A CULINARY ADVENTURE
by Seth Shezi
Deciding on a getaway from the city is often met with the daunting task of picking a destination – too close to the metropolis and you don’t feel like you went away at all but too far and you’ll spend all your precious time driving to and fro.
With our economy most of us are not in a position to be jetting off to exotic locales or splashing out on pamper packages so keeping it local is the smartest solution to a luxury getaway without breaking the bank.
As a foodie and wine lover my trips are often culinary pursuits – recently we decided to visit the Hemel-en-Aarde wine region – having visited Hermanus ad nauseam we opted to stay at the Arabella Hotel & Spa in Kleinmond which both shortened our trip from Cape Town by half an hour as well as offered a serene stay in the idyllic estuary.
En route we took the N2 over Sir Lowry’s pass (this route is thirty minutes quicker than the coastal route) in order to make one of my favorite stops starting with the largely unknown Almenkerk Wine Estate, a family vineyard producing award winning wines – their flagship chardonnay and shiraz being my favourites. After a delightful tasting, and some impulsive purchases, we journeyed on to the humble and hearty Houw Hoek Farm Stall at the base of the Houw Hoek Pass for some cured meats, biltong and koeksisters. On our way back time was less of a factor so we took the coastal road which was strikingly beautiful, arguably better than its better known cousin – good ol’ Chappies.
Needless to say we had a lot to be excited about – the region being the beginning of the Garden Route, a world class wine region and offering some of the best kite surfing in the False Bay area.
NOTHING TO WINE ABOUT HERE
The Restaurant at Newton Johnson Family Vineyards For a culinary treat – situated within one of the Cape’s premier vinicultural sites, The Restaurant at Newton Johnson specialises in contemporary fine dining. The relaxed service, airy ambiance with ample light and sprawling vineyard views marks. With the uber talented Chef-proprietor Eric Bulpitt (previously Head Chef at The Roundhouse) at the helm patrons are treated to a concise seasonal menu of locally sourced produce and farm foraged greens that have been prepared meticulously. The Restaurant has quickly earned its reputation as the culinary standard of the region, “We were barely open a year when Eat Out announced us as a Top 10 restaurant in the country”, Bulpitt explains. 0212002148. www.newtonjohnson.com
After a relaxing morning spent at the spa and lazing about by the pool we headed out to Route R320 otherwise known as the Hemel-en-Aarde’s wine region, a mere 15 minute drive from the hotel. Well known around the world for producing fine Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, the hemel en Aarde valley is home to high end farms such Bouchard Finlayson and Hamilton Russell but there are lesser known farms that will round off your wine tour like a true connoisseur.
Our virgin visit to errr… La Vierge, was a rather pleasant surprise. The tapas platter selection we picked had calamari, samosas, tender chicken and some short rib, beautifully presented and paired well with the wines – my favourites being the the La Vierge Noir while the Jezebelle Chardonnay is one of the lighter style chards to come from this region. The restaurant was bustling with locals and tourists alike, the young families and their broods seemed very pleased with a menu that catered for the little ones. www.lavierge.co.za 0283130130
Domaine Des Dieux
Located at the highest point of the Hemel en Aarde wine route Domaine Des Dieux is quite aptly named – Directly translated as ‘House of the Gods’, is the oldest and most celebrated MCC producer in the valley and is where the au courant comes to ‘Pop-Bottles’. 0283132126. www.domainedesdieux.co.za Creation Faced with having to choose between doing the well-known Creation Wines or Sumaridge, well we opted for both, after all that’s what mini breaks are for – self reward. At Creation we enjoyed a full tasting paired with tapas for R220; the delightful morsels have truly been paired with careful consideration to enhance the favour profile of the wine. www.creationwines.com 0282121107
Sumaridge The final stop as we made our descend down the R320 was Sumaridge – the picture perfect grounds make it hard to walk away without snapping a pic or three. We left with boxes of wine, comprising of their flagship Chardonnay, Epitome and their Pinot Noir, which to me is the star of the farm and sits snuggly at the top with the lauded upper echelon of pinot noir producers. www.sumaridge.co.za
COFFEE SHOP HUNTING STARTS AND ENDS HERE:
Like any self-proclaimed foodie will attest – coffee is a religion, and a decent cup is something of a divine offering. Mike Bayer’s The Beanery tucked away in an unassuming part of central Hermanus serves arguably the best roast in this region and continues to be the locals’ best-kept secret. From here we wondered off strolling in and out of the contemporary African art galleries within walking distance from The Beanery. Open Monday to Saturday 7:30am-close. Shop C8, Main Road, Hermanus. 07283122416 Peregrine Farm Stall Sure they didn’t have soy milk the day we were there, but they use Origin Coffee beans so you know you’re in for a caffeine fix and flavour you can depend.
SWEAT IT OUT SOMEWHERE SCENIC
Living in Cape Town I’m no stranger to beautiful scenery but the Overberg takes it that one step further, being less built-up means one can fully immerse in nature and the abundant fauna. We overhead it being recommended for families because it was such a hit with the teens, so instead of embarking on a hike, we opted for the hour long Ninebot Guided Trail tour. Anyone over the age of 8 years can explore the Arabella grounds and Bot river estuary on a Segway for R400 per person; we giggled our way through the lush tour and ended up seeing an unexpectedly large number of beautiful birdlife.
On Sunday our Sand Boarding (R350 per person) had been cancelled due to the rain overnight – this only meant our time was freed up to find yet another exciting activity. Negotiations between us on whether to do the lagoon kayaking (R600 pp) which I preferred, versus the sea kayaking (R400 pp) which my travel companion preferred, broke down and we decided on something we could at least agreed on and that was a leisurely scenic horse ride around the Hemel en Aarde Valley – which at R260 per person felt like a steal. The trip was beautiful, the instructor’s knowledge of the area was captivating. She thoughtfully matched the horses to our riding abilities which meant we were exceptionally relaxed and calm for two novice riders.
HAVE AN INSTAGRAM MOMENT (OR FIVE)
- The views from the hotel are out of this world, they allowed us to not feel rushed to leave the hotel in the mornings because just hanging around the breakfast room we were surrounded by frame worthy vistas.
- The views of the lagoon and golf courses – I mean does this even need punting; the picture speaks a thousand words.
- From atop the Babylon Mountains along the R320 you will be tempted to stop the car and snap your most liked ‘#landscape_porn’ pic – for the best views of the valley, head to Domaine Des Dieux or Ataraxia.
- Driving back on the coastal route, Clarence Drive 22kms of magnificence – ensconced between the turquoise Cape Coastline and the Hottentots Hollands Mountains the route rivals some of the best in the world.
- Both the Hermanus beach front and Kleinmond is where all the whale spotting takes place – so keep your camera/phone close while you sip on your coffee or cocktail because you never know when the majestic creatures will come to play.
THIS IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR
Wine tasting is the obvious choice for the foodies but equally as inexhaustible is the variety of outdoor activities. The unique location is idyllic for a retreat plus the hotel’s Spa and gym was superb. On our drive back my travel companion made an obvious yet incessantly overlooked remark, “That was less than half a tank of fuel away, return, for everything we just experienced, we should try the West Coast next” –and I couldn’t agree more.