Picked up our car yesterday at the Cape Town airport, nice little grey VW Polo. Loaded up and headed for our first stop for the night, La Dauphine outside of Franschhoek which we drove to via Stellenbosch, both of which are in vineyard country about an hour north of Cape Town. Stopped for lunch at a very modern, architecturally-interesting vineyard halfway up a mountain outside of Stellenbosch called Tokara. An over-the-top menu to accompany the wines and spectacular views. Not to go into too much detail, but my starter was a Smoked Trout Alaska, which was a nice piece of smoked trout covered with a layer of baked meringue, on top of which was a scoop of smoked salmon ice-cream and some salmon roe and surrounded with various splashes of infused herbal oils, fruit purees and sauces. I should have taken a picture of that as well as the views but too tired. I stopped off at the men’s room on our way out and while standing at a urinal, jet-lagged and inhibition-free, struck up a conversation with the man next to me. He turned out to be the proprietor of a BC winery, Averill Creek Winery on a wine tasting tour of SA to check out the competitive landscape, an activity that I gather he occupies himself with once or twice a year in vineyards around the world. (Note to self: find a way to get into this line of work!). His advice? Can’t go wrong with SA whites but stay away from the pinot noirs; will be fun to test his theory and will order some of his wines to try when we get home.
Pressed on for La Dauphine and a beautiful little place it is. Franschhoek, the town, is a wonderful little village with undertones of Palm Desert, Harbour Island and its own South African flavour. The air is crystal clear and should be bottled, the town is polished and bright, full of very chic shops and to cap it all, it’s also supposed to be the culinary capital of SA. The local real estate dealer is Sotheby’s, so I think you get the point. We tested the culinary theory at dinner in a local restaurant, Bon Vivant, last night and I can report that the food is fabulous. We had wonderful wines, innovative and appetising starters and mains, great local cheeses and V had a soufflé for desert along with a late harvest riesling and a tawny port for me with cheese; the total bill with tip came to about $90 Canadian! We used to pay north of $120 for a weeknight dinner at the Town Grill 4 years ago and this is one of the top restaurants in SA!
Came home and sat outside with a nightcap; we are surrounded by mountains, Cape Town is 100K away and Franschhoek closes down by 22:00 so NO light pollution and the stars are only 10 feet over your head and in their countless billions. Haven’t seen a night sky so purely black and star-laden since Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Just staggering. The countryside is as beautiful as I can remember anywhere and with all the other attractions we may never leave.