Where to Eat in Cape Town's Winelands Region
Anywhere there are world-class wines being made, the coexistence of delicious food and exceptional eateries is surely a given. The postcard-perfect Cape Winelands begin a mere 45 minutes from central Cape Town, and clustered around the hills and valleys of the main hubs of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, you'll find some of the best restaurants in the country with menus where, naturally, each course is paired with some of the finest wines from the region. When visiting Cape Town, it’s worth spending a few days in the area, tasting your way through various farms and tucking in to a host of world-class meals along the way. Given the prominence of Winelands establishments on countless best restaurant lists both in South Africa and the world at large, it is hard to pick just five favorites, but I'd recommend trying to squeeze as many of these as you can into your stay.
The Tasting Room
One of Restaurant Magazine's top 100 restaurants in the world, this eatery at the venerated Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel Le Quartier Français is usually booked out for months, so make sure you call ahead for a reservation as soon as you know Franschhoek is on your itinerary. Chef Margot Janse is an institution in South Africa, and every evening she turns out an extraordinary surprise feast. Decide between the five- and the eight-course tasting menu, but that's the last decision you'll be making tonight. The servers will bring you whatever they choose, with courses ranging from figs topped with a local goat cheese to a curried monkfish on a bed of daal to an octopus salad with quinoa.
There are few restaurants that can tout their claim to farm-to-table cooking quite as strongly as Babel—after all, the restaurant is essentially set in a farm. As the main dining option at the stylish resort Babylonstoren, Babel dabbles in fresh produce sourced directly from the nine-acre farm that surrounds it: pickled beetroot, butternut fritters, cauliflower and gorgonzola sour cream pastries, and more.
Chef Bertus Basson is a household name in the Winelands, and you can sample his offerings at his restaurant at the wine cellar of the Hidden Valley Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. His menu changes with the seasons, with dishes like rabbit terrine, herb-crusted hake, and crisp squid with miso cream. Twice a month from August through October, Basson hosts a braai festival, letting diners experience his take on South Africa's favorite pastime: barbecuing.
Rust en Vrede
Come for a wine tasting, stay for dinner. This flagship restaurant at a winery of the same name is where Capetonians head to celebrate a special event. Housed in a lovely Cape Dutch manse at the end of a stone path, the brick-lined dining room is the setting for a four- or six-course menu that seems simpler than it actually is: tarragon gnocchi, goat-cheese soufflé, or harrissa-spiced lamb, and more. Sommelier Joakim Hansi Blackadder selects the perfect pours for each course.
Another one of the country's best restaurants, also found in Stellenbosch: Kleine Zalze Wine Estate's signature restaurant has a cozy dining room that feels more like a lively tavern than a formal dining area. Diners choose from options scrawled on a chalkboard—the prawn risotto starter is a must—and each course is best paired with a Kleine Zalze wine.