Friday, May 22, 2015

Wining and Dining In Cape Town, South Africa

Continuing the saga of our recent wine and safari adventure in South Africa…
After our long two days of travel, which began Thursday morning in Ohio and ended Friday afternoon in Johannesburg, South Africa, we were on the plane again, this time a Mango Airlines plane to Cape Town. Cape Town is cosmopolitan city of more than 3 million which lies at the foot of the landmark Table Mountain. Table Mountain is a constantly changing panorama of colors and shadows, sometimes shrouded in its cloud “tablecloth.”
We had three nights to spend in Cape Town and our home base was Waterfront Village, a condo-like accommodation at the V&A Waterfront. Cape Town is the international gateway to Africa and the V&A Waterfront has hundreds of upscale shops, gourmet dining and entertainment. At the mall I was able to pick up some important tools of the trade:
  • My Wineroute South Africa, by Mike Froud, an excellent guide to SA wine trails including maps and profiles of the top 100 wineries.
  • Map Studio Winelands of the Western Cape wine map. This lists hundreds of wineries and was indispensible during our winery visits.
  • Pocket Guide to Birds of Southern Africa, by Burger Cillie and Ulrich Oberprieler. What can I say, there are some awesome birds in Africa.
  • I was also able to pick up an inexpensive cellphone with a small package of airtime for about $40 US.
After walking for a few hours, we decided it was time to grab some dinner before returning to Waterfront Village. The multitude of choices made the selection difficult. Finally I decided to explore a Belgian restaurant I had spied earlier. We stopped in to Den Anker, which has a prime location next to the waterway, a drawbridge and the waterfront’s signature clock tower.
We couldn’t have made a better selection. Not only did the restaurant offer a selection of Belgian beers, but it had a wide selection of South African wine. The Green Dragon decided on a Jordan Sauvignon Blanc, while I got a Pinotage.
Due to the strong US dollar, meals were incredible bargains. My beautiful salad with poached egg, bacon and cherry tomatoes cost about $6 US. Wine by the glass was the equivalent of $3 or $4. The food was spectacularly presented and delicious. Meanwhile we had a superb view of the water and the full moon rising behind the clock tower.
The next day we ventured to Cape Point and traveled up the funicular to the lighthouse at what seemed like the edge of the world. Along the way we saw baboon, ostrich, and blesbok (antelope). We also had a stop to visit the penguin colony near Simon’s Town.
That evening was our wedding anniversary. We had scouted a number of restaurants and decided on Sevruga, a rather swanky restaurant with a view of the water and a reputation for excellent seafood. We were fortunate to have Samuel as our server.
He suggested the starter of crayfish tian with avocado and tomato salsa and baby leaf salad. What an explosion of creamy flavor. His next recommendation was the Kingklip and langoustine with crushed potato and tarragon butter. Kingklip is a local delicacy and langoustine is a type of small lobster. It was heaven on earth. To pair with our meal, we quizzed Samuel on the SA Sauvignon Blanc. Green Dragon likes hers with minerality and some tanginess. He recommended the Iona Sauvignon Blanc from Elgin and this deliciously refreshing white paired perfectly with our seafood.

We finished with a chocolate fondant dessert and the anniversary evening was perfect in every way. Since the V&A Waterfront is an active harbor, we were surprised when walking to the restaurant that the bridge that was there the day before was gone. Instead there was a ship in for repairs. Apparently there is a floating walkway that is pulled away by tugboats when that part of the seaport is needed.
Our final day in Cape Town was a bit rainy. We stopped in for breakfast at the Signal, a cool restaurant in the Cape Grace Hotel. Then we paid a visit to the aquarium, which was magnificent.
Still suffering from drizzly weather, we went to the diamond museum, but were disappointed to learn they weren’t giving away free samples. We did see diamond cutters at work, which was fascinating indeed.
Even before we were wheels up in the States, Green Dragon had ID’d Stardust as a “must” for one of our evening meals in Cape Town. After trying to orient myself to driving on the left side of the road and battling through numerous traffic circles the previous day, we decided to take a cab there. Bongani was our driver and he smoothly brought us to Stardust.
Stardust is not just a restaurant or nightclub, it provides musical theater with the waiters taking the stage to perform. We opted for their signature dish, the tagine dinner. For starters we had an assortment of flat bread and crudité with dipping sauces and cheeses. Then it was on to the savory tagine.
Tagine is a North African dish which is slowly cooked in an earthenware dish along with spices and fruits. For our dinner we chose chicken, seafood and lamb tagines.
Of course we wanted to pair it with great South African wine. We selected the 2012 Meerlust Estate Pinot Noir from Stellenbosch. Here’s a bit of an oddity. Our waiter delayed serving the Pinot until he could chill it down. Say what? It apparently is common to chill Pinot Noir in Africa, because we would encounter this again. I certainly don’t want warm, wimpy Pinot. But anything beyond a “cellar” temperature chill masks the flavor, in our opinion.
We’re glad we had a chance to sample the Meerlust. It was superb. Ripe and flavorful with great perfume on the nose, rich cherry flavor with ruffles of earthiness. I had no idea South Africa had such great Pinot Noir. When we were at Sevruga, Samuel said he had heard there was good Pinot in California, but in his opinion, SA Pinot was better. It certainly was good. We also let Samuel know about Willamette Valley, Oregon, as another standout Pinot location.
This was a spectacular evening, with fun, great music and entertainment, exotic food and excellent wine. As we polished off dessert, I phoned Bongani and he soon whisked us back to our Waterfront Village digs.
How to sum up our visit to Cape Town? I’ve been to many great cities in the US and abroad and now Cape Town is at the top of the list of favorites. It is world class in terms of dining, entertainment, scenery and attractions. With the strong US dollar, the values are incredible – you can enjoy the pinnacle of fine dining for about the cost of a couple dinners at Applebee's.
Cape Town is also surrounded by the Cape Winelands. Our trek to Franschhoek and then Stellenbosch began the next day…

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