Discover some of the finest food in the Cape Winelands at RICHARD HOLMES’s favourite al fresco eateries …
Ask a Stellenbosch local to share their favourite secret spots in and around town and chances are the Tokara Deli will be high on their list. Although many visitors go no further than Tokara’s elegant tasting room and fine dining restaurant (where chef Carolize Coetzee is doing great things), for more relaxed al fresco dining it’s worth driving a little further up the road. This may look like a dead-end but, rather happily, it ends at the Tokara Deli, where restaurateur Wilhelm Kühn has created a gem of a destination that blends elevated bistro plates with a family-friendly space that makes the most of the wonderful Winelands views.
Tables indoors lose none of the vistas, thanks to floor-to-ceiling glass walls, but the best seats are out on the terrace overlooking the vineyards that scamper up the slopes of the Simonsberg.
To begin, banish your kids to the garden, where a table-tennis table in the shade of the oaks or the remarkable nest-inspired playground will keep them happily entertained. That leaves you free to browse the delectable deli table decked with towering dark chocolate and carrot cakes, salted caramel macarons and fresh bread.
They are reason enough to stop in for a quick morning coffee, but on the extensive menu chef Stephanie de Wet offers up a wonderful array of unpretentious plates.
There’s a tempting breakfast selection for lazy weekends, but it’s the lunch plates where things get interesting. There’s a choice of light or main dishes to suit your appetite, and vegetarians will be thrilled at the inspired plates that draw heavily on seasonality. Feeling hungry? Look no further than the generous Bonsmara ribeye and hasselback potatoes, plated with sautéed Brussels sprouts and charred baby onions.
This summer, try the innovative new olive oil tasting experience on offer, taking guests on a deep dive into the complexity of Tokara’s award-winning oils, pressed in The Olive Shed set alongside the Deli.
THE RESTAURANT AT DELAIRE GRAFF
It is often tempting to do little more than wax lyrical about the views from The Restaurant at Delaire Graff; Instagram-worthy vistas from the shaded terrace over a patchwork of clipped vineyards, the estate’s enviable outdoor art collection and soaring mountain peaks. Tempting indeed. But that would be a disservice to head chef Clinton Jacobs, whose return to Delaire Graff – he began his professional career on the estate – marks a new era in one of the most remarkable kitchens in the Cape Winelands.
Drawing inspiration from chefs such as Daniel Humm and Alain Passard, Clinton’s passion for Cape fynbos and South Africa’s heritage are subtle guiding influences on a menu that combines international elegance with a dedication to using local produce. That includes an endless bounty from the estate’s own garden, which provides a steady stream of seasonal ingredients for his menu of upscale cuisine.
Expect the likes of tomato and ricotta tortellini, tapping into the abundance of sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes that summer brings, or perhaps duck breast enlivened by the herbaceous notes of kohlrabi and fennel.
“SIMPLE, STRAIGTFORWARD FLAVOURS, EXECUTED EXCEPTIONALLY AND PLATED BEAUTIFULLY. THAT’S WHATClinton Jacobs, Delaire Graff
I BELIEVE IN.”
“Simple straightforward flavours, executed exceptionally and plated beautifully. That’s what I believe in,” says the head chef, who will this summer also reprise the popular open-fire grill, offering a smaller, lighter menu for casual lunches al fresco. Feast your eyes on the view and then dive into the fine food from Clinton’s kitchen.
THE VINE BISTRO
Delivering all the charm of a Parisian bistro while you enjoy a front-row seat to the beauty of the Stellenbosch Winelands, The Vine Bistro on Glenelly estate offers the best of both worlds when it comes to summer dining. An elegant space of crisp white napery and cosy banquettes indoors gives way to a cool shaded terrace gazing out across the vineyards.
