South African celebrity chef Reuben Riffel has left his mark on Cape Town.
His restaurant and bar, Reuben’s, serves up uncomplicated cuisine at one of the city’s luxury hotels One&Only, with a sophisticated list of wines from the region to match.
The first of five courses is laid out as our touring party of five ladies, hosted by Bench Africa, toasts champagne glasses and eats passionfruit prawns, before a cauliflower veloute appears for a starter.
Every morsel of my seared springbok and gooseberry chutney touches my lips. Then a cod with tender broccoli and baby beetroot is laid before me as a main, with a spiced apple and chocolate cake and orange ice-cream for dessert.
But if you’re after a 14-course African menu, head to Gold Restaurant in Cape Town. It’s a Cape Malay and African taste roadshow with moreish curries and fish cakes, plus live drumming and dancing to keep you on your toes.
And if that’s not enough, head to The Secret Gin Bar at the back of a chocolate shop. There’s a drink to cure a heartache, impulse buying, jealousy and even disconnection from life’s purpose and meaning in the speakeasy bar.
Or try Outrage of Modesty, which has a cocktail for every taste.
For a strong coffee, check out the steam-punk-themed Truth Coffee Roasting. Don’t forget to try the local selection of South African sausage with grilled mushroom, fried eggs, crispy bacon, cheese and spicy chakalaka for breakfast, then go across the road to Charly’s Bakery to fulfil a sweet craving.
Tintswalo Atlantic is the place for fine dining, offering spectacular views of Hout Bay that are just as good as the food. A fynbos-ash-cured salmon with an African mayo, dill and pickled edamame is the perfect start before a fynbos gin and rosemary gelato refresher.
The lemongrass pork belly with raspberries and passion fruit pomme puree is a marriage for the decades. Just save room for a vanilla pod and chocolate mousse for dessert.
With full bellies, we make our way to Franschhoek Country House and Villas for petite assiette dishes from Monneaux Restaurant. A crumbed brie with raspberry salad, smoked octopus in dashi, and steak with thick cut chips are my dishes of choice.
But it’s not just the food you’ll want to savour in Franschhoek, which is located about an hour from Cape Town.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram will be your best friend as you jump on and off the bus and trains, which take you to at selection of vineyards. It’s a glorious sunny day when we board, with our first stop at Allee Bleue for a wine and cheese pairing for just $A10.
You can’t go past sampling the pinotage, South Africa’s signature grape variety, which is a blend between pinot noir and cinsaut.
After an hour, it’s time to change pace with a visit to Vrede en Lust. Set below the Groot Drakenstein mountain range, this vineyard has more than wine to offer.
It’s here Franschhoek Wine Tram’s general manager, Brett Garner, drinks a coffee as he shares his passion for viticulture, while the rest of us raise wine glasses.
“South African wine is very good… and inexpensive. So when you find it in a restaurant … in most areas of the world, the pricing is very competitive,” he says.
“Most of the estates are outside the village, a very short drive – Franschhoek is very small. There are only 54 producers.”
The waiter tells us the next train has pulled in so we scoot, waving farewell to Garner, as we move towards our next wine tasting stop, Babylonstoren.
Here the standout is the sprankel – a vibrant white with hints of citrus, apple and fresh hazelnuts that linger in the mouth.
The feasting is far from over, with Sir Richard Branson’s winery and boutique hotel Mont Rochelle to host us dinner at its restaurant Miko.
The wild ostrich carpaccio melts in my mouth before a succulent beef fillet with a side of greens and mash potato with gravy and bacon is served. But with just enough room left, the banoffee cheesecake seals the deal.
And as for the food on safari, think lighter and healthy options with a good helping of traditional barbecue and low-roasted meats.
You’ll wish you packed those elastic-waisted pants.
Getting there: South African Airlines flies to Cape Town from Australia’s east coast with codeshare partner Virgin Australia.
Playing there: To mark its 50th anniversary, Africa travel specialist Bench Africa has launched a 13-day Luxury Signature Safari Special, featuring four nights in Cape Town, three nights in Franschhoek and five nights on a luxury safari in a private game reserve near Kruger National Park. Prices start from $4995 per person, twin share, including deluxe accommodations throughout, breakfast daily, all meals and local drinks on safari, tours in Cape Town, road transfers, game viewing and other extras. Internal flights are not included. Conditions apply. Visit benchafrica.com.
The writer travelled to South Africa as a guest of Bench Africa in a hosted media tour.
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