REALISING that wine tourism is a growing and rather well-heeled market, and that somewhere for lunch readily comes to mind once a little wine tasting has occurred, wine estates have established themselves as leaders in fine dining in the Cape - and the country.
Overture is a small and rather unadorned restaurant inside a modern winery. A covered veranda space capitalises on the fantastic sweeping vineyard views, while the interior, with its views of the small, open kitchen, is just off the tasting room which looks down onto the wine-making equipment. It's the place to be for a glimpse of the inner workings of wine and food.
The service is alert yet relaxed; while the tiny kitchen is overseen by the hands-on chef, Bertus Basson, who cooks a highly creative menu of wonderful contemporary cuisine that's firmly rooted in South African flavours.
A five-course chef's menu costs R410 (with wine pairings R540); while the eight-course tasting menu is R600 (R770 with wine). These prices are top end for South Africa, but this is one of the country's best. And if you need any more motivation, they have started their winter menu which offers a four-course menu for just R250 (courses are from the same menu, so no lesser options).
A recent lunch began with marinated olives and saucisson sec, closely followed by salt and pepper squid with green beans, a parsley mayonnaise and avocado purée which was perfectly matched to sauvignon blanc.
Another great wine match to a flavour packed plate was a cinsaut with spanakopita and imam bayildi (a Turkish dish of braised and stuffed aubergine). A cauliflower risotto with Gorgonzola mousse and puffed wild rice was outstanding; as was the plank cooked Cape salmon with fennel, courgette and Cuban black bean fried rice.
Sliced aged sirloin was accompanied by that old favourite, beer battered onion rings, but the exact execution and the addition of sweetbreads took this pub dish to new heights.
Desserts kept up the pace in the form of a Cape classic: souskluitjies (dumplings in cinnamon syrup) with cinnamon ice cream and sab lé biscuits as well as a white and dark chocolate Royaltine with poached rhubarb and rosewater meringue. It goes without saying that the plating was exquisite and this, along with combinations that are innovative, sometimes eccentric, but not frivolous, paired with consistently accurate flavours, make this a special food destination.
FOR: High-quality food and a spectacular setting.
AGAINST: Difficult to get a table in season or on weekends.
RATING: Four and a half stars out of five
Hidden Valley Winery, Annandale Rd, Stellenbosch, open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday and for dinner Thursday and Friday, (021) 880-2721, www.hiddenvalley.co.za
. JP Rossouw is editor of Rossouw's Restaurants, the independent guide to dining in South Africa. All visits are made unannounced and paid for. www.rossouwsrestaurants.com