Enjoying Franschhoek

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Sep 8th, 2005, 11:24 AM
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Enjoying Franschhoek

Last week my wife and I went on our annual 5 day stayover in Franschhoek. The object of the exercise is always to just get away for a while and enjoy nothing other than good food, music, books and the odd dvd. To do this we always go to Franschhoek and stay in a cottage which has to have a a first priority in the form of a fireplace as Winter in the Franschhoek valley is always wonderful and cosy in front of a fire. For the second year running we decided to stay in the executive suite at Cathbert Country House and once again staying at the venue was a great experience overall. Everything was so quiet, our rooms were wonderful and the fireplace just added the extra little touch to complemet the snow that we could see on the far off Drakenstein Mountains.

With us staying at Cathbert on a bed and breakfast basis we traveled the region in search of new restaurants and experiences and this is the main reason as to why I am writing this trip report as this mail is going to be about new winelands restaurants that we have discovered

On our first night in the winelands we visited a place that Kavey has been screaming about for years viz. Bon Vivant. I wish that I had listened to Kavey a long time ago about this restaurant. In my opinion it has to be the number one place relative to quality for money value in Franschhoek. Take Le Quartiers and Reubens and throw then away; simply visit Bon Vivant if you ever stop in at Franschhoek and want to experience one of Franschhoek’s finest at a reasonable price. It is fabulous. There is a sort of similarity between Bon Vivant and Klein Olifantshoek, which I still rate as one of Franschhoek’s finest however the difference lies in the price. Where an evening at Klein Olifantshoek can cost you R500/head an evening for two at Bon Vivant cost us R320 in total inclusive of a tip and wine. The food was outstanding and different. I had rack of lamb that set the benchmark for this meal for me in the future Every course was worth a photo. The service was excellent. The choices on the menu were outstanding and the wines were NOT overpriced. I will definitely be frequenting this restaurant in the future and recommend that Fodorites should do so too. Bon Vivant is open at lunchtime and the midday menu looked interesting however we did not have a chance to sample it on this journey. Bon Vivant do not have a formal website because as Pierre Hendriks the owner told me he does not need it in that word of mouth keeps him very busy. That in its own right says a lot with Franschhoek being so heavily dependant on a tourist community.

On our second day we stopped in Allee Bleue for lunch. My brother had told me to go to this cottage type restaurant on the winefarm Allee Bleue which is 20 km from Franschhoek and very close to Boschendal farm. What an eye opener the restaurant was. The foods are all organically grown in the garden outside of the cottage. As a matter of fact if one wants to the staff will take you on a mushroom farm tour showing you how they grow their own mushrooms. For my main course I had mushroom Wellington which was beef Wellington excepting that the beef was replaced by a wonderful mushroom type pate. It was heavenly and oh so smooth. On the farm I sampled most of the wines available and came up against a first in the form of Pinotage Naturally Sweet. This wine is the product of a unique idea that the winemaker of Allee Bleue came up with in that she only uses free flow juices of pinotage grapes and lets the fermentation process take place naturally resulting in a 22gm/liter sugar level. A most unusual and splendid wine that is somewhere between a table and a dessert wine. The wine was not cheap in that it cost R80/half bottle. Back to the food at Allee Bleue. It was wonderfully different and with the great service that we had as well as the wonderful setting in which the restaurant is placed this establishment is going to become a winner.

In the evening we visited the Sante Winelands Wellness Centre which is one of the newest top grade hotels in the winelands. The food was pedestrian. The restaurant was cold in atmosphere as well as temperature and expensive to top this all. This would be a venue to steer clear of as far as I am concerned.

On our next day we stopped in at the very reliable Cotage Fromage for a light lunch and as per normal, even though the restaurant is under new management, all was wonderful. This is definitely a place to visit for a wonderful lunch especially if you elect to have their cheese platter.

