Sleep-in Review: Le Franschhoek Hotel, Cape Winelands

May 7, 2007

For our last day of holidays in Cape Town, we decided to head off to one of my favourite wineland areas – Franschhoek. I never get tired of revisiting this picturesque valley and there’s always something new to see.

This time, our first point of call was a new-ish hotel (it’s about a year old) that has opened in the area. At the Hugenout Monument junction, swing a right and drive for 3 km. You’ll reach the glorious Le Franschhoek Hotel, a three cities hotel property, which must certainly be their flagship.

Apparently there was already an old hotel on the site but this has been completely refurbished and modernised into 5 star decadence. Of course, it’s always the natural scenery that makes this hotel worth taking out a loan to stay at (I never actually found out the rates but I reckon they are probably in the R2000 per room range). The mountains, the lush greenery, the picturesque forest walk, made me feel as if I was miles away from bustling city life.

Pool at Le FranschhoekThere are different kinds of rooms – some are housed in the main hotel, which others are suites scattered throughout the property. There is a large welcoming pool and a terrace that oozes elegant colonialism. It’s the perfect place to savour a G&T while watching the sunset.

There are two main restaurants – the Rainforest one which is housed in an open-air (with some cover) greenhouse complete with a mist that sweeps over the dining areas to cool things down. It’s buffet style here with an area where you can choose your own ingredients for Asian stirfry and it gets whipped up before your eyes.

Everything looked mouthwatering but we weren’t after a huge meal and in addition, the only tables that were available were in the direct sun and boy, was it hot. The restaurant is heavily dependent on the weather so it closes during winter.

Fruit PlatterThere is a more formal restaurant which I hope to try one day. But we opted for a light lunch on the terrace where mom, Tamara and I enjoyed a variety of delicious salads. We knew the greens were fresh as they were slightly gritty from sand (fresh from the earth?) Thank goodness the ubiquitous earthworm didn’t find its way onto our plates.

After checking out the spa and going for a stroll through the beauty, we headed back to Franschhoek. And so began out quest to find Tamara a gigantic Ndebele beaded doll. We went into every shop along the busy main street. The shops hold some treasures and mom bought Tam and I some gorgeous colourful placemats with images of Cape Town and its rainbow people.

I stopped into the new yummy ice-cream shop and also couldn’t leave without a praline from my favourite Belgium choccy shoppe (a real foody heaven this is).

Tam finally found a magnificent doll and I bought a mini-version. Pleased with our purchases and full-up with yummy farmland food, we headed back to Cape Town.


Edible Review: Riboville, Cape Town

May 7, 2007

I had been away from Cape Town for 5 months and while I have been away restaurants have opened and closed (as they do with alarming pace). The fabulous trendoid bar above Wakame in Mouille Point burnt down (apparently the poor fishies also got fried) and another firery disaster, Madame Zinghara, re-opened as a large tent showcasing a circus and dinner (apparently really good but I couldn’t fit everything in).

Then there’s the new Nelson Mandela precint right at the top of Adderley Street by the company gardens. Along with some new apartments, there’s a couple of new eateries as well.

For my Thursday dinner with a whole group of my wonderful SA mates, I chose the new Roboville. This restaurant is housed in an old banking institution which has been completely refurbished. The interior is large and very classy and I seem to remember high ceilings with chandeliers and sumptuous fittings.

The menu was not huge but offered some interesting options in that there are three kitchens: the Asian had a couple of stirfry and fusion meet dishes ; then there was the fish variety. Being owned by the same people who are behind the successes of the codfather. the fishy spot here works in a similar way – you choose the type and size of your seafood and it gets prepared for you. Finally there’s also the sushi shelf if that takes your fancy.

Van and I started with the chicken satay which was a bit weird as the meat seemed crumbed – but it was still tasty. I then decided to opt for the triple taster – which features one-third of a portion of 3 of the Asian dishes. I can’t really remember what they were – but I think it was chicken curry, a beef stirfry and some other dish – all very tasty.

