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Help Needed!!!

London
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Help Needed!!!

Hello All!!

We are visiting Cape Town next week and wanted to ask some advice on vineyards and restaurants in the winelands. We have hired a car and will arrive from Cape Town early afternoon on a Monday and leave back to Cape Town in the afternoon on the Wednesday.

I had wanted to have dinner at Reubens and Le Quartier Francaise, but have discovered they are 45 mins drive from where we are staying, Hawksmoor House (which is 15 mins from Stellenbosch). V dissappointed about this as hadn't realised distance and don't want to be driving that far in the dark in a place I'm not familiar with.

As a compromise, have come us with the following agenda, (centered around Stellenbosch for the evenings, so easy to drive to) and wondered if people thought these were good choices:

1. Monday

Lunch - Goatshed (2pm)

Dinner - Terrior (8pm)

2. Tuesday

Lunch - La Petit Ferme (2pm)

(Visit Le Quartier Francais and Franschhoek generally this day)

Dinner - Tokara (8pm)

Wednesday we will have free to visit vineyards generally and will likely be v full after b/f at the hotel and all the food over the last few days.

So, to summarise my questions:

1. Do the above selections look good?

2. What particular vineyards would you recommend that would fit with this agenda.

3. Taxis - we have a car but I liked the idea of taking a taxi to the restaurants in Stellenbosch in the evenings as they are only 15 mins away. Hotel said it would cost 500R return each night. Is this the right kind of price? Seems more expensive than London...

Would really appreciate any thoughts you have on this!!! Many thanks

Belfast
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1. Re: Help Needed!!!

Firstly your dining selections.

By Goatshed,do you mean the deli at Fairview - if so, I wouldn't recommend it as this winery tends to be on the bus tour route and can get very busy. Your other choices can all be recommended but there is one proviso, Tokara has such lovely views that it would make a better luncheon venue than dinner.

Driving from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek is not that difficult at night, and if you had your heart set on Le Quartier Francais, a taxi return booking would only be a small % of your total bill.

For wineries, it can be very difficult to select only a few of the large number of great places you could go. Is the wine the most important bit ? Do you prefer to concentrate on white or red ? Would other things to do like historical buildings, shops, cafes and even cheetah parks be of interest ?

My personal suggestions to include a bit of everything would be Vergelegen, Kleine Zalze, Thelema, Simonsig and Rustenberg around Stellenbosch and La Motte, Boetenhoutskloof and possibly Boschendahl (not for the wine perhaps) around Franschhoek

Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: Help Needed!!!

Hi

Some suggestions about Franschhoek...La Petit Ferme wouldn't be my choice for lunch..Bread and Wine, Chamonix or Dieu Donne would be better.

I don't quite understand what you mean by "visiting Le Quartier Francais"..do you mean drooling over the menu in the window?

The other consideration are the fires which are still burning around Somerset West, which would make Vergelegen (normally a must see) a must miss..

As for taxis..yes, very expensive...a reason why I never recommend that people stay out of town..

Search previous threads for vineyard suggestions..there has been quite a discussion on this over the past month or so

London
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3. Re: Help Needed!!!

Thank you both for such a quick response - very helpful.

I was under the impression that the wine region was all v close together - my mistake. In future I will stay in Franschook, but for now I am just trying to make the most of what is feasible by concentrating on Franschhoek during the day and Stellenbosch for our (2) evening meals.

I had heard good things about Quartier Francais, but perhaps not judging on your response. Perhaps Reubens is a better/more relaxed choice (we like good food but it doesn't have to be stuffy).

Would anyone have another recommendation for Stellenbosch for our second night (if we go to Terrior for the first and save Tokara for lunch, we will be short one place in Stellenbosch for an evening meal).

I had not heard anything about fires in Cape Town - is this something we need to be concerned about?

Many thanks again for all your assistance - greatly appreciated!

Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: Help Needed!!!

As far as fires are concerned, keep an eye on the Cape Times...http://www.capetimes.co.za/?fSectionId=&fArticleId=nw20090225150701263C394362

The Tasting Room at La Quartier Francais is one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, and deservedly so, but isn't open for lunch...La Petit Ferme has a nice view, but last time I ate there thought food was ordinary and old fashioned...more the place to take your aged mum for a day out...

London
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5. Re: Help Needed!!!

For a second evening meal in Stellebosch (just a few minutes outside the main town, just like Terrior) go to Overture - fantastic

McGregor, South...
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6. Re: Help Needed!!!

Hawksmoor house is lovely but it is not particularly close to the Stellenbosch restaurants such as Terroir. If you were concerned in driving as far as Franschhoek at night I don't think you would be that much better going to Terroir and the 'narrow' road to Overture may be challenging for you at night. The advantage of lunch at Overture is that you get to see the splendid view too. Personally I would choose Overture over Tokara and in Franschhoek Bread and Wine or Chamonix or Bouillabaisse over Petite Ferme or even Reubens for that matter. The Tasting Room is a very special experience and far from stuffy.

From Hawksmoor House, Paarl is probably the quickest town to reach and there you have Bosmans at Grand Roche for a fine dining experience(that may be a bit too formal for you). Closer to your accommodation is the new restaurant Cuvee at Simonsig -probably the nearest eating establishmentbut only open in the eves on Fri and Sat. Glan Carlou is also close by and has a restaurant Zen but only open for lunch.

