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Food therapy in Stellenbosch

The Wijnhuis in Stellenbosch, a "must eat".

Stellenbosch dates back to 1679, making it South Africa’s oldest town after Cape Town. It’s a lovely town of around 100,000 people (excluding students), snuggled into a valley amongst the rolling hills of the Winelands. With its shady oak tree-lined streets, outdoor terraces and cafes, Dutch Cape architecture and quirky shops, it goes straight to your heart.

“You’re lucky you’re here at this time of the year when there are no students around,” says our hotel receptionist. We’re here in the Christmas/New Year vacation break and everyone around us is in relaxed holiday mode.

Stellenbosch Vs Franschhoek
Locals (and guide books) told us that Franschhoek is the “culinary capital” of the Cape Winelands but from my experience, the restaurants we dined at in Stellenbosch were even better than my miserly mouthful of lemon cake that set me back ZAR 30 (EUR 4) in Franschhoek which is regarded widely as one of the prettiest towns in South Africa. Unlike Franschhoek, which feels like it is just there for decoration, Stellenbosch feels like a town that people live in and has a bit more of an edge to it.

The Wijnhuis
Stellenbosch doesn’t have many streets, shops or restaurants but the few it has are great and you’ll find plenty to eat and buy. The Wijnhuis housed in an ornate colonial building, is a “must”. It’s lively but cosy and welcoming with a great wine list and, as you glance around at all the wine barrels and vintage memoralia on the walls, you feel like you are in the heart of the wine industry. The food is fantastic and, considering this is probably one of the more exclusive restaurants in town, won’t break your credit card. A starter, main course, bottle of wine, dessert and coffee for two people will set you back around ZAR 700 (EUR 75). They classify their menu as “Mediterranean and light” which it is with plenty of healthy fresh produce but with a decidedly South African touch. It comes with great South African service and a smile. I take the sole with lemon butter which melts in my mouth, as does the crème brulee a little later on.

The Cape Town Fish Market
The Cape Town Fish Market in downtown Stellenbosch is another winner. It combines South African and Japanese cuisine, covering just about everything from fish and chips to sushi and tempura. Non-fish-lovers are also catered for and their Bento boxes are dead cute. The mussels in white wine and garlic sauce, served in an iron pot, are amongst the best I have ever tasted while the generous portion of fresh king prawns with Asian sauce as a main course are delicious. A friendly, chatty waiter completes the picture.

I’ve been in the Cape area for almost a week and haven’t yet had a single bad meal. It’s the winning combination of fresh, local produce, cosy atmosphere, quaint décor, great service with a smile and affordability (for foreign tourists). And as if that’s not enough, on top of it all, you have some of the best wines in the world coming from just around the corner.

And retail therapy…
After all that food therapy,  if you’re really blown away by all the colonial atmosphere and want to take a piece of it back home to recreate, Stellenbosch has some great antique shops and art galleries where you can pick up 90-year-old silver-plated cutlery sets, hand-painted scenes from the area and African art for a bargain, and get your 14% tax back at the airport. It’s just a pity that one of those beautiful Dutch Cape houses can’t fit in my luggage too.

Just one of the quirky antique and arty shops in Stellenbosch.

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  1. Volzie
    February 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    The Cuba bar in Stellenbosch is also great in the evenings …

  1. February 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm

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