Is winter giving you cabin fever? Head for the hills, then. Head for the plains, or even the sea! Head for the wild and wonderful West Coast, in other words, where you’ll find plenty of this and more. The newly rebuilt N7 is a joy to drive, and once past Morreesburg, it’s like paradise reaches out to embrace you.
The West Coast is ideal for short family breaks, with most popular destinations mere hours’ drive away. (Very handy if you’re travelling with children and teenagers, since you’ll arrive before they can get bored and start bickering in the car.) Its rugged beauty and simple charms appeal to one and all, and if you’re the adventurous sort you’ll be spoilt for choice of adrenalin rushes. Surfing, climbing, biking, fishing, sailing, golfing, camping sites galore – this is certainly the standard West Coast-style adventure. But did you know you can have superb food and wine experiences too? No, neither did I, at least until recently! There’s more to West Coast food than crayfish, braais and potjies, I was delighted to discover.
An invitation from a friend led to us making a booking to stay a few nights at lovely Piekenierskloof Mountain Lodge recently. The 4 star lodge is perched high up in the mountains above the tiny farming village of Citrusdal – which boasts a very fine golf course, by the way – and offers luxurious accommodation with stunning views over the valley. Barely an hour’s drive out of Cape Town along the newly rebuilt N7, this lodge is the perfect location from which to explore the area in any way you choose. It is exceptionally family-friendly, with enormous play areas set well away from the main building, outdoors as well as heated indoors pools, mini golf, trampolines and games galore. I was surprised – and very pleased – that my teenagers took off to explore the hills and veld around the lodge for hours on end. No mean feat when you consider they’re almost surgically attached to their electronic devices! They loved the zipline and target shooting, and of course room service got a thorough workout too.
We stayed for three days, one of which was spent just driving up along the coast. We tried to find the famous Heerenlogenment Cave but zero GPS reception and my abysmal navigational skills nixed that, so we headed off to Lamberts Bay for lunch instead. Tripadvisor reviews for places to eat in this little fishing village are not encouraging, but don’t be put off. I was determined to have some crayfish and lucky for us we found the delightful Weskuskombuis at harbour’s edge. Spick and span, freshly painted and neat as a button, this cheerful little café and bar serves up humble local boerekos fare with style. The friendly owner Yolindi looked after us like gold and we relished the fresh fish and chips, crayfish, salad and lovely light Malkopbaai chenin blanc. Next time I’ll order the lamb offal, another regional speciality, with a side of roosterkoek, and definitely more Malkopbaai wine!
From our table out on the deck we had a great view of the docks in the harbour, and pretty soon a commotion caught our attention. Several boats were returning with the snoek catch of the day, leading to a flurry of activity and an almost palpable sense of glee among the fishermen. I just had to get up close for some photos, and it was great fun to chatting to the fishermen, keen to show off their catch.
The highlight of our stay was undoubtedly the Carmien Rooibos Tea, wine and food pairing at Hebron Guesthouse. Conveniently located slap-bang across the road from Piekenierskloof Lodge, Hebron is where magician chef Steve Oldroyd prepares extraordinary feasts to pair with local wines and subtly flavoured rooibos teas. He cooks with a delicate hand, creating incredibly finely nuanced layers of flavour and texture. If you thought rooibos was for babies and old ladies, this pairing will blow your mind!
The experience turned out to be one of the best food and wine pairings I’ve ever had. The teenagers enjoyed their part of the meal, too, which naturally excluded wine!
Steve is a keen gardener with a big heart, who cooks with fresh seasonal herbs, fruits and vegetables from his lush kitchen garden. It’s a wonderful experience to sit in the dining room of his guesthouse while he’s bustling about in the open kitchen, chatting away while he conjures up the most seductive aromas and flavours. A definite must-do if you’re ever in the Cederberg! You should book ahead for this extraordinary experience, and stay over either at Steve and wife Caro’s guesthouse Hebron, or else across the road at Piekenierskloof Lodge. Email email@example.com or look here Contact Hebron Guesthouse