Bodega at Dornier is a good restaurant which is open evenings on a Thursday to Saturday. In Sellenbosch itself Dijon and The Big Easy may be worth a look although the latter seems to be going through a rough patch at the moment!

There are just so many choices.

Belfast
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7. Re: Help Needed!!!

A bit of a posting hijack here I'm afraid.

Let's talk La Petite Ferme.

The last time I was there was just over three years ago. Having wisely booked ahead for a central terrace table to get the most of what is undeniably a beatiful vista, the wife and I had what was probably our best lunch on that three week trip. Okay, the menu was not "trendy" with a distinct lack of foams etc. and the cooking was fairly straightforward, but overall the food was very good. I recall starting with pleasant if not outstanding Asian fish cakes followed by excellent trout and then an even better than excellent "study of lemon" dessert.

Recent postings, and not just on this forum, mostly seem to be very negative. Why ? just what has gone wrong ? or were you never that keen on the place?

If anyone wants to be more reassuring, then please go ahead.

McGregor, South...
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8. Re: Help Needed!!!

Belfast: I might suggest that say 5 years ago it was a really excellent restaurant with tasty inexpensive food and friendly service. All I can say is that on my last visit, the whole operation was disorganized, it was over busy (perhaps a victim of its own success) and the food was frankly ordinary. Of course the view is still stunning and I am sure many visitors have a wonderful experience there. It is at least a couple of years since I was there so it could be quite different again. However, in the meantime there have been many new restaurants which have opened which have provided me with a better experience. As we all read on these forums one mans meat is another ones poison and views of restaurants in particular always seem to create difference of opinion.

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: Help Needed!!!

Belfast: my last visit to Le Petit Ferme, and the basis for my somewhat negative comments, was in September 2007.

Cape Town
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10. Re: Help Needed!!!

Hi

As usual macsym has the most comprehensive advice. Hawksmoor House, although it has a Stellenbosch Post Box is really in Paarl district not Stellenbosch. It is north of the N1 and it's wines are classified as Paarl. I suppose that Stellenbosch sounds better in the advertising! Also estimates of 15 mins drive to restaurants such as Terroir and Tokara involve significantly breaking speed limits! 25-30 mins is more realistic - you have 2km on gravel road to get to the main road before you start.

So it may well be better to concentrate on lunches rather than dinner at the best Stellenbosch Restaurants. Terroir, Cuvee at Simonsig, Overture and Tokara. All being Wine Estate restaurants and the last two having stunning views.

Paarl is only 15 mins drive and as it is along the N1 would be very easy at night in the dark. As macsym mentions the best dining in Paarl is at Bosmans. This is definitely on a par with The Tasting Room. It's awards have been consistently acheived over a much longer period. Yes it is a little more formal but IMO if you are paying R600 for a menu that is not a bad thing.

There are other choices in Paarl. Less formal is Marcs which is a restaurant with a wide range of different Mediterranean influences. It is run by a chef from Alsacse and his Lebanese wife. IMO one of the very best informal restaurants in the Winelands. The third excellent restaurant in Paarl, if you like Asian oriented food, is Megu. The chef is Japanese but the influences are from across Asia.

Well so far everyone has concentrated on the food but there is a lot of time to fill in between meals! Here Stellenbosch is definitely the direction to go.

The first stop from Hawksmoor house should be Simonsig. This is 5 mins drive. They have what is probably the broadest range of high quality wines in the winelands. As an introduction to what SA wine has to offer it is great - whites, reds and this is also the home of the oldest champagne style sparkling wines in SA. They have a nice tasting room with very informative and friendly staff. As mentioned Cuvee Restaurant is also here. There are now literaly dozens of quality wineries within 5 mins drive. I can only list names but, Hartenberg, Kanonkop, Uitkyk, Warwick, Muratie, Quoin Rock and Delheim are all worth considering in this area.

Stellenbosch itself is the second oldest town in South Africa and has a greater concentration of 18th and early 19th cent buildings than any town in SA. The area around Dorp Street is particularly pretty. Visit the Village Museum in the centre this consists of five complete houses in a small area of the town which have been furnished in their original way each cottage or house is a different date between around 1680 and 1870. The second Museum to visit is more to the edge of the town at the bottom of Dorp Street. The new Rupert Museum was set up by one of SA’s richest families to show their extensive art collection to the public. It also houses a major exhibition which only changes every two years or so. Currently until into 2010, there is a fine exhibition of Rodin Sculptures. More than thirty originals from life size to table miniatures. Together with a lot of information on the sculptor himself. An exhibition as good as any I have seen in Europe except at the Rodin Gallery itself in Paris.

South of the town towards Somerset West on the R44 is another collection of great wineries. Kleine Zalze (Terroir), Waterford, Rust en Vrede, Guardian Peak, Hidden Valley (Overture) and Ken Forrester are all worth considering. De Trafford, possibly the best, is only open Friday and Saturday mornings.

There are certainly enough wineries in the Stellenbosch area to fill in two days - well probably 20! You could also head over to Franschhoek which is a pretty village. It has some good wineries but not the concentration of Stellenbosch. My favorites are La Motte, Plaisir de Merle and Solms Delta. Boekenhoutskloof has possibly the best reds but they are not availoable for tasting.

So some more ideas. You must be getting really confused by now and you are rushing round getting ready to leave. What I can really say is that you will have a fantastic holiday whatever choice you make.