated a milestone birthday, many of our friends and myself included will be turning the big FOUR-OH this year! (*Gasp* how did that happen?). So what better way to celebrate the event than with a trip back to the homeland and a joint birthday party with one of his closest friends. What followed was a week made up of lots of good times, laughter and topped off with incredible food and wine. How lucky we are!
With no less than 14 different wine regions in the Western Cape, we really are spoilt for choice. The Franschoek valley is by far the most celebrated food and wine region and with the Franschoek wine tram – a hop on, hop off tour of various farms, we thought this would be the best way to spend a day enjoying all the wine without worrying about designated drivers. We chose the blue line, which included 8 stops for R220 (about £13 at today’s exchange rate) plus the cost of the wine tasting – it varies from farm to farm, but we never paid more that R40 (£2.20) for three wines. It is insanely good value and a really fun way of exploring the area. My favourite was Le Lude, a small boutique farm specialising in Methode Cap Classique (MCC) which is the South African version of Champagne.
Lunch was at the last stop – Grand Provence. By this point we were all unsuprisingly quite tiddly, but what I do remember is that the farm is stunning, the restaurant dining room oozing a sense of luxury and the excellent food topped off a perfect day.
To start, I had the Aerated local Reblochon brandad veloute, 18hour pork belly, fig caviar, vineyard micro herbs. The pork belly was extremely succulent and soft, the veloute adding a beautiful richness and the sweet fig caviar cutting through it all to bring the dish together. My only wish was that there was more of it as it was that good!
My main course was a Hot smoked blesbok (antelope) shank, toasted coriander crunch, beetroot, organic carrots, creamed vanilla parsnip puree, Cabernet Sauvignon jus. As with most game meats, it can be very rich. But the sweetness of the carrots and beetroot were balanced just right so as to enhance the beautiful meat. And then there was the creamed vanilla parsnip puree – vanilla in savoury dishes just sounds wrong, but again, this was perfectly balanced and really complimented the dish. Even more lovely wine had been consumed by this point and even though there is a dessert pictured, I cannot for the life of me remember what it was! A white chocolate bomb of sorts with popping candy in there somewhere and loads of other fabulous little touches. I didn’t eat very much of it, but it looked pretty! 🙂
The wine tram is a really fun way to explore the area and I would highly recommend it when planning a visit to Franschoek.
The day of TBH’s birthday dawned to those gorgeous blue skies that I just love about South Africa, not even a breath of wind, just wall to wall sunshine. A perfect day in Africa! A drive up Chapman’s Peak, champagne at the top to celebrate the big day and then lunch….
For this occasion we chose La Colombe – recently voted South Africa’s second best restaurant and number 76 in the world. (We ate at the number one restaurant The Test Kitchen on a previous visit back to SA). Located on the Silvermist wine estate in Constantia, the dining room sits high amongst the blue gum trees making you feel as though you’re sitting in a very swish tree house! We were a table of 12 and whether by fluke or just the nature of the layout of the restaurant, we had our own private little area. We decided on the five course tasting menu at R970 per person (roughly R60!!!).
We started with the signature La Colombe Garden. A delicate tuile and only a couple of mouthfuls, but packed full of flavour. The beef tartare was extremely tender and I loved the sharpness of the pickled onion.
Next we had the Tuna La Colombe. Isn’t the presentation just brilliant? In fact, the presentation in every dish was fantastic and well thought out. I loved the Asian flavours of this dish and the citrus balanced the oily tuna perfectly.
The bavette steak, chipotle, anchovy, bone marrow and chimichurri was my favourite course. Again, brilliant presentation with the course presented in a ceramic dish that looks like a bone! This was a real symphony of flavours – I loved the smokiness of the chipotle, the earthiness of the herby chimichurri and the richness of the bone marrow. The sweet potato crisps added a great texture and a bright pop of colour to the dish. If I hadn’t been in such a smart restaurant, I would’ve been tempted to lick the ‘bone’ clean!
Miso seared scallop with Asian barbecue pork belly, parsnip purée and braaied (BBQ) corn, bok choy and teriyaki was next. On paper, this sounded like it could’ve been quite sweet. But yet again, everything was balanced just right. The pork belly was absolutely stunning, the scallop sweet and I really enjoyed the parsnip puree. The teriyaki sauce was served separately and we were told to pour some over the main plate, which was cute but for me didn’t add much more to the overall flavour. It could be that I just didn’t add enough though.
My main course was Linefish, squid, mussel,chorizo and coriander soubise. I found this course underwhelming in comparison to the previous courses. My fish was slightly overcooked and lacked a little seasoning. But the coriander soubise was a first for me and I enjoyed it so much more than I expected to. Coriander is like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it and I usually fall in the latter camp, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this element. (Maybe my tastebuds are growing up?)
I can’t resist cheese, so when I saw a cheese “dessert” I just had to have it. Three ages of Boerenkaas, onion, rhubarb, walnut and cumin. Can you believe that is cheese? Looking at it, it fools you into thinking it is a creamy dessert. It couldn’t be further from it! Boerenkaas is apparently (according to Google) hand-made cheese made from unpasteurised milk, made by the farm’s own herds. It’s strong, which for me isn’t a problem. The rhubarb brought a lovely sharpness to it and the ice cream, was utterly divine. I think it was a walnut ice cream, but lots of wine had been consumed by this point, so can’t be sure.
Service was unobtrusive but we felt extremely well looked after. Handling a group of rowdy people out for a celebration cannot be easy, but the staff were all so friendly and patient! It really was a perfect way to celebrate such a big birthday and I know that TBH will remember it for a long time to come!
Leaving Cape Town at the end of 7 days, I was sure that I was made up of 90% wine and the rest was the amazing food that we had the pleasure of eating. I don’t think I could ever get bored of the fair Cape and if you ever have the opportunity to visit, then please do add it to your list of travel destinations!
Until we eat again!