KZN interlopers have infiltrated the rarefied culinary south-western corner of South Africa.
Notably, Three Cities’ five-star Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa has Durbanites Scott (executive chef) and Melanie Shepherd (sous chef) spicing up the menu.
I was among the first to sample the new menu. The starter was so simple I have to try it at home; Parma ham with goat’s cheese served with some citrus, peach, strawberry and mint.
The balance of flavours and quality of produce made it so good. The pork belly with apple puree, onion marmalade, Brussels sprout, baby carrot and beignet (choux pastry with fennel seeds) was just as delightful, and the dessert of strawberry and vanilla ice creams with crushed meringue and shortbread and cranberry jelly was a perfect end to a meal.
The breakfast spread was also worthy of a five-star establishment.
Three Cities Le Franschhoek was the 2012 winner of the world luxury hotel award in the category luxury hotel – best scenic environment.
Bright white and under thatch, Le Franschhoek sprawls elegantly among beautiful gardens and oaks. The layout lends such a tranquil air that even at full occupancy guests won’t feel crowded.
There are 63 rooms with a few in the main building and a variety of garden suites and villas.
You’ll not want for amenities. The carpets (with underfloor heating) and beds are sumptuous. There are flat-screen TV sets of course and gleaming coffee machines.
While the exterior is Cape country hotel, the interiors are chic yet timeless in decor with whites, sand, taupe and dark wood predominant.
Large fireplaces and comfy furniture make for enjoyable relaxation on wintry or wet days.
Dish is the à la carte, fine-dining option at the hotel, while Le Verger, an air-conditioned conservatory set among fruit trees, has a different feel. To pamper other senses there’s also Camelot Spa behind a large oak, with lovely treatment rooms.
I didn’t have time for any treatments as I had other KZN connections to meet. Terbodore Coffee Roasters, originally (and still) at Curry’s Post in the KZN Midlands, is now also in the Franschhoek Valley. From Terbodore I made my way in my Hertz car to DV Artisanal Chocolate outside Paarl.
DV is the burgeoning baby of an ex-Salt Rock couple, Pieter and Cornell de Villiers. Their single origin cocoa varieties are as pure as you could wish – 70 percent cocoa, 30 percent sugar. They have added to the purist range, including a gelato that is the best.
Back in the car it was on to Stellenbosch and Klein Welmoed. Klein Welmoed, owned by Pietermaritzburg residents Glenn Hesse and Tim Featherby since 2008, is more a passion than a business.
It is a lovely, luxurious Cape Victorian and contemporary Cape vernacular styled retreat with several guest rooms and cottages, all beautifully appointed, on a wine and olive farm.
I sat with Klein Welmoed’s ex-Durbanite, Steve Chase, sampling their Foothills wines. Never heard of them? Well, it’s only their second vintage. Well priced, it’s sure to do well.
An appointment with Gidi Caetano at Antonij Rupert Wines beckoned me down the road and along the valley floor the next morning. Rain meant an al fresco experience in the shade of olive trees was out of the question and I met Gidi in the tasting rooms at the magnificent old house.