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Eating Green

With the first flush of green gracing the Eikestad’s oaks, spring is definitely here, and while the winemakers spring clean their cellars, you may want to do the same for your diet, suggests RICHARD HOLMES. Order up fresh spring fare at these must-visit eateries …

TASTY VEGAN: JUVENATE

Fresh and inventive fare at Juvenate on Dorp Street.

“I want people to realise that vegan and vegetarian food doesn’t have to be boring,” says Chanel Carstens, the owner of Juvenate, a self-described ‘conscious eatery’ set amid the bustle of Dorp Street in the heart of Stellenbosch. “It can be indulgent and delicious, and it’s also nourishing.”

Inspired by Carstens’s travels in south-east Asia, there’s a laid-back island ambience to Juvenate, which opened in May 2021. Since then it’s quickly grown a loyal following of students, locals and tourists, who flock here for a healthful menu of vegan and vegetarian plates that will quite possibly recalibrate your approach to plant-based eating.

It’s a menu that runs from indulgent smoothies – choose from the range of superfood powders to add an extra jolt of goodness – to healthy bowls and immune-boosting ‘shots’. The menu changes to suit the seasons, but breakfast could mean creamy oats in coconut milk topped with caramelised apples, a stack of healthy flapjacks made with spiced pumpkin, or superfood flapjacks topped with a chia berry compote.

“The flapjacks are really popular, for people wanting something sweeter. They might look unhealthy, but they’re just so good for you!” Carstens says excitedly.

Come lunchtime, look forward to deeply nourishing bowls, whether that’s a poke-style plate or a noodle dish packed with bok choy, sesame and mushrooms.

But it’s arguably the hamburgers that have the vegan-curious crowd hooked. Far from the meat-mimicry of many vegan burger offerings, at Juvenate it’s the vegetable that is the hero. Expect a patty of rosemary and balsamic beetroot, or butternut with smoked paprika, topped with tomatoes, caramelised onions, pickles and a superfood basil aioli.

“All our sauces are made from scratch,” says Carstens. “We make our own dressings and our own aioli, all with no preservatives.”

The Juvenate menu is entirely vegan, with the exception of eggs that are available on request and cooked separately in the kitchen. There’s dairy milk for coffee too, but also a range of plant-based milks – and certainly don’t miss out on the inspired latte art! Dishes are free of refined sugar, sweetened instead by natural coconut sugar or dates, with a range of gluten-free choices available. Superfood powders can also be added to your meals.

“We’re all about nutrition, without compromising on flavour,” says Carstens. “Our food is indulgent and delicious and good for you!” 145 Dorp St, Stellenbosch

CONTEMPORARY CAFE: LA COCO C FOOD PURVEYORS

La Coco C, also on DorpStreet, tempts with healthful indulgences.

La Coco C is one of those rare restaurant brands that have migrated from Gauteng to the Cape instead of the other way around. But when Kirsten de Wet opened a branch of La Coco C in a tiny space on Plein Street in 2021 it was an instant success, thanks largely to its menu of wholesome plates and delicious bakes. By 2022 they were bursting at the seams and made the move to their current, larger, premises just down the road.

It’s still a cosy space, but brimming with contemporary charm in the bright decor, abundance of flowers and foliage, and broad smiles from the ever-hospitable staff. The take-away counter buzzes all day, while the handful of tables – with more on the terrace outdoors – are always in hot demand.

The menu is extensive, with vegetarian, vegan and meat dishes. The thread tying them together is a focus on fresh, healthy eating. The smoothies are a hit with students, who pop in to grab a cup on their way to campus. You can add a scoop of Metalab whey protein if you fancy, but De Wet says, “Our smoothies all have a superfood element. Crunch Time has raw cacao, Rock Solid has hemp seed protein and Vital Signs has chia seeds. They’re just the ideal filling all-rounder to enjoy on the go.”

And if you’re not on the go? The fresh and healthy raw rice wrap is a hit for lunchtime, she suggests, “But our Signature Smashed Avo has been on the menu since day one. It’s the ideal brunch or breakfast dish.” Topped

with fried capers, roasted cherry tomatoes and feta, it’s not hard to see why.
43 Plein Street, Stellenbosch

COUNTRY CLASSIC: GOOD TO GATHER

Much-loved restaurant duo Jess and Luke Shepherd dish up spring-inspired farm- to-fork cuisine at Good to Gather, tapping into a wealth of produce from local farmers and producers.

For chef Jess Shepherd, opening Good to Gather restaurant – together with husband Luke – on Rozendal estate has meant coming full circle. For it was here, straight out of chef’s school, that she first cut her teeth in a professional kitchen. That was before she went on to earn a solid reputation for herself across the Cape Winelands. Most notably it was the couple’s remarkable work at The Table at De Meye, and before that Nook Eatery in Ryneveld Street, that made them a household name for foodies in the region.

