Travel – The Corniche South Africa Special – Part 3 of 4: Wining and Dining in Franschoek

Naturally, no visit to South Africa is complete without circumnavigating the winelands. About an hour’s drive from Cape Town – and less than half an hour from Stellenbosch, South Africa’s oldest settlement and centre of its wine production – lies the small town of Franschhoek, which has the unlikely distinction of being one of the world’s gastronomic capitals. There’s a charming unreality about this tiny place, the white washed, gabled Cape Dutch homesteads made immaculate by the clarity of light. However, despite the Dutch influence, it’s the French Huguenots we have to thank for this special heritage (Franschhoek means “French Corner” in Dutch). Fleeing persecution under Louis XIV and invited to the Cape by Dutch Protestants, the Huguenots brought their knowledge of winemaking – and restaurants have sprung up to make the most of this fine resource. The food and drink that’s on offer here might feel overwhelming, but it can always be walked off on one of the many trails around the Drakenstein and Wemmershoek mountain ranges that circle the town.La Residence is a majestic private estate on the outskirts of Franschhoek surrounded by plum orchards, with panoramic views of the mountains and its own grazing herd of springboks. It offers a choice of villas with private pools and hotel suites, all with sumptuous décor, original artworks – and some of the best mini-bars in the world. If you’re looking for something truly special, there’s really no competition.La Petite Dauphine’s Café BonBon is just the place to line the stomach in style before a wine tour. Here, you can relax in the shade of towering oak trees surrounded by purple-blue hills, while the interior has a rustic Mediterranean-cum-Californian-vineyard feel (a feeling you know that we love). As good as the savoury dishes are, what Café BonBon is really famous for is its cakes. Evidence of this strikes you immediately as you arrive and are confronted with a lime-washed sideboard heaving under the weight of immense, layered sponges, cheesecakes and fruit pies towering with icing; an image that’s likely to stay with you as you navigate the generous proportions of preliminary courses.