It’s really hard to describe the foodie scene in Stellenbosch in one category, because it’s so diverse. Restaurants and kitchens range from top quality fine dining, the likes of Tokara Restaurant (probably one of my top 5 favourites) to home-cooking in the kitchens of the Mama’s of Kayamandi Township – there are so many delicious plates to be eaten and so little time.
Although I know the region quite well, I recently had the opportunity to again spend a week in this beautiful part of the country for the #Stellenblog campaign; sampling glasses of exceptionally fine wine and tucking into plate after plate of mouth-watering food.
If, in some bizarre circumstance, someone put an ultimatum in front of me and I was faced with the threat of never eating again or giving a name to the food scene in Stellenbosch, I would call it: A Foodie’s Destination. It’s as simple as that. It’s the place to go if you’re into food and wine.
While Stellenbosch is often promoted as a day-trip destination from Cape Town, it’s really the ideal place to base yourself if, like me, you travel with eating in mind. It’s a short drive from the city (30-40 minutes to the Cape Town City Bowl as well as Hermanus (whale watching mecca) and Elgin (apple country).
Here, in no particular order, is a list of a few of my favourite places to eat in Stellenbosch.
1. 96 Winery Road
A serious crowd-pleaser. This restaurant serves hearty food like three cheese fondue, a signature peppered fillet steak that is to die for and a particularly good creme brulee. It’s the kind of place that both foodies (like me) and hard-to-please steak-lovers (like my dad) will enjoy.
They also have an extensive wine list and lovely staff, which brings even more satisfaction to your visit. Highly recommended for a laid-back dinner or a family meal.
2. Makaron at Majeka House
Without a doubt one of Stellenbosch’s brightest hidden gems. The food at Makaron is slightly fancy and slightly complicated – in a good way. Their head chef, Tanja Kruger, is passionate about creating food experiences, which is what I am all about. She’s always coming up with fun new ways to create magic on your plate, like serving an upside-down ice cream “cone” (pastry and ice cream) in “sea sand” (biscuity crumbs) and giving it the cryptic title of fond seaside memories on the menu.
Their sommelier, Esme, is renowned for bringing wines from both ends of the price scale to the table, mixing up top-end wines with surprise lower price point wines. If you’re going for the tasting menu, I really recommend going in for the wine pairing too.
3. Hartenberg Wine Estate
We visited the estate for a special event and I loved it so much that I can’t wait to go back for their standard offerings of lunch at their restaurant or a picnic in the summer months. Their wines are also incredible – especially their Gravel Hill Shiraz, which I could drink with every meal forever.
4. Helena’s at Coopmanhuijs
This unassuming restaurant at the Coopmanhuijs Hotel in the heart of Stellenbosch town serves delicious and hearty meals including a meze platter of their signature roasted peppers, lightly toasted baguettes, smoked snoek paté, pork rillette croquettes and marinated button mushrooms and these irresistible crispy aubergine sticks that I always pretend taste gross so that I can have the whole table’s portion. It’s the kind of place you go for the food, the service and the atmosphere, which are all special.
5. Waterkloof Restaurant
This is a really particularly special one so if you love food you can’t miss it. Head Chef Gregory Czarnecki turns every single plate of food into the opportunity to make art and serves it in a beautiful glass box overlooking the Helderberg. Paired with their exquisite wines, this is an experience you won’t be able to forget.
Go all-in for the 8 course tasting menu paired with wine and then spend the rest of your life trying to find a dining experience that can live up to it.
6. Eight at Spier
It’s easy to skip Spier in search of smaller, more “authentic” wine farms. But don’t be fooled by their slick offering. This farm is all heart. From their organic farming methods to their water recycling efforts and 100% recyclable packaging, Spier may look like a machine but it operates like a loving pair of hands.
Eight Restaurant offers beautifully presented picnics which include Richard Bosman artisan meats, fresh salads, cheeses and these little brownies that are so good I have to employ my trusted old method of “don’t eat the brownies they are really gross” in order to pocket the whole lot for myself.
7. Terroir at Kleine Zalze
I know I’ve written about them a hundred times, but I can’t tell you enough how great the experience at Terroir is. The service is always on point, the food cannot be faulted and their Chenin Blanc must surely be sent straight down from heaven. If you’re risotto obsessive (welcome to the club) you’ll be sure to fall off your chair when you try their signature prawn risotto.
8. Bistro 13
Although we didn’t visit the restaurant during the #Stellenblog trip, I have eaten there before and they remain one of my favourite restaurants in the area. The food is beautiful and delicious and different and I would recommend it to everyone with a mouth and a tummy – whether you eat to live or live to eat.
9. Tokara Restaurant
This is another restaurant that wasn’t included in my recent trip, but is worth a mention for sure. In my opinion, it’s the best restaurant in Stellenbosch. The food, combined with the wine and the views just makes for a truly spectacular experience.
The food is uncharacteristically light (for South Africa) and doesn’t leave you feeling like you need a nap or a green juice to balance it out. The best way I can describe it is pure. Simple would be too simple, because the food has depth of flavour and texture and looks incredible on a plate.
Here’s a look at my post from 2014’s #Stellenblog trip: Eating #Stellenblog
#Stellenblog is a campaign hosted by Stellenbosch Wine Routes, Stellenbosch 360 and Destinate Solutions. I was invited to join 6 other bloggers from around the world to experience Stellenbosch and share stories about what I love about this special part of the world.