While the pandemic forced a rethink – and launched their popular Good to Gather provision box business – their farm-to-table restaurant at the entrance to the Jonkershoek Valley is today proving just as popular for its dedication to celebrating regional produce on an inspired country-style menu. In what will be a familiar format for fans of Shepherd’s cooking, each weekend at Good to Gather a three-course set menu is served, offering a remarkable taste of regional flavours.

“Our focus has always been on sourcing locally,” she says. “Doing the provision boxes during lockdown, I started connecting with so many producers that needed to sell their own produce, from Gay’s Dairy to local vegetable farmers to Dalewood Fromage. We’ve been able to maintain those relationships to supply the Good to Gather restaurant now.”

While the chalkboard menu changes weekly, look forward to the likes of freerange lamb from the Karoo, or perhaps meat, eggs and grains from Lowerland farm near Prieska. Vegetables come from the biodynamic gardens at Spier, as well as other small-scale – and mostly female – farmers in the surrounding area.

“Our neighbouring farm has a garden that supplies us with sweet potatoes and other things,” says Shepherd. “We even got saffron from there recently, which was beautiful with poached pears.” She also incorporates the remarkable barrel-aged vinegars from the Rozendal cellar, often tossed with organic leaves for a memorable farm salad.

It’s all served at tables scattered out on the terrace beneath the cork oaks when the weather’s fine, or in the cosy confines of the old cellar building. With just 35 diners per sitting, it’s an intimate and lovingly created discovery of Cape Winelands cuisine. Rozendal Farm, Omega Road, Stellenbosch

FARM TO FORK: THE WERF RESTAURANT

Chef Eric Bulpitt has reinvigorated the restaurant offering at historic Boschendal Farm, tapping into the abundant produce from the estate to create a menu of “refined farm-to-table food”.

Boschendal Farm has long been hailed for its beautiful food gardens and dedication to farm-to-fork cuisine. Under chef Christiaan Campbell the farm’s flagship restaurant – The Werf – was an award-winning culinary destination in the Winelands, serving up some of the Cape’s most creative cuisine. Although it lost a little lustre in the past few years, the arrival of executive chef Eric Bulpitt in January 2023 has sparked something of a culinary revival, rebooting the farm as a gastronomic heavy-hitter in the Cape.

Bulpitt is certainly no stranger to the Winelands, having helmed kitchens at Avondale outside Paarl and La Motte in Franschhoek, and he brings a keen sense of seasonality to the menu at Boschendal. Working with the estate’s horticulturists, he says his goal is to bring The Werf “back to a place where the garden dictates what goes onto the menu. Our menus will take a micro-seasonal approach, only featuring the best fresh produce available and showing respect for nature’s seasonality.”

That sense of seasonality finds expression in a menu of two parts, with diners spoilt for choice across a handful of signature dishes and a larger selection of creative small plates. The latter are arguably the highlight, with each showing utmost respect for the ingredients and a creativity that doesn’t overshadow the produce. A plate of grilled octopus is neatly balanced by citrus segments and shaved fennel. Local snoek, a fish too rarely seen on restaurant menus, is perfectly grilled and generously seasoned, and sits atop a deeply flavoursome smoked snoek in XO sauce. The humble lasagne plate gets a similarly creative spin, here served as an open lasagne of rich ragout atop a rough-chopped chimichurri and potato espuma.

At The Werf, Bulpitt is cooking up creative cuisine that hasn’t forgotten its roots, and across the menu the ethos is to channel the natural surrounds and rich bounty of the Winelands onto the plate. “We’re aiming for refined farm-to-table food,” he says. “I want guests to get the feeling that they’re on a farm and eating fresh from the garden.” Boschendal Farm, Main Road, Pniël

HIDDEN SECRET: GREENGATE EATERY

Fresh, wholesome dishes are the signature of Greengate Eatery, tucked away in a sun-splashed courtyard in the heart of Stellenbosch enjoyed by regulars André Morgenthal and Nolene Nel.

Ingrid du Toit’s Greengate Eatery is a charming little café. It’s been around for 20 years, first in Ryneveld Street, then De Wet Square, before moving to its current location somewhat hidden away within the Eikestad Mall.

It serves up indulgent breakfast plates and raw juices, but the highlight is the bountiful harvest table (charged by weight) filled with seasonal salads alongside meat and vegan plates. If you’re feeling indulgent, allow yourself to be tempted by the display of cakes and baked goodies. There’s elegant banquette seating indoors, or on fine days tables spill out into the sun-splashed courtyard. Eikestad Mall, Andringa Street