South Africa is a country of immense diversity. The Big Five roam Kruger National Park in abundance; huge mountains erupt into windswept plateaus in the Drakensberg; white beaches unfold into two oceans. For the discerning traveller, it’s a destination that offers a lifetime of exploration.
From the country’s borders with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the most southerly point of Cape Agulhas, this diversity is evident on its menus, a reflection of the eclectic cultures that populate the nine provinces. And another of South Africa’s jewels is its wine – the country has more than 100,000 hectares of vineyards, with a reputation up there with Napa and Lombardy. Meld this all with luxurious hotels that spread their way from city to countryside, and a traveller need look no further.
For the country’s finest places to eat, drink and stay, we’ve got you covered…
Eat: A City Classic, Salsify at the Roundhouse
Once a 1786 guardhouse, and later a hunting lodge, this Cape Town classic has built a reputation for its refined fare, which comes courtesy of everywhere-chefs Luke Dale-Roberts and Ryan Cole. There is a trio of rooms spread across the site – The Sea Room is flush with natural light; The Seasonal Room centres around sustainability; and The Somerset Room is a 10-seat private space – and past hits have included smoked-springbok with porcini-and-goat’s-cheese mousse, and puffed sorghum; and poached-langoustine with chive gnocchi, potato emulsion and spring truffle. Its location on Camps Bay, however, is the crowning glory, with vistas of the Atlantic and Lion’s Head.
Salsify at the Roundhouse
Eat: End-Of-The-World Dining, Wolfgat
Kobus van der Merwe’s sustainability-driven restaurant launched in a 130-year-old cottage in the fishing village of Paternoster, set on South Africa’s west coast. The draw here is both the tightly edited, multi-course menu that revolves around the local ecosystem, as well as the down-home, intimate feel that comes with the property’s bijou setting and its 20-person cover. Parts of the lyrical menu take weeks to prep, and others can be foraged on the day; you might find Cape bream with grapefruit, sunflower milk and soutslaai; and raw kabeljou dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Drink: The Timeless Wine Escape, Delaire Graff Estate
The bucolic dream of billionaire diamond-and-gem dealer Laurence Graff, this winery, complete with eateries, is positioned on a rise that eyeballs both Simonsberg and Groot Drakenstein mountains, its landscape and surrounding views encompassing valleys, rolling vineyards and seemingly endless scenery of rusty-greens. Overseen by Morné Vrey, Bordeaux reds and Chardonnay grapes are grown on the grounds, resulting in some of the continent’s most elegant, richly flavoured vintages – the name ‘Delaire’ translates as ‘from the sky’, and the Summercourt Chardonnay, with its vibrant notes of peach, tastes like celestial nectar.
Delaire Graff Estate
Drink: For Leftfield Libations, Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen
Though superlative and world-class, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take respite from South Africa’s grape basket. Launched on the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town’s tourist magnet, Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen offers a break from the hoards, with a rustic-industrial scheme in which innovative mixes are served. The ethos is both eco-focused, with an emphasis on closed-loop and local produce (cues for the cocktails are taken from the ocean and land), and mixologists in lab-style coats muddle up the sci-fi-looking orders: the Salty Olive Drop features Caperitif, Ketel vodka, artemisia-and-hibiscus bitters, and green olive dipped in citrus salt.
Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen
Stay: A Contemporary Masterpiece, The Silo
The work of starchitect Thomas Heatherwick, The Silo is South Africa’s hospitality gem, a five-floor bolthole defined by its angled windows and placed atop the country’s finest art house, Zeitz MOCAA. Though the facade appears spartan and austere, the interiors are flush with owner Liz Biden’s medley of darkwood and plush Moorgas & Sons furniture, with a collection of art that is in fine tune with the exhibitions in the building below. Of the 28 rooms, plump for The Penthouse, which comprises a cinema room and spa-treatment area; in the evenings, head to the rooftop for a sundowner and ogle at Table Mountain in the distance.
Stay: A Bucolic Escape, Leeu Estates
Franschhoek is famed for being South Africa’s well of food and wine, a splendid hinterland of fine restaurants and lavish valleys of vineyards. Leeu Estates, little over an hour from Cape Town, is a magnet for travelling gourmands, with 24 suites and rooms done out in that classic palette of slate-grey and sandy hues, with linen, leather, wood and stone combining to create a refined finish. For the creatively inclined, Everard Read’s gallery at Leeu Estates showcases large-scale sculptures in the fynbos and vineyards, and there’s a studio and cottage for artists-in-residence. Bespoke wellness treatments make use of the country’s celebrated pinotage grape, and the renowned La Colombe restaurant, known for bringing together the local larder with a French style, has set up a sister site here – you may dine on confit mussel with coconut and parsnip; quail and langoustine, cauliflower and tandoori; or Karoo lamb, celeriac, and kapokbos.
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