Monday, May 2, 2011

A Day in the Wineland's Hidden Valley

 An autumnal lunch at the Long Table restaurant in Stellenbosch.

One of my most favourite things to do in Cape Town, is to escape to the winelands. Depending which way you're headed, you'll be surrounded by vineyards and mountains in an hour. The area is especially exquisite at this time of year, with the trees and vines turning russet-coloured and the warm, if a little shy, autumn sun catching the mountains. We headed on a strategic mission to taste some wines off the Annandale Road in Stellenbosch.

We began the journey with a tasting at the Ernie Els wine estate, with its robust if a little tight reds and celebrated signature red blends. The beautiful weather highlighted the green terraced gardens and the golden vineyards that the tasting room and restaurant overlooks. While only offering red at the moment, the estate plans to launch a white wine range. The hot Stellenbosch region isn't optimal for white varietals, so white grapes will be purchased for the task. 

Next was Rust en Vrede, conveniently down the road! With the lush overhanging trees, deep shadows, hills of vineyards, established cellar and lazy farm dogs, you immediately relax sitting on the terrace. The estate produces renowned delicious, full-bodied red wine exclusively, which is naturally why we made a stop there for a tasting on our way to lunch.

We ended at Long Table for a late, bistro-style lunch. Sold on the lunch specials, the standard menu offers something for everyone with hearty portions. Very full (and rather lazy!) after a full lunch and wine, we skipped dessert and decided to use the drive home to digest our lunch and have some rhubarb and apple crumble when we got home instead.

The roast tomato soup starter, with it's impressive
spider web of cream. (Unfortunately it turned out to be a decorative distraction:
the temperature of the cream actually cooled the soup a little too much.)

A delicious seasonal salad: greens, pomegranates, figs, Gorgonzola and
Parma ham with a bright, fresh dressing.

The terrace of the restaurant is in the shadow of huge trees and
looks onto the vineyard and beautiful mountains.

The pork belly main course served on polenta with seasonal veg.
As can so often happen with pork belly, it was under-seasoned, so the gravy
was an important component of the dish.

Yip, the portions are not small! The oxtail served on risotto with veg.
The risotto was a creamy, subtle base that worked well with
the rich meat and the (slightly too) salty gravy.

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