In the evening we went to Marc’s Mediterranean Cuisine and Garden in Paarl. What a wonderful experience this restaurant was. The service was outstanding and the food was so different. We had a mezze platter to start off with which was excellent value for money and also provided us with a great pathway for us to enjoy the rest of the food on offer. To see more simply go to the website at http://www.restaurants.co.za/details.asp?resId=3499

On our last day we skipped lunch and just enjoyed Cathbert while in the evening we went to the tried and tested French Connection in Franschhoek. It was a Winters night and Franschhoek was empty. The restaurants in Franschhoek were all empty however French Connection was overflowing with patrons of whom I would say at least 60% were local. That should say something in its own right. Once again French Connection never failed us.

There are lots of new eateries in Franschhoek of which Picatta seems to stick out as being the most glitzy. To me, judging by their menu, the establishment looked like an upmarket Italian restaurant. There is also a new coffee bar called Essence which was quite neat. Next door to Essence Le Quartier Francaise have opened a newish shop call “Touch and Taste”. Quite a whacky gift shop where there is nothing to taste even though the name might give one the impression that there would be food in the shop.

My big disappointment was to find out that Delicious was closing down on the last day of August. This has always been a favourite haunt of ours and now we understand that Camil and Ingrid of Klein Olifantshoek are taking over the premises and are going to do something with a fish theme on the premises. Should be interesting so watch this space.

Right now restaurants are jumping up all over the show in Franschhoek and it is my opinion that soon the restaurant bubble is going to burst in Franschhoek and thereafter it will be a case of the survival of the fittest as well as the best. Up until then I will enjoy sampling the wonderful foods that the village of Franschhoek offers.

Final words – Don’t miss Bon Vivant for dinner if your ever visit Franschhoek.!

Hope this helps anybody visiting the village in the future.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
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Sep 8th, 2005, 11:34 AM
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Selwyn,
Thanks for the wonderful feedback on dining options in Franschhoek and I'm absolutely delighted that you finally paid heed to all my badgering about Bon Vicant and found it as wonderful as we did!

I'm a die-hard foodie, London is a wonderful place to live in that regard and I truly felt that our meal in Bon Vivant was one of the best we've had, and that's without even taking into consideration the superlatively good-value pricing.



It's a pleasure to be able to turn the tables and give a successful recommendation to you for a change, having benefited from so many of yours for so long!

I do wish we could plan a return to SA soon but, alas, it's unlikely to be for two or three years yet!

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Sep 8th, 2005, 11:39 AM
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Kavey, aren't you going to Cape Town next year? Or am I confusing you with someone else?

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 8th, 2005, 12:17 PM
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We too were in Franschhoek last week but as we weren't staying there (in Stellenbosch instead, and I didn't want to drive back at night with too much vin in the veins) all we could do was look at the various posted menus and decide which bank we need to knock over in order to come back sooner than we'd otherwise be able to manage. Wow.
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Sep 8th, 2005, 12:28 PM
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Julian

Definitely confusing me with someone else - and here I thought I was unique!

Kavey
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Sep 8th, 2005, 12:32 PM
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I just found the bit of my trip report that tells you about our meal at Bon Vivant last year:

We enjoy another lovely drink and chat with Roel and Lucienne before heading out to Le Bon Vivante. What can I tell you? I absolutely loved this restaurant and definitely had one of the most memorable meals I have ever had here. The restaurant was very quiet (which never bothers me as much as it does some folk) and we sat at a table right by the huge glass window into the kitchen. That meant we could watch owner-chef Pierre crafting our meals which was certainly fascinating. Before our order arrives we were served a little amuse bouche each of tomato ravioli filled with camembert served in an espresso cup with potato froth and a little crispbread on top. Next came the bread layered through with dutch cumin cheese and served with a selection of dips. Pete's starter was cube shaped fried blue cheese croquettes. Mine was more complex as I opted for the "combination of hot and cold starters". My plate had a tempura prawn on a bed of diced mushrooms, some poached trout and marinated trout, a tiny serving of courgette soup, some feta cheese croquettes with pears and red sauce and a serving of springbok shank and marinated sprinbok. This sounds rather filling but whilst each item was bursting with flavour the tiny servings mean I still had space for the main course. Which is just as well as I loved my fillet of roast duck which came not only with a selection of vegetables but with a little portion of duck stew served in a hen egg shell! Pete had gemsbok venison with vegetables and mushroom penne - each tube of penne was stuffed with diced mushrooms. Somehow we squeezed in desserts and enjoyed a chocolate parfait with grape sorbet and a coffee mousse with melon balls and coulis. Delicious! I haven't written down the bill but I am confident it was less than 400 Rand - absolutely excellent value for such an education in flavours, textures and presentation.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 01:28 AM
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Hi Selwyn,

