Locals should enjoy this window of opportunity to enjoy quiet time in the Winelands, says RICHARD HOLMES, and nowhere better than at Delaire Graff Estate, where food and wine are at their best.
It’s been a long and taxing year and we all deserve a little downtime. Yet, while many locals are hitting the road to mountain boltholes and beachfront villas, this summer offers the best chance in years for locals to (re)discover the Western Cape’s Winelands.
With international travel slowed to a trickle, you’ll have no trouble getting a spa treatment when you want it. Your chosen table at that sought-after eatery? It’s yours for the taking. An impromptu wine tasting? Certainly.
No doubt 2020 has shown us the worst of times, but for a summer of local Winelands discovery it’s about to be the best of times. And it certainly feels that way up at Delaire Graff Estate, where there’s a buzz of new energy in the heady mountain air above Stellenbosch.
Much of that fresh energy comes courtesy of the kitchen at Delaire Graff Restaurant, with newly appointed head chef Kayla-Ann Osborn blowing into the Winelands like a warm KwaZulu-Natal sea breeze. Kayla-Ann made her name in charge of the kitchen of The Chefs’ Table in Umhlanga but was happily drawn to the Cape by the opportunity to reinvent Delaire’s signature dining destination.
Arriving in the Winelands in the depths of lockdown afforded Kayla-Ann plenty of time to find her feet, with the result that hungry travellers will arrive this summer to a menu brimming with inspired seasonal dishes.
“My focus is definitely on fresh and seasonal cuisine, using the very best local produce I can source,” says Kayla-Ann, admiring the views of the Banhoek Valley. “We’re in Stellenbosch after all and I believe the menu needs to reflect that.”
Her dishes meld classic and contemporary techniques: bold, uncomplicated flavours perfectly balanced by elegant plating. There are continental classics – the gnocchi is superb – and bistro staples, such as Saldanha mussels brimming with Asian flavours, but there’s a sense of gentle adventure running through the menu, too.
Here Kayla-Ann looks to the unsung cuts and ingredients. Think slow-cooked lamb belly, or chicken oysters plated with tortellini, shitake and Parmesan. My favourite from a recent lunch in the sunshine? Local wild pigeon, perfectly cooked sous vide for tenderness, served on a base of tomato, black lentils and artichoke. For adventurous palates, it’s a perfect plate of inspired country cuisine.
“The food is refined but it certainly isn’t fussy. I never have too many elements on the plate,” explains Kayla-Ann. “I don’t look to create unnecessary textures. It’s all about the produce.”
While Kayla-Ann has plans for tasting menus in the future, for the moment diners will have to content themselves with the mouth-watering à la carte menu. If you really can’t choose between the delectable dishes, the set menu offers five courses that explore some of the day’s standout dishes.
Bespoke pairings with Delaire Graff wines are offered by the affable team of WSET-trained sommeliers. With the warm summer days upon us, you’ll struggle to find a finer aperitif than a glass of Morné Vrey’s delicate Rosé from Cabernet Franc.
A better option is to discover the full portfolio of wines at the elegant Wine Lounge, where tables are offered indoors – surrounded by remarkable South African art – or out on the spacious terrace. A range of tasting flights are available, exploring both the Estate and Icon ranges, with well-informed wine ambassadors on hand to explain both terroir and cellar techniques. Generous platters of charcuterie and cheese are available if you don’t have time to stay for lunch.
But honestly, what’s the rush? From gastronomy to simply wandering the art-filled indigenous gardens, there’s certainly more than enough to fill an entire day at Delaire Graff Estate.
I’ll let you in on a secret: it has a swimming pool with perhaps the best views in Stellenbosch, where pampering comes standard. The pool at the Delaire Graff Spa is typically reserved for guests booked into the estate’s opulent lodges, but – as savvy locals will know – it’s also open to visitors enjoying pre-booked spa days. Guests can relax by the pool or in the art-filled lounge before and after their treatment, turning a quick rejuvenation into a day of revival.
A few steps from the spa is Indochine, where head chef Virgil Kahn has long tempted palates with his adventurous menu fusing Indo-Asian cuisine with Cape Malay flourish. With tables set beneath the signature Swallows in Flight artwork, or perhaps out on the terrace, it’s a quieter dining option for visitors looking to truly escape for the day, soaking up the summer in the quiet sanctuary that is Delaire Graff Estate.
Delaire Graff Estate has long set the standard for Winelands luxury, so little wonder it was recently ranked #14 in the World’s Best Vineyards Awards, beating the likes of Opus One Winery in the Napa Valley and the French icon of Chateau d’Yquem. In addition, Tim Atkin, who publishes the authoritative South African wine report, awarded Delaire’s Wine Lounge as the Best Cellar Door Experience in South Africa. Delaire Graff Lodges & Spa has been chosen as the Best Hotel in South Africa and the Fourth Best Hotel in Africa in the 2020 Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards.