out of town inspiration

I’ve been to ELL at Spookfontein in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley twice now, but have many, many more visits planned. The restaurant is contemporary and beautiful (even the bathroom is a joy to visit!) and floor to ceiling doors and windows open up to a patio and spectacular views of the surrounding fynbos, vineyards and mountains.

The menu is not massive, but is complemented by a range of specials based on whatever is available and in season. Chef and owner Norah Hudson sources all her ingredients locally and from ethical suppliers, which I love.

The pizzas with their thin, crisp bases are legendary. On my first visit I had the ELLsignature pizza – beetroot relish, goat camembert and thyme (I added rocket and balsamic cream) – and it was divine! Last weekend, while tempted to order another pizza (yes, they are that good), I opted for one of the specials: venison burger with pineapple chutney and camembert. The generous, succulent patty was served on a fresh house-made bun with delicious fries. So good! I had planned on taking a photograph but remembered only once I’d started eating, unfortunately. Others at the table raved about the beef fillet, bobotie and vegetarian burger they ordered.

In summer I plan on indulging in an ELL Smorgas Board: breads, charcuterie, cheeses, anchovies, pickles and other tasty nibbles like avocado, tomato and chilli relish, caramelised onion relish, ripe fig preserve and chutney du jour, are priced individually so you get to create a personalised feast for one or more!

Vegans and vegetarians are well catered for, with creative dishes that meat eaters would happily enjoy. In fact, it took me some time to decide between the venison and vegetarian burgers.

I’ve heard (but am not sure, so please check) that you can take your own wine, but we always make a point of buying a bottle or two of the Spookfontein wines for the table – current favourite is the Cabernet Franc – as well as a few to take home.

See more at the ELL Facebook page or call 073 067 7936. Do not think about popping in at a moment’s notice; booking really is essential.

Dirk and Kirsten Roos of Mooiplaas Estate and Private Nature Reserve host another Langtafel (Long Table) for the region’s Pop Up Winemaker’s Lunch in the historic Manor House. The lunch starts at 12:30pm with a wine tasting, followed by a superb home-cooked 4-course meal prepared by your hosts. Pre booking is essential as seating is limited to just 40 seats. Contact Tamzin Isaacs on 021 886 4310 or email marketing@wineroute.co.za) or buy tickets online here

Mooiplaas also offers delicious Victorian style picnics and cheese platters that one can enjoy in the gardens surrounding the historic stable and manor house. Details at their website

Mooiplaas Estate is situated on the M23 Bottelary Road off the R304 to Stellenbosch.

Bot River wineries – 13 in total – are celebrating spring by opening their doors for visitors to taste wines and enjoy delicious food and other farm products, from olives and olive oil to lavender to Anysbos goat cheeses (seriously good stuff!). Also vineyards tours, live music, competitions and more. See all participating farms and activities at their website and below for two particularly enticing events we have our eyes on.

The Manor House at the Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate is holding a high tea with a selection of sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and preserves, and an assortment of cakes and fondants. Enjoy while listening to the tinkling of piano keys. Cost is R165 per person and the event starts at 2pm. Full details here

JAZZ ON THE