Sometimes I hate Christmas. Call me a scrooge but there’s nothing that dampens my festive spirit more than black friday brawls, the coco-cola TV advert and every highstreet store playing the Pogues on repeat. So when my little brother, a professional golfer living in South Africa at the time, suggested I join him and his friends for the Christmas period, I jumped at the chance to swap my traditional turkey and trimmings for a fillet of springbok. If you crave a quiet, parred-back Christmas then a few days eating and drinking your way through South Africa’s wine region is the perfect festive retreat.
We decided to spend 23rd – 26th December on a gourmet road trip of Stellenbosch and Franshhoek, staying at the atmospheric, intimate and amazingly good value Baruch Guest House. It’s tastefully decorated rooms and tiny but ample pool were all we needed to slip into our daily food comas.
It was a hard job, but I selflessly sampled the best the restaurants in the region and here are my top five restaurant recommendations (booking ahead during is strongly advised):
Delaire Graff – we had lunch here on our first day and wandered around the picturesque vineyard afterwards. I’m a big game fan and can vouch for the springbok here. The hotel boasts one of the most spectacular views from lunch on the terrace and there’s a stunning pool and spa for hotel guests.
Makaron – this was my brother’s pick and his research paid off. For contemporary cuisine, this place takes some beating. The restaurant itself is the stuff of interior design dreams – all gleaming perspex chairs and polished parquet flooring. It’s a multi-scensory dining extravaganza with surprises galore – but I’ll resist the urge to spoil your experience by divulging them all here. We opted for the 6 course menu with wine pairings and it blew. our. minds.
Haute Cabrière – a dark, intimate cellar restaurant set into the side of Franschhoek Mountain. We had Christmas Eve here and were serenaded by a children’s choir as we dined. Steeped in history, this famous wine estate was started over 300 years ago. When we there, only nod to Christmas was the tree made of champagne bottles – the perfect match for half a dozen of the freshest oysters…
La Petit Ferme – traditional little restaurant in Franschoek with tables dotted around a gorgeous garden. This place came highly recommended from some friends who visited it the year before. I really enjoyed the setting (the restaurant is only open at lunchtime) with views across the valley.
Mont Marie – we spent Christmas day here and it was particularly special. Tables are set on a wooden terrace with views across the lake. It’s informal and not too stuffy but service is impeccable. The Christmas menu was traditional enough but with a contemporary twist.