Even though Towerbosch Earth Kitchen on the Knorhoek wine estate has been open for a year, it has suddenly become en vogue, with media coverage creating awareness.  When we were told that our lunch stop on the Eco Wine Tour would be at Towerbosch, I was delighted, as what I had read about the restaurant sounded good.

Towerbosch means ‘magic bush’, and it is a unique restaurant setting with a neat lawn, a pond from which you imagine fairies arise at night, and an unusually shaped thatch-roof building.  Inside, the large restaurant room has an interesting structure on the ceiling, made from white-painted woven branches from the farm, from which hang the lights, and an interesting collection of cups, saucers, family trinkets, and cutlery, a modern take on the chandeliers of Pierneef a La Motte.  The interior decorator is Neil Stemmet, who also did the decor of Cuvee at Simonsig.  Interesting too is the collection of tables and chairs, most of them completely different, some with wooden tops, others with white tops, and the chairs linked to each table also differ vastly.  Everywhere there are collections of farm food, e.g. a table with two pumpkins, another containing a bowl of lemons, and a lovely vase with proteas on the table near the entrance, on which the Knorhoek wine range is displayed.   A wall contains a collection of plates, as one would have in mom’s home.  A lounge/library corner with a couch and bookshelves adds to the homely feel.   Stemmet says of his decor: “My inspiration came from my carefree inner child and love for natural artistry.  I decided to steer clear of artificial, modern luxury to make room for an unassuming, homely eat-out destination where the senses are transported to a faraway, enchanting fairytale, almost back to one’s childhood, while indulging in a languid, home-cooked meal”.   The music is a mix, and very South African, including “Suikerbossie”, but a jazzed up version of it.   There is a large fireplace, but is not large enough to adequately heat up the restaurant on a cold wintry day.  Blankets are available to warm one up, and heaters were brought to tables that needed more heat.

A display blackboard lists the menu for the day, which changes daily to reflect the availability of supplies.  As we were a group of nine, we were served a “feast table”, an unusual but clever homely presentation of the food in bowls from which one helps oneself, rather than a plateful being dished up for each person, just as one would eat this “boerekos” as a family at home.  To start, the most wonderful warm home-baked bread with fresh farm butter, and ‘konfyt’ was served, to get the appetite stimulated and to soak up the wine we had tasted in the morning on the tour.   Our main course was brought to the table, and consisted of smoorsnoek, chicken pie, a massive platter of to-die-for pork with crackling and the most wonderful roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, a bean and potato mix, a Greek salad with the most generously big chunks of feta and fresh fresh greens, and a tomato salad.  We could not help thinking that this meal was like “Ma se kos”, a typical South African Sunday lunch in the middle of the week.  We could have had melktert or malva pudding as a dessert, but declined due to the magnificent feast.  In keeping with the Boerekos theme, there is no cappuccino machine, but ‘moerkoffie’ in a plunger is served.  

On Sundays Towerbosch serves something different – an Asado Argentinian meal, consisting of their lovely farm bread and butter, empanadas, soup or smoorsnoek, two or three meats from the barbeque, and dessert, at the cost of R165 per head.

We drank a bottle of Knorhoek Shiraz 2005, a lovely smooth wine.  We laughed when we saw a metal bucket brought to another table, serving as an ice bucket!   The Knorhoek wine estate is a member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative.  Only Knorhoek wines are available at Towerbosch, and include Two Cubs White Rosé, and Red, and Knorhoek Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Reserve and Pantere.   Prices look very reasonable, and only a small add-on relative to the cellar price makes them affordable.

Whilst we did not get to meet them, the chef couple are Carmen van der Merwe and Wesley Muller, who previously worked at Terroir and Beluga.  The chefs’ focus is on slow cooked and simple “traditional family meals”, with ‘heritage fare’ served on big platters.

The choice of this restaurant for lunch for the Eco Wine Tour is motivated by the use of the recycled tables and chairs in the restaurant, the growing of their own herbs (with vegetables to follow), and their wonderful home cooked meals.  Even though we all loved the four wine estates we visited, the highlight of the Eco Wine Tour was the magical lunch at Towerbosch.   A definite for a repeat visit.

Towerbosch Earth Kitchen, Knorhoek wine estate, Knorhoek Road, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 865-2114 www.knorhoek.co.za. Open for lunch Wednesdays – Sundays, and for dinner on request for a minimum of 15 guests.   On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.

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