There are many fabulous five star restaurants in the winelands, and while foreign tourists delight in their great value, locals only indulge on special occasions. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a really good and affordable meal in the winelands though, and to prove it we went in search of food that is cooked with flair and passion but won’t bust the budget. Here are some restaurants that fit the bill.
Fresh, Paul Cluver, Elgin
Fresh may be rustic in appearance, but the food that Niki and Damain present is far from that. The simple but eclectic menu is adjusted daily to make the most of what’s fresh and available, inspired by the magnificent vegetable garden on the farm and depending on what the fishing boats have brought into Table Bay. On our most recent visit, the mains included yellowtail teriyaki served with rice noodles in a saffron broth, wok fried vegetables & lime, free-range chicken tagine with preserved lemon, olives & almonds, served with fragrant couscous and labne, as well as grilled sirloin of aged beef and a lamb curry. The desserts included a seasonal plum clafoutis and an Elgin apple tart. On summer days tables are laid outside on the lawn. Great service and excellent food, along with the legendary Cluver wines make for a very special time. Prices for main courses range from R85 to R150.
Hilda’s Kitchen, Groote Post, Darling
Hilda’s Kitchen is named after famous hostess and cook Hildagonda Duckitt, who was born on Groote Post. She published one of South Africa’s first recipe books in 1891. Today the award winning farm restaurant is situated in the beautifully restored manor house, and here internationally trained cordon bleu chef Debbie McLaughlin has been at the helm for 12 years, serving the most delicious and authentic food. Locally grown seasonal produce is served along with popular favourites like old man’s steak roll with garlic mayo and hand cut chips, succulent slow roast pork belly with plum sauce or springbok pie.
Prices for main courses range from R75 to R140.
Restaurant Overgauw, Overgauw, Stellenbosch
This restaurant is quite unlike any we had ever visited before, but we liked it so much we are definitely going back. It is open only Friday to Sunday for lunch and you have to book, which you do via their website where the set menu for the week is described in detail, so you know in advance exactly what you will be eating.
Brother Jason is the chef in the kitchen while sister Camilla, also a chef, plans the weekly seasonal menu sourced directly from local farms and suppliers, and acts as front of house.
Arriving at the restaurant feels like visiting friends at their country farmhouse. There are some casual tables and chairs randomly scattered on a terracotta patio under a tree alongside a ramshackle barn that provides the shelter in winter. Inside the farmhouse, Jason cooks in what was the old vinegar making room, presenting simple dishes, loaded with flavour. Camilla is charming and explains each dish carefully. You can buy the Overgauw wines by the glass, so this is a perfect opportunity to taste their Sylvaner, an aromatic, full bodied slightly spicy white varietal only produced in South Africa by Overgauw.
There is an emphasis on sharing, with food presented on platters. Our 3 course menu started with a platter of locally produced salami and lonza with a paté made with roast garlic and white beans. This was followed by honey glazed roasted quail served with a cauliflower, a caper salad with tomatillos, a baby leaf salad with mange tout and Nicola potatoes. All rounded off with a fig tarte tatin served with ginger ice cream, coffee and homemade nougat. Superb.
The 3 course menu is R275 a head.
The Millhouse, Lourensford, Somerset West.
It’s always a good sign when restaurants are popular with locals, and The Millhouse has a loyal neighbourhood following. The décor is contemporary rustic, with big terraces looking out onto gardens, one of which has climbing gyms for children. Chef Bjorn Guido presents country food with Italian and French inspirations, always fresh and approachable The open pass kitchen has a wood fired pizza oven and the pizzas emerge with thin crusts and delicious toppings like wild mushroom, Black Forest ham and truffle oil or squid, prawns, red pepper, garlic and chilli. Other menu choices include pasta dishes, risottos, burgers and slow cooked lamb shank, crumbed veal limone, springbok loin and pork ribs. We found their pulled duck salad delicious and perfect for a hot summer’s day. . A “light bites” menu is available for those in between hours when you need something to eat in a hurry. We like the flexibility of The Millhouse…you can pop in for a quick pizza and a glass of wine or linger over a big steak and a yummy dessert.
Prices for mains range from R80 for a gourmet pizza to R172 for springbok loin.
Cosecha, Noble Hill, Paarl
For great value, and different flavours we can recommend Cosecha (Spanish for harvest) a Mexican inspired outdoor restaurant. Seating spills out from a large verandah onto a garden terrace. The tables are decorated with mosaics in earth tones and with beautiful wooden platters. A giant glass window looks up to the vineyards and the Simonsberg Mountain beyond.
On the menu are empanadas, fajitas, tacos and ceviche, to mention just a few Spanish American delights. We really liked the Bocaditos, which are small plates made to share, especially the freshly made guacamole served with warm tortilla chips and the Serrano-wrapped tiger prawns. The mains menu includes kingklip veracruz, chipotle barbecue ribs, and lamb barbacoa (slow-cooked leg). After you have eaten, you are invited to enjoy your coffee on a comfy couch overlooking the dam or borrow a blanket and take a nap on the lawn!
Main dishes, or Platos as they are called, range from R82 to R110.