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Cape Town and her greater environs are ringing the golden dinner bell of our times. Not only has the beautiful coastal city won the hearts of foodies round the globe, the verdant vine-carpeted valleys of Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch are revered at the finest tables for their heady vintages. Only a short scenic drive from the city, a raft of vineyard tastings, gallery tours and sophisticated patio lunches make for a very fine day out indeed.
Touring the Cape Winelands is an appetite-affirming adventure, filled with cliff-hugging scenic delights, sandy beaches and sea dips for the willing. Luckily our wily Micato hosts could run a masterclass in terroir, tasting and tippling at the finest spots in the land. Our rather decadent winelands tour commenced with a robust flight of buttery whites, dispensed with a friendly flourish on the shade-dappled terrace of Waterford Estate. Among our favourites, the crisp, appley Chenin Blanc is among South Africa’s most produced – and loved – grapes. It’s soon time to wend our way up the road to a luxuriant lunch at Tokara, atop Helshoogte Pass outside Stellenbosch. Beginning with plate of fresh oysters and a glass of MCC, or Methode Cap Classique, the bubbly stars-in-a-flute aperitif so finely suited to the warm sultry South African climate, it’s followed a dish of delicate local springbok loin and poached peaches overlooking the arcing vines of Stellenbosch. Slivers of blues of False Bay are just visible on the horizon and invite a post-prandial dip on the drive back to Cape Town to cap a perfect day.
The palate is prince, potentate and lord of the land in these parts. South African cuisine is a flavourful melange of African, Malaysian, Indian and Sri Lankan cultures, blended with a passion for hospitality and often merrily seared with a little Braai. (Afrikaans for barbecue, and pronounced ‘bry’, there is precious little in these parts that can’t be enjoyed round these embers of joy.) A stroll along the foot-friendly V&A Waterfront in Cape Town dishes up a hearty sampling of local hits: from biltong and boerewors (dried meat and sausage), to Malay-inspired bobotie and bunny chow (spicy casserole and fast-food curry) all well met with glass of local wine, ginger non-alcoholic beer or heady rich coffee in all the best varieties.
Sophisticates, nota bene: elegant dining abounds on an extended South African safari tour. Out in the bush, deeply luxurious safari camps invoke a heady combination of Hemingway elegance combined with Bezos-worthy modernity. Show-stopping meals are artfully, heartfully, deliciously prepared by highly trained chefs, served by professional staff. Prepare to be blown away by the wine cellars, too – broad, bodacious and all-included. In Cape Town, from globally sought-after Japanese delicacies of Nobu situated pride of place at One&Only, to one of the world’s most lauded restaurants, The Test Kitchen, destination dinners can easily make a journey’s highlight. Then again, who are we kidding? Food like this informs the very journey itself.
It was a sultry warm Valentine’s Evening when we swanned into the Test Kitchen – yes, of all the night’s in a calendar of an already over-subscribed, internationally renowned restaurant, this is the one on which our Micato Safari wizard waved her magic wand. Appreciating the casual S-A vibe (predominantly shirts for gents and summer frocks for ladies), we settle in for an inventive cocktail. Our pomegranate margaritas are served in the Dark Room alongside Chef Dale-Roberts’ distinctive, flavour-punched small bites from around the world. After a heavenly taste trip through England, Scotland, Sweden, Ethiopia and Korea, the scene is set to move through to the main event in the buzzy Light Room, where an open kitchen generates the near-mystical flow of flaming, steamy, frothing sensory courses. The menu belies an Aladdin’s cave of wonders: mundane, possibly ironic, mentions of Cottage Pie and Sunday Roast spin into spectacular tongue-teasing surprises. Choose from the wine pairings or – most cleverly – a rare tea pairing and prepare to be blown away. Again, again, and again once more.
If you are dreaming of a culinary escape to South Africa, check in with Micato Safaris’ Specialists who can design the perfect safari for you.