Winter is the perfect time to visit the Cape Winelands towns of Paarl and Wellington.
Both of these charming towns offer winter-warming menus, wine tastings, loads of fun activities and incredible winter offers. Less than an hours drive from Cape Town CBD it is the perfect 2-day break from the hustle and of the city.
Driving into the main street of Paarl I was once again struck by the incredible scenery and charm of the town.
Winter is a great time to explore these charming towns as there are not many tourists around. The choice of accommodation ranges from ultra-luxurious boutique hotels to glamping.
Many of the local restaurants offer special winter menus with home-cooked comfort food such as curries, slow-cooked oxtail and nourishing soups. Both towns have thriving coffee shop cultures and visitors can enjoy a variety of tastings including beer, coffee and wine.
Basing myself at Zomerlust Gastehuis, a heritage site in the historic centre of Paarl at 193 Main Road, I was in the ideal location to explore Paarl.
Built between 1792 and 1800 as a single storey Cape Dutch house, it has been home to many, including Abraham Pieter de Villiers, who founded “De Paarlsche Wijn en Brandewijn Maatschappij Beperkt” in 1856, which still produces Paarl Rock brandy.
The ambience and decor reflect its history of French Huguenot and Cape Dutch roots with the comfort of an English country estate.
This historical old grande dame has been beautifully restored to its former splendour, still reflects all these proud traditions.
I started my explorations at Marvel Bistro & Bakery in Paarl Main Road. The intimate family-style bistro exudes a homely ambience. Friendly staff, their menu offers home-style cooking with free-range, locally sourced produce and freshly baked breads and pastries. Head baker, Rousseau is passionate about dough and only uses stone-ground organic flours and wild yeast for his breads - no commercial flours enter his kitchen. I highly recommend trying his sourdough bread, which he ferments for 3 days before baking.
Karoo Craft Breweries and Simonsvlei Winery
Karoo Craft Breweries opened their taproom at Simonsvlei Wines last year and has become a popular stop for beer tastings with brewer Paul Bosman. Karro Craft Breweris are open 10h00-17h00 Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays, with extended hours till 19h00 on Fridays. Closed on Sundays. Visit www.kcbrew.co.za and www.simonsvlei.com for more information on these family-friendly destinations.
Lunch at Hurst Chef Training Academy
After being located on Backsberg Wine Estate for 10 years, Hurst academy moved to Main street Paarl last year. Located in the historic premises of the old Oude Paarl Hotel, the bistro-style restaurant is run by students. The food and service is excellent. The on-site practical training include a bakery and pastry kitchen.
Short cooking courses are also available to members of the public, so you can explore your inner chef. Visit www.thehurstcampus.co.za for details.
Get creative for an hour or two.
After lunch, I decided to rediscover my creative mojo at Eve Art Studio with owner Madeleine Eve, who hosts a variety of workshops. Madeleine is one of those wonderfully warm creative personalities who have the ability to immediately put everyone at ease and bring out their inner artist. Find upcoming workshops on www.eveart.co.za.
Amberg Art and Kitchen
Tucked away in the Du Toitskloof Pass, Amberg Art and Kitchen is set in a beautiful chalet style building with a warm and homely ambience.
Great service and delicious Austrian cuisine is what I experienced at this family-run restaurant. With Austrian chef Peter in the kitchen, his charming wife Clarissa in front of house and son Dominique making the Austrian Ravioli, this is definately not one to miss. Although it is slightly out of town, it is well worth the drive and on cold winter days the rustic interior and crackling fireplace create a fabulous atmosphere. www.ambergartandkitchen.co.za.
Villamar Eatery and Coffee Roastery
Villamar, surrounded by olive groves, feels as if it is in the heart of Italy - serving simple, yet sophisticated Italian inspired cuisine.
Both Villamar Eatery and Coffee Roastery, situated between the olive groves on Oudeburg Farm en-route to Wellington, have a strong sustainable farm to plate philosophy.
Enjoy a coffee tasting with an introduction to the roasting process. Breads, cakes and pastries are baked daily to enjoy with a choice of freshly-roasted coffees - so Italian! Open daily from 08h00 to 17h00. Visit their website for special tasting experiences www.villamargroup.com.
Alkmaar boutique vineyard
The historic Alkmaar boutique vineyard is located in the Blouvlei area at the foothills of the Hawequa mountains, known by locals as the horseshoe or “Perdeskoen”.
The nine hectares vineyard has the perfect terroir of shale and granite producing award-winning wines of Rhône and Bordeaux style, as well as their Pinotage, which has earned a four-star rating in the authoritative Platter’s Guide. Tastings (R30) by appointment only: 021-873 0191 or [email protected].
If you are looking for a short break to enjoy great food, warm hospitality within an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Paarl and Wellington should definitely be included in your travel itinerary this winter.