April, 2017: I don’t know about you but we love a long boozie lunch. There is something naughty and awesome about getting nicely sozzled in the middle of the day while feasting on great food. The area around Stellenbosch and Franschoek is perfect for this given the multitude of quality winery based restaurants. We sampled The Kitchen at Maison and The Werf at Boschendal…plus found a a few other treats scattered around. Stellenbosch lunch for two anyone?
Stellenbosch lunch for two – The Kitchen at Maison:
On first impressions, The Kitchen at Maison tickled us in all the right places. It was recommended by The Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine…tick; the restaurant itself was sleek and modern with a beautiful outlook onto the vineyards…tick; we were welcomed by friendly and attentive staff…tick; and the sound of the dishes on the tapas style menu gave enough to get us excited but not too much to give it all away…tick! We had only come for a quick lunch but with all of the above in mind it was inevitable we were going to stay longer. 10 different dishes across 5 different courses longer. We settled in.
Everything kicked off well with outstanding fresh baked bread and deliciously salted butter, not to mention some fantastic house sparkling. Then some really beautiful looking food started coming our way. From abalone and salmon roe, to kudu and beetroot, the food was inventive, refined and looked amazing. While some of the dishes seemed to try a little too hard to push the boundaries overall we had a cracking afternoon. Some dishes such as sous vide squid were 100% bang on while others like a steak tartare marinated in shiraz went one step a little too far. It was obvious that the chef had his techniques down but it felt like sometimes he was trying to demonstrate too many at once. Or that he was trying to fit too many ingredients into the one dish. Still, we walked away full of beautifully refined food with a slightly merry hop in our step.
Stellenbosch lunch for two – The Werf at Boschendal:
A few weeks later, on our second visit to the area we stopped into the The Werf at Boschendal Estates. It was quite a different beast and while we left there feeling mildly ill from way too much rich food, it was another great afternoon of feasting. Boschendal is one of the oldest wine estates of the region being established in 1685 by a French Huguenot refugee fleeing persecution in Europe. It’s huge, in a stunning setting and has a lot to offer. From wine and olive oil tastings, to hikes around the estate, to boutique accommodation, and, of course food. The Werf is a big old airy restaurant which faces out onto the estate’s massive market garden. It has a charming country estate kind of feel with plenty of wood, white and blue tiles and random oil paintings of god knows who on the walls. In the early days of winter, the menu was chock full of rustic hearty fare, slow cooked meats and sharing platters. Sound good? That’s what we thought too.
We started with an entree of confit chicken salad and another of tuna with pickled vegetables. From there we got seriously stuck into some slow cooked meats. There was slow braised lamb shoulder which always gets me excited and then baked beef brisket. Both were amazingly rich and tasty but in the end almost too much for us. While the awesome shiraz helped cut through the richness what we really needed was a crisp rocket salad or some other fresh and zesty side. Instead we got roasted beetroots and braised red cabbage. Phew! It didn’t take long before we both had a case of the meat sweats and were groaning with overfull bellies.
While neither The Kitchen and The Werf got full marks for food, overall they delivered what you want from a boozie lunch. Beautiful restaurants in a great location, plenty of good wine on offer, great service and in general delicious food. On one hand was the refinement of The Kitchen while on the other was the homely, rusticness of The Werf. Either way you look, a quality way to spend an afternoon in the vineyards.
Other thoughts on Stellenbosch eating:
- While not a winery we had an epic steak dinner at FatButcher in Stellenbosch. We had a 1.2kg t-bone and despite them getting a little too enthusiastic with the basting it was still amazing. Great value too given we could BYO.
- We read that the Saturday market at Blaauwklippen Estate was one of the best in the area for food and booze tastings but were a little underwhelmed. We did have a pretty delicious, oversized sushi roll with prime steak and beetroot rice but other than that the food wasn’t overly exciting. All in all, worth a quick visit if you’re driving by but nothing special.
- We also had a pretty awesome pizza tasting of all things at Brenaissance winery in their Cafe Blanc de Noir. They bring out a paddle with four different pizza flavourings designed to match their wines. Pretty damn tasty as well.