Posts Tagged ‘Franschhoek’

Franschhoek is snugly nestled between the Groot Drakenstein, Wemmershoek and Franschhoek mountain ranges.

Here you will find undulating hills covered in vineyards laden with fat grapes. The orange groves are plentiful and bursting with juicy fruit.

Pic by Astrid Stark

Less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town, this village is fondly referred to as the gourmet capital of South Africa. Celebrity chefs such as Reuben Riffel and Margot Janse draw diners from across the country with their delicious food. Numerous restaurants line the streets. More than 50 wine farms, some dating back to the 16th century, are scattered along the green lung of the valley. It’s also an art lover’s paradise. Huguenot, the main road, has more than 20 galleries and a string of international and local clothing and specialty shops.

I find myself at one of the many cosy sidewalk cafés with the smell of freshly baked baguettes and roasted coffee drifting out onto the cobblestone courtyards. I have already stopped at my favourite shop, Huguenot Fine Chocolates, and spent way too much money, as always, on myself and gifts for the people in my life. Here you will find decadent Belgian chocolate blended with South African audacity and homegrown ingredients.

On my lap is a map of the local vineyards and galleries that I received from the helpful lady at the tourist information kiosk.  I have one day to quench my thirst for provocative art and world-class wines.  Of course it is impossible to visit all the galleries and vineyards in a day. Don’t despair. Many vineyards have added visual art to their beautiful assault on our sense of taste and smell.  What’s better than sipping on a luscious wine whilst discussing art in a breathtakingly beautiful setting?

Franschhoek’s art offering is an eclectic mix of heritage meets modern drama.  Founded in 1688 by the French Huguenots, the village has roots crawling under the ocean from Europe to Africa. Modern galleries such as JustRock and African Art Gallery feature exquisitely crafted, abstract, rock art from Zimbabwean and South African artists.

Close by you will find Artefact which houses a contemporary collection of art created by a variety of artists from Franschhoek. Many of the artists on display deliver hilarious, and often scathing, social and political commentary.

After the morning’s fix of main street art, I amble to the edge of the village to sample Haute Cabrière’s Methode Cap Classique. The winery is situated on a hill just to the side of the Huguenot monument and it has spectacular views of the valley below. It is a gorgeous sunny day and under ancient trees lining an extensive terrace, I enjoy oysters, delicious tapas, and freshly baked ciabatta.

Haute Cabrière Restaurant has recently undergone a makeover, including an interior redesign, and a menu update. Dressed in crisp white linens and featuring a series of colourful artworks, many of them by cellar master and Haute Cabrière founder, Achim von Arnim, the restaurant is a stylish version of its former self.

After lunch it is time to browse through the bookshops before more wine tasting and art.  Treasure House Books has thousands of new, second hand, rare and collectable books. They also stock a selection of original art and vinyl LP’s. 

The Franschhoek food, wine and gallery route map comes in handy.  The map indicates whether there is an art gallery connected to a wine farm, and of course, where you can find it. From there I plan the rest of my afternoon.  I slowly meander through the galleries tasting the lovely local wines, chatting to winemakers, gallery owners, and even designers. One very interesting couple is designer Mark Bain and his wife Mary-Anne. They own the Sofa Studio. Mary Anne shows me the old school drafting table that her husband uses to design the most provocative and unusual sofas and chairs.  After they have planned out the design, she selects richly coloured and decadent fabrics, that make you want to sink into the nearest sofa.

More than 15 wine farms have galleries on the premises and La Motte has to be one of the finest examples of what happens when good wine and great art meet in a picturesque setting. Here you will find the La Motte museum that features a history of the wine farm and Cape Dutch architecture. A large room is dedicated to one of South Africa’s giants of art, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, and a selection of work by contemporary artists.

The sun starts to sink behind the mountains, bathing the valley in a golden glow. My final stop is Rupert and Rothschild. This is where the vigneron creates my favourite wine. The breathtaking location of the farm, the small selection of superior wine, and the excellent service make this one of the classiest experiences in Franschhoek.  I usually stock up on my own wine collection and select a few good bottles for friends and family. They’re not cheap, but they have incredible style and good taste. Too soon it is time to go back to Cape Town.  There are still many circles on my map marking galleries and wine farms to be visited, next time.