One of the highlights was a guided tour of the cellar housed in the bank vault in the basement of the restaurant. We were taken down in one of those relic lifts which had those metal grid doors that slide across. The cellar was a magnificent area set out for private dining or coffee and dessert. The wine collection here is very impressive and they should do really well once they get a license to sell their wine. My mouth watered at the sight of such a rich variety of dessert wines.

So yes, I would return to Riboville again. It still doesn’t touch Sinn for that delectable ostrich steak (the only restaurant I returned to twice during my 10 day visit) but it was a really good night out.

Edible Review: Mount Nelson High Tea

April 1, 2007

I had a bit of a gourmet dilemma back in Cape Town: do I try new restaurants or go for old-time favourites. The classics won out and my first choice of eatery was Sinn Restaurant at Wembley Square.

This restaurant got a great review from me in September (read my blog entry about Sinn) so it wasn’t surprising that I wanted to go back.

Van, Karen and me at SinnI met Vanessa, Karen and Patrick there and we had an awesome dinner. The ostrich was even better than I remembered (the best substitute for ostrich in Aussie is kangaroo – yes, those cute, cuddly jumping creatures that are actually regarded as pests down under). The potato rosti was also yummy and company was fantastic.

The next day, after brunch with Ruth and Peter at Newport Deli (they make the most delicious mango smoothie but took forever to bring me my water), mom, Tam and I headed to the elegant Mount Nelson for high tea.

The Mount Nelson is the original high tea venue with a generous helping of colonial decadence. It’s all very plush with English floral furnishing, luxurious carpeting and the tinkle of piano in the background.

The high tea here is quite different to the one at Sofitel Wentworth in that the food is served buffet style rather than at your table.

The hightea at Mount NelsonTea is served at your table (yay, I could get rooibos) and the you help yourself to the very generous array of sweet and savoury goodies. We started off with some delicate sarmies, then went onto a cheese scone and mini spinach and cheese tartlets.

Then I tried a piece of carrot cake, a mini- lemon meringue and a bite of a chocolatey tart. The fruit salad was fizzy (ie off) but the waitress was soo apologetic about the whole thing that we even felt bad about pointing out the fermented fruit.

Mom, Tam and Me at Mount NelsonWe sat and chatted and sipped tea and thoroughly soaked up the ambience. We walked out very full and happy. What a larny treat.

Sizzling Beef at Saigon

October 24, 2006

Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant in Kloof Street is definitely up there on my top ten list of restaurants in Cape Town. It is very consistent and I am always confident that I am going to get good food and service here…every time.
Saigon Sizzles

This occasion was a farewell dinner with some of my friends – Lau, Hill, Caroline & Charl, my cuzzies Pete & Ruth and Eric.

I love the outfits that the waitrons wear – they always look very smart and authentically oriental.

The food, as usual, was scrumptious. I had the crystal spring rolls to start (very healthy…even Caroline and Charl who are on a major health kick were tempted to order them when they saw mine). My main course was sizzling wok beef – which is strips of fillet – you guessed it – sizzling on a black hot plate. We ordered rice and noodles for the table. I then topped off the feast with the white and dark choccie mousse which I shared with Eric. This is definitely one of my favourite desserts…you have to try it!!! I never really rated Asian restaurants for their desserts – but let me tell you, Saigon is talented in the sweets department.

They have a new offering at the restaurant where a Asian masseuse comes round to the table and offers to massage the diners. It had been a stressful few days packing up so I decided to indulge in a spot of massage. The pummelling cost R30 for about 15 minutes and I would say it was worth it. I felt a little weird being massaged while everyone else in the table was watching – not exactly the most serene environment. But the masseuse had good hands and a knot-busting technique. My neck definitely felt looser afterwards.

When I come back to visit in April, I’ll definitely make a stop over at Saigon.