Take your taste buds on holiday

Explore the beauty of Cape Town's different places and see its delicious culinary delights from one location to another.


With three months till the southwards vacation migration, travellers to the Western Cape and its winelands can start licking their lips in anticipation of the gastronomic adventures that await.

The region is collectively considered the culinary capital of the country and foodies are guaranteed they’ll need to loosen their belts a couple of notches come December.

Saturday Citizen Travel has chosen a spectacular eat-out spot in five popular areas – Cape Town, Durbanville, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek – and sampled some of the fare on offer.

FINER TOUCHES. Plating at Eleven in Franschhoek is an intricatebusiness. Picture: Jim Freeman
FINER TOUCHES. Plating at Eleven in Franschhoek is an intricate business. Picture: Jim Freeman

Carné on Keerom – Cape Town

The name says it all and vegan-vegetarian diners will find the pickings on Carné’s menu rather lean. Situated in the heart of the Mother City, this 15-year-old Italian restaurant is hard to find, so if you don’t know Cape Town, call Uber and ask to be taken to 70 Keerom Street (it’s near the Planetarium in the Company Gardens).

Carne is not a “steakhouse” in the traditional sense, so don’t expect lots of sauces and side orders; chef proprietor Giorgio Nava believes in letting meat tell its own story … with a little assistance from olive oil, salt, pepper and some rosemary.

OCEAN FRESH. Yellowtail ceviche at Groot Phesantekraal. Picture: Jim Freeman
OCEAN FRESH. Yellowtail ceviche at Groot Phesantekraal. Picture: Jim Freeman

Milan-born Nava is particularly passionate about Romagnola beef, Dorper lamb and venison sourced from the Karoo.

Dare to be different with veal tongue carpaccio, served with a poached tongue salad and salsa verde, homemade ravioli, slowbaked Karoo lamb shoulder, with sage butter and parmesan cheese or the Safari: Misto di Selvaggina … 400g of kudu, ostrich, black wildebeest and impala fillet.

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DURBANVILLE DELIGHT. Groot Phesantekraal serves great food in healthy portions. Picture: Jim Freeman
DURBANVILLE DELIGHT. Groot Phesantekraal serves great food in healthy portions. Picture: Jim Freeman

Groot Phesantekraal – Durbanville

Nothing precious or twee about this wine estate restaurant, just scrumptious and generously sized helpings served up by self-trained chef Darren Allsopp.

Although Durbanville is the second-oldest wine-producing region in South Africa after Constantia, it only recently began being marketed as such and is consequently a pretty well-kept secret outside of the local community.

Fourteen estates make up the Durbanville Wine Valley route and almost all have at least one restaurant. Groot Phesantekraal is primarily a cattle and grain farm but its wine range is growing in popularity locally and abroad says winemaker Richard Schroeder.

We were a group of three, and our starter selection consisted of a fresh yellowtail ceviche accompanied by preserved lime and mango gel, scallops with squid ink bucatini pasta and savoury goat’s cheese stuffed pumpkin fritters. I had the ploughman’s board as a main while both my companions opted for pressed pork belly with maple-glazed vegetables. Try the Groot Phesantekraal Syrah Rosè.

GRANDE DAME. The menu at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl will have you in ecstasy. Picture: Jim Freeman
GRANDE DAME. The menu at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl will have you in ecstasy. Picture: Jim Freeman

Grande Roche – Paarl

“I’m no ‘rock star’ chef,” insists Christiaan Campbell, but damn me if the man doesn’t present rock star food. Campbell has taken on one of the hardest jobs in “cheffing” … headlining a five-star hotel kitchen in a notoriously picky town.

And he’s chosen me to be his menu guineapig. I can’t tell you what’s on the menu and, right now, neither can he because he walked into the job just three weeks ago. But it’s going to be amazing if what appeared on the table this week is anything to go by.

The Grande Roche (“Big Rock” in Froggy-speak after the hunk of stone that overlooks the town) is to the Winelands what the Mount Nelson is to Cape Town, only without a century or so of history. Actually, I was one of the first people to stay there when it opened 30-something years ago.

ITALIAN ELEGANCE. Meat and good wine are the stars at Carne on Keerom. Picture: Jim Freeman
ITALIAN ELEGANCE. Meat and good wine are the stars at Carne on Keerom. Picture: Jim Freeman

It has always been the intention the restaurant at the hotel, boasting a magnificent view over “The Pearl” to the Du Toit’s and Slanghoek mountain ranges, would be a hub for locals as well as guests.

That’s never really happened till now but I’m quite certain Campbell’s kitchen magic will change all that. His plates are a feast for the senses and – wonder of wonders in this day and age – the portions are respectable.

There’s a quirkiness, too. His take on fish and chips (with spring vegetables, including artichokes and asparagus) would make your average chippy weep.

My personal blow-away experience, though, was salmon that was taken to the next level. I’m not including a web link for Grand Roche because the menu will have changed by the time you read this.

CHART TOPPER. Spring on a plate at Eleven in Franschhoek. Picture: Jim Freeman
CHART TOPPER. Spring on a plate at Eleven in Franschhoek. Picture: Jim Freeman

Eleven – Franschhoek

Winelands wit has it discerning diners can find anything they want in Franschhoek … other than parking. The answer is to go through at lunchtime during the week … sadly with the downside of trucks bellowing up and down the main road while you’re exercising your epicurean sophistication.

Still, it beat having to squeeze my motorcycle between the usual weekend Aston Martins. Chefs tell me dark plates do nothing to stimulate appetite but they certainly provide a wonderful backdrop for colourful dishes, such as the simply superb truffled goat’s cheese starter, served with pickled beets, walnut soil and citrus.

This was one of the absolute highlights of my recent gastronomic adventures. Looking back at the menu (Eleven was the first restaurant I visited), there was nothing at which I would turn up my nose.

From the appetiser focaccia with herb butter, rosemary and an olive tapenade (I hate olives but decided not to insult owner-chef Ryan Shell) through to the slow-roasted pumpkin with orange, burned onion and gorgonzola to the concluding salted chocolate cremeux, I flat-out pigged myself.

Eleven hadn’t acquired a liquor licence at the time of my visit and, if that’s still the case when you make your booking, they won’t charge corkage.

GORGEOUS PRESENTATION. A citrus dessert at Dusk in Stellenbosch. Picture: Jim Freeman
GORGEOUS PRESENTATION. A citrus dessert at Dusk in Stellenbosch. Picture: Jim Freeman

Dusk – Stellenbosch

If ever you want to charm the pants off a prospective partner, this is where you take him/her for dinner. You might have to remortgage your mansion in Dainfern but it will be well worth the experience. Dusk is an uber-elegant collaboration between Joburg boykie Callan Austin and Franschhoek’s Darren Badenhorst.

“My first kitchen placement was under Darren at Grande Provence in 2015 and we’ve always stayed in contact. I moved around quite a lot and – for a while – gave up the kitchen to study chemical engineering.

“It wasn’t for me and, thankfully after just one year, Darren asked me to work with him again.” Last year they opened Dusk. Pairings is the name of the game and Callan told me I was going to be doing the 10-course “Pandora’s Box”.

Step one was a Matrix choice … choose the red or blue pill and identify the flavour because it will have a later influence on your meal. I took red and identified naartjie. I’m not going to tell you more because it would spoil the surprise.

I will, however, single out the fish dishes as well as the first (of two) desserts: a citrus sphere with honeycomb, crispy yoghurt and bergamot.

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