The Franschhoek Restaurant Route: highlights in the Gourmet Capital

Franschhoek still officially carries the Gourmet Capital crown, even though it faces strong competition from Stellenbosch, which is seeing the opening of an increasing number of excellent restaurants, so much so that we recently suggested that the town establish the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

Franschhoek probably has sat back on its gourmet laurels for a while, but must be delighted about the opening of two new excellent restaurants, Ryan’s Kitchen and Pierneef à La Motte, which add new interest to Franschhoek as a culinary destination.  In fairness to Franschhoek, I have suggested a Franschhoek Restaurant Route:

*   Pierneef à La Motte is culinary art, and has upped the quality of Franschhoek’s restaurant choice.  Its focus is Winelands Boerekos with a contemporary twist.  Chef Chris Erasmus is a breath of fresh air, working with historic recipes and transforming them into works of art,  reflecting Pierneef’s standards.  Tel (021) 876-8000

*   Grande Provence  is quietly delivering quality cuisine, with chef Darren Roberts doing the most beautiful presentation of his food.   The restaurant is not afraid to charge  a price that reflects his standards of cooking.   Outstanding decor, and surrounded by artwork from its Gallery.  Perfection is visible from the time one drives into the wine estate.  Top 10 restaurant for the past two years. Tel (021) 876-8600.

*   The Tasting Room is loved by some, but not by all.  It is expensive.  It seems to have good nights and bad nights.  Joint 10th with Overture on Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant List last year.  Tel (021) 876-2151

*   Ryan’s Kitchen has only been open for three months, set in a guest house,  with a high-tech kitchen, and quality cuisine by chef Ryan Smith.  “Contemporary South African cuisine” is the restaurant positioning, and a stronger African feel will be introduced in October, with a “Taste of Africa” menu.   Tel (021) 876-4598

*   Reuben’s has been the darling of Franschhoek, and a recent Tweet stated that it is the restaurant that tourists visit, while those that know go to Le Bon Vivant.   Opened 6 years ago, the restaurant’s service standards have dropped as Reuben’s has expanded to Robertson, and chef Reuben Riffel has taken on more projects.  Recently lost the sommelier to Bosman’s, but may not be a bad thing for the restaurant, as she was not very customer-friendly.  The biggest compliment to Reuben and his team, but also the largest challenge, in opening Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town  (A first meal at the new Reuben’s was a-maze-ing).   Tel (021) 876-3772

*   Allee Bleue has been very low key restaurant-wise, and it is uncertain exactly where the management wants to go with its dining options.  The Bistro at the entrance to the wine estate has always been friendly, and serves Bistro-style food at reasonable prices.  The departure of Chef Dane Newton is a shame, but with his replacement currently working at the Michelin-starred Schwarzer Adler, interesting things could be coming out of this kitchen soon. Tel (021) 874-1021

*   Cafe Bon Bon is one of the most relaxed and friendly breakfast and lunch-time stops in Franschhoek, on a most beautifully developed small-holding.  Tel (021) 876-3936

*   Haute Cabriere is owned by Franschhoek restaurant mogul Matthew Gordon.  While many find the ‘cave’-like interior a shame given the beautiful view outside, it remains popular, also as a wedding venue, and has a good relationship with Cabriere wines. Tel (021) 876-3688

*   La Petite Ferme is one of the best known restaurants with consistent quality and does not amend its menu much.  Visitors return, not only for the quality food but also for the wonderful view over Franschhoek, and for the relaxed atmosphere.  Tel (021) 876-3016

*   Dieu Donné also has an excellent view from its glass ‘walls’.   Its food quality was better when it first opened about two years ago. Tel (021) 876-2493

*   Le Bon Vivant is tucked away, off the main road, and is a ‘loner’, doing its own thing.  Beautiful presentation of food by chef Pierre. Tel (021) 876-2717

*   Rickety Bridge has a restaurant right at the vineyards, and offers picnics in summer.  Tel (021) 876-2129

*   French Connection is another Matthew Gordon restaurant, and is a pedestrian favourite of locals and tourists.  Good main road location.  Serving breakfast as well now.  Tel (021) 876-4056

*   Dutch East was struggling when we visited it in June.  It seemed to be trying too hard.   There is no particular style of food served.   Tel (021) 876-3547

*   Chez d’Or was previously Cafe Rouge, and has expanded its size, and brought the restaurant closer to the main road.   Sandwiches and pedestrian Bistro food.   Tel 082 372 7645

*   Allora is a good quality Italian restaurant.  Despite sister-restaurants in Johannesburg, the welcome is personal and one does not get a chain-feel at all. Good value family eating.  Tel (021) 876-4375.

*   Col’Cacchio is one of a chain by the same name, and one can predict what is on offer.  Not the best service, but very popular for outside sitting.   Tel (021) 876-4222

*  Boschendal– other than going there for historical reasons, or to eat their long-standing buffet lunch, there is little to attract one to an estate that does not yet embrace excellence, a shame given its heritage.  Its Le Piqniques are well-known and very popular in summer.   Tel (021) 870-4272

*   Fyndraai at Solms-Delta wine estate is a pleasant surprise, with interesting Kaapse kos.  On good weather days, sitting on the terrace is a treat.  Tel (021) 874-3937

*   Cotage Fromage is a joint venture between Matthew Gordon, Duncan Doherty and Pierre Smith, serving breakfasts and lunches, and doing the catering for wedding and other events at Vrede & Lust.   The menu does not reflect the capabilities of the three chefs.   Tel (021) 874-3991

*   The Grillroom is another Matthew Gordon restaurant, and fills a niche for patrons wanting mainly steak.  Unique restaurant in that one can buy good quality meat to take home too, as well as Franschhoek wines.   Tel (021) 876-2548

*   Cafe des Arts has taken over from Topsi’s, a Franschhoek institution.  Topsi still appears to be there regularly. (Tel (021) 876-2952

*   Salmon Bar is undergoing a renovation in part of the old Bouillabaisse building, which will enhance its visibility when it re-opens in November. Tel (021) 876- 4591

*   Bread & Wine is linked to Le Quartier Français, and only serves lunches.  Previously included in Eat Out Top 10 list, to the surprise of many. Good bread and charcuterie.  Tel (021) 876-3692.

*   Mon Plaisir is on the Chamonix estate, and is owned by a French couple offering French fare.  Little ambiance inside the restaurant.  Tel (021) 876-2393

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

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