It’s time to dine out on Spring

SKOTNES RESTAURANT

As the days get longer and the sun comes out to play, so do I. I hot-footed it off to the Norval Foundation to enjoy the art with the older half of my offspring in tow. It was a glorious, sunny day so sat outside on the deck at the Skotnes Restaurant where we could admire the wetlands, gardens and sculptures after appreciating the building and the art. The menu is interesting and appealing, in keeping with the style of the gallery, and showcasing chef Phil de Villiers’s love of the unusual. I remember his original cuisine from Level Four at 54 on Bath, and at Primal Eatery. I chose the kale and salmon salad with apple, avo and beet. My son selected the Caesar salad with pork which was served in natural wooden bowls and after a cheese board and a few glasses of rosé, we were ready to call it weekend.

BAO DOWN

A meeting with fellow Asian food lovers for a catch-up at Bao Down became long-awaited and much-anticipated. If you want to head to Vredehoek for a casual, flavour-filled lunch or dinner, be sure to book in advance. Since opening it has been chock-a-block. Graham Oldfield, formerly of Chefs Warehouse & Canteen, and his wife Phillipa, have kept it simple and small. The bar counter is where one waits in-between the first and second sittings. It was great to see Liam and Jan Tomlin supporting their former employee which has now found a platform of his own to express his creativity. In addition to the bevy of dishes that came to our table, we loved the fact that for a change is was BYO-booze. The service was friendly, super-efficient and although we were advised not to over-order, we did. The sashimi with ponzu dressing, prawn toast and pork bao with BBQ sauce were amazing. I loved the spicy chicken wings, but my dish of the night was the aubergine with toasted sunflower seeds, miso, sesame seed dressing and coriander. Noisy, vibey, nothing that’s not-to-love.

THE BISTRO @ KLEIN CONSTANTIA

A lazy Sunday lunch turned into an all-afternoon affair. In addition to the wine tasting room and private dining room, there is a provocative gift boutique, but we bypassed those and settled on the deck under an umbrella. Our dishes, paired with the excellent Klein Constantia wines, were exemplary – coal-baked beetroot and grilled Camembert salad for me, and the pork terrine for my man. We both had the duck confit with an olive and prune relish and parsnip purée – rich and satisfying. The Klein Constantia honey-poached pears with crème anglaise and oat crumble was decadent and delicious. The stand-out of the day was the superlative, knowledgeable service – that’s what you get from someone who is a sommelier and has worked as a chef in the UK for 10 years. I wish to see more of the same, elsewhere! Take advantage of their current spring special – weekdays only in October. The two-course menu with a glass of Klein Constantia Brut MCC is R235, the three-course menu with a glass of Klein Constantia Brut MCC is R300.

SWAN CAFÉ

A Monday-morning birthday breakfast with a friend at Swan Café, a French-style creperie, was delightful. Owner Jessica Rushmere and interior guru Haldane Martin have created a feminine, stylish and sexy interior with, naturally, a swan theme. I immediately admired the birdcage light fittings. We started with the Christmas in July tea – a delicate blend of Rooibos, lemon, cardamom, cloves, orange peel, ginger, flowers and cinnamon. The heady spices and Christmas colours are enough to add festivity to any well-wishing. One may consider the only-crepe option limiting, but the variety makes it exciting. The savoury galettes are show-stopping. I had the Rosa – with roasted baby tomatoes, fior di latte, fresh basil, cheese, baby spinach and pine nuts. The batter is made from gluten-free buckwheat flour, and it was served with a small green salad. My friend chose the briquette with goat’s cheese, caramelized apple, toasted walnuts, West Coast wild honey and fresh thyme. We watched a gentleman next to us enthusiastically ploughing through the same, followed by a sweet crêpe! We admired the gorgeous tea caddies, trays and candles on display, ideal gifts for discerning girls. Swanning back to our cars, we made a mental note of all the other enticing coffee and breakfast spots in this burgeoning Harrington Street area for our next rendezvous.

ELGIN RAILWAY MARKET

If you are looking for a market that offers a plethora of culinary delights, then head off to apple country. The big drawcard is that you can get there by steam train, leaving Cape Town at 8h00, taking just over three hours to get there! The Elgin Railway Market is in the former station, the place where produce was packed off to greener pastures. No expense has been spared in restoring it, and the architectural attention to detail is admirable – be sure to look up and to see where your cool air is coming from – beautifully-restored aeroplane propellers. The little wine shop upstairs stocks local Overberg wines. Side-stepping the ciders, the gin bar is where I savoured L-Gin, apple flavoured, served with slices of Granny Smith apples and mint. Live music adds to the pleasure as we investigated a diverse selection of international fare. I headed off in search of savoury stalls and chose a generous portion of prawns, calamari, rice and salad that was robust in flavour. The sweet treats beckoned, so off to the fudge stall where we sampled liquorice, whisky and myriad flavours of fudge before buying a few triangles to nibble on in the car.

GREENHOUSE, BABYLONSTOREN

What a treat to yet again amble around the Babylonstoren gardens, to lie in the chamomile field and to witness the advent of spring. Blossoms were starting to pop out, the clivias are giving the start of a good show, and the colour green is becoming more apparent. It was worth waiting in a well-organised queuing system for our table in the shade at the Greenhouse, at which we sipped a few glasses of Babylonstoren Mourvedre Rose – one of my favourite easy-drinking wines. Whilst the weight-watchers in our quartet devoured the Caesar salad, one gave us order envy when he polished off a delicious-looking burger. Not satisfied with that, it was over to freshly-baked scones, with farm butter, jam and cream, which I gladly shared. The garden tour at Babylonstoren is a must for any epicurean for whom provenance plays a role. The restaurant Babel pays tribute to just that – provenance – but be sure to book in advance.

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