In the kitchen, a skilled team under the watchful eye of chef-patron Christophe Dehosse turns out a concise menu of elevated bistro-style cuisine. True to the estate’s winemaking philosophy of blending French passion with South African terroir, the menu marries beautiful local produce with classical French techniques. While the menu evolves through the seasons, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more delicious starter than the plate of gravadlax, made with Franschhoek trout, or the springbok loin crusted with black pepper and plated with a rocket and horseradish dressing. The warm potato and sausage salad is a masterclass in being unafraid of considered simplicity.
THE VINE BISTRO ON GLENELLY ESTATE OFFERS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS WHEN IT COMES TO SUMMER DINING.
Dessert will leave you in a quandary, torn between the selection of local and French cheeses or the pastry section’s sweet touch. With the last of the winter citrus, the orange mousse cake, with luscious segments of fresh orange, was a welcome goodbye to winter – and hello, summer.
The wine list is as much of a delight as the menu, drawing on the estate’s own award-winning releases – happily available by the glass, carafe or bottle – and selected cellars in the surrounding Winelands. True to the philosophy of The Vine, a considered selection of French wines is also offered, including a handful of special vintages from the venerable Chateau Pichon-Lalande, the former home in Pauillac of Glenelly’s owner, Lady May de Lencquesaing.
VADAS SMOKEHOUSE & BAKERY
When you have a mixed group to take out for lunch – perhaps friends from out of town, with a handful of kids in tow – Spier estate ticks all the right boxes. With wide lawns for youngsters to run about and plenty of shade beneath stately oak trees, it’s an idyllic spot for a lazy summer lunch.
And where better to keep everyone happy than at Vadas Smokehouse & Bakery, where chef-patron PJ Vadas has stamped his authority as the man who knows how to smoke things low and slow?
The menu at Vadas Smokehouse & Bakery is all about comfort food shared across the table. Start by ordering your choice of lip-smacking smokehouse meats, sold in individual portions to allow you a little taste of everything. Think lamb ribs with harissa, tzatziki and za’atar, or perhaps the superb smoked pastrami brisket with salsa verde.
Once you’ve settled on the meats, work backwards. You’ll need snacks to keep the hunger pangs at bay while you wait, so say ‘yes’ to a board of Farmer Angus charcuterie and Vadas’s excellent sourdough. Side dishes? Vegetarians will be happiest here, with inspired meat-free sides running from a fragrant salad of grilled broccoli and ras el hanout aioli with spicy macadamia nuts to a seasonal summer salad of roasted tomatoes with fynbos vinegar, focaccia, whipped feta and basil. An order of fire-roasted flatbread with labneh? Absolutely.
If that all sounds a bit challenging for the kids, they’ll be happy to find a range of inspired pizzas on offer, with gluten-free bases on request. And however you choose to feed the table, just be sure to leave space for Vadas’s famous pasteis de nata, a fine end to a delicious meal beneath the oaks.
The northern slopes of the Helderberg are fast becoming a secret haven of fine food, and the opening of the restaurant on Alto estate adds considerably to the area’s appeal.
With remarkable views across Stellenbosch all the way to a distant Table Mountain, Alto Restaurant offers cosy indoor seating at a wide hearth, where farm-style tables come decorated with vases of colourful fynbos, or outdoors where tables are laid out alongside the acclaimed red wine cellar. Bedecked in colourful red umbrellas and set next to wide lawns for kids to play on, it’s a fabulously family-friendly choice for al fresco dining.
Fresh linefish with seasonal greens, tomato gremolata and pangritata at Alto Restaurant. On Friday evenings the Alto lawns host the unforgettable Sunset Rouge gatherings.
The relaxed setting is well matched by an unfussy menu of approachable plates, South African favourites and generous grills.
There are starters of grilled Patagonian squid, or mains of flame-grilled Chalmar sirloin served with hand-cut truffle fries. And you won’t go wrong with the Alto burger, topped with bacon chilli jam and cheese smoked in the estate’s own offset-smoker. It’s a popular spot for lunch or dinner, but also look out for the Sunset Rouge evenings (Fridays, 5pm–9pm), where live music sets the scene for perhaps the best sundowner spot Stellenbosch has to offer.