Just wanted to say thanks for this -- I'm always looking for recommendations for new and exciting places to eat! Sorry to hear about Delicious, though -- it will be missed.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 9th, 2005, 02:04 AM
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Me and my husband has been to Franschoek 25 and 26 of august. We decided to stay at residence Klein Olifantshoek wonderfull place.(we had also dinner there and was very good). The first night we eat at Le bon vivant and we had the best dinner of our trip to SouthAfrica (even if at etali and simbambili we had great food as well).
I'm italian (as you can understand by my english) and It's very diffucult to say for mee that we had good food out of my country but in SA I really had great mealat reasonable price. At Le bon vivant we paid 320 rand for two winw and tip included.

Ps: Selwyn I saw some photos of you in the net and I think that I recognize you on the top of the Table mountian the 28 of august but I was not too sure that's why I did not stop you.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 05:56 AM
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Thank you, Selwyn! Le Bon Vivant is definitely on our list for next time! I don't know yet whether the Cape is in our plans for our Feb. 2006 visit, but if so, Franschhoek will be on our itinerary. (I think I love the winelands even more than Cape Town itself.) Also can't wait to try the Pinotage Naturally Sweet. Where on the dry/sweet continuum would you put it, compared to a Nederburg stein, for example?

It sounds like you had a lovely holiday!
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Sep 10th, 2005, 07:44 AM
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Sorry to hear that Delicious is closing. We only did take-aways for a picnic when there but it was one of the best picnics we've ever had. (we were the only people on the lovely patio of a winery - L'ormarins if I recall correctly.)

Great report -- like Kavey & Pete, we probably won't be back until 2007 or so, but this goes into our future file for sure!

Diane
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Sep 10th, 2005, 07:59 AM
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We had a lovely dinner at Delicious with Larry and Alison and their two grown up kids and it was really nice.

We also liked Cotage Fromage, Topsy's, and a few other places... though not in same league as bon vivant.
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Sep 11th, 2005, 12:58 PM
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Selwyn,
You talked us into staying at the Cathbert 2years ago and we enjoyed it thoroughly! Are the two pooches still doing well? We were treated so well and simply loved Anne and Robert- they were so interesting. Also loved the quiet- how it sits back from the road and has the most gorgeous sunsets. We even were accompanied up Kanenkop mountain by Missy, the black lab! Glad you had a nice experience. ( I still have not developed a taste for Pinotage, alas)
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Sep 11th, 2005, 04:27 PM
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just back from Franschoek...stayed and dined at Le Quartier Francaise...found the accomodations a bit tired but dinner in the "Tasting Room" quite good (although I really liked the menu in the more casual dining room called Isi...second night dinner at Reuben's across the street...EXCELLENT and would go back at the drop of a hat (only problem is that we're now back home in San Franciso so it may take a while to get back there!)

MF
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Nov 22nd, 2005, 10:13 AM
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Dear Selwyn
We stayed in SA for nearly three weeks last year for the first time and were so taken that we are going back in Feb. 2006. We also stayed at Cathbert and also ate at Bon Vivant - couldn't agree with you more on both counts! Also had a lovely picnic at Boschendal, also ate at Chamonix which is idyllic. Will try a few more places in Feb as we are staying for five nights this time - thanks
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Nov 22nd, 2005, 10:34 AM
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Boschendal is where you eat under the trees in the sculpture garden, right? They had hordes of ducks (gaggles of geese?) crowding around the table begging for scraps! Funny! Great smoked trout, yum.
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