By Astrid Stark

First published on :

Le Verger by day.

A visit to Le Franschhoek Hotel feels like being let in on a most exquisite secret.   The Cape Dutch style buildings are nestled in-between vineyards and an orchard; giving it a French chateau feeling.  The menu at the fine dining restaurant, Relais Gourmand, has been created by executive chef Darren Roberts and it’s a fusion of African dishes with Pacific Rim style cuisine. Le Verger is an outdoors restaurant that consists of individual glass conservatories scattered across the property. The sun streams in from all angles and it is spectacular to behold. Unfortunately Le Verger is closed for winter until end August. However, on my visit it is one of those crisp, sunny and wind still winter afternoons, and the staff made way for me to order from their fine dining menu at Le Verger restaurant.  

Executive chef, Darren Roberts

The chef has a taste for complex fusions and a blend of exotic tastes.  The starter portion of bishop stilton with roasted baby beetroot and Serrano ham salad with a decadent Champagne and walnut dressing is rich and simply melts into mouth.  For mains I had the grilled lobster tails with an oxtail tortellini, roasted bubble and squeak, baby onions and crustacean oil. This is an indulgent and decadent winter dish.  The portions are not large, but because of the complex ingredients, it is very filling and I had to decline dessert.  It is a special treat is to sip on a wine that has been harvested from the adjoining wine farm; there aren’t too many restaurants in the world that can boast this service.  Le Verger is the perfect venue for a long, lazy al fresco lunch during the sun drenched summer months.

The rain is gushing down as we drive along the highway from Cape Town to Franschhoek in Teliwe’s baby blue jalopy. Water is leaking in from the bottom and we have to keep the windows open to keep the car from steaming up. 

She laughs.  We screech into the pastoral village at around 5; unload cameras, laptops, scarves and coats – sprint to get out of the rain.   We sit under the  tin roof listening to the rain filling up the swimming pool.  Teliwe says it is time. Colcacchio’s in Franschhoek.  It’s open mike.  Locals and Capetonians have brought their poetic musings to share with us in the hot roof of a pizza joint.

The poetry is bad.   “Real bad”, I mutter into my glass, scouting the faces around me.  A man’s fingers read his bumpy poetry; his companion stands dangerously close to him.  I misread the  situation and try to strangle Marie.  Teliwe is weeping. “It’s so beautiful,” she sighs.  A heated argument ensues about the nature of poetry.      Poetry is objective,”  I say knowingly.  Marie looks at  me with her surprised eyebrows and slugs at her beer. Teliwe cries a little more.  “Poetry is subjective,”  I sneer.   Teliwe wails and rises from her chair. “Poetry is subjective!” I gasp without conviction. “Ah, maybe we should be lovers,” cries Marie, hugging us to her Egyptian body.  She wants to listen to Mozart in the NG church. “I object!”, I holler, feeling a little like Alice with the flamingo grasped in pale hands.

It’s much later in the evening and we are screaming at the skinny musician “Encore!”  He says he is missing a few strings.  We nod knowingly and beg for more. Teliwe gets cross with the German bumming cigarettes from her.  I say her anger is misdirected.  The German says he lives in a mansion with 11 rooms and two pools. I wonder if there is a steamroom. But I don’t bother to ask. The musician plays “Violent Femmes” and Teliwe opens the dancefloor.  Her long red, body sways and dips, a little smile playes across her face.  The German is trying to be as cool as Johnny Cash, he flicks his hips and blows smoke into the air. Then glances over at me for approval.  I am thinking how I feel like the beans in Jack’s bag.  The ones that he swapped for the cow.  And I wonder what will sprout out next.

Copyright: Theresa Brown

It’s late. Arm in arm we jump wide-legged across pools of water in the glistening street. Water gushes violently along the gutter. We hold our wet faces up and swallow the sky and stars and soggy clouds.  We are immortal.  We run with strong legs. 

We lay our happy bodies down on crushed rose petals, candles flickering and die into a long penetrating darkness.  We rest and sleep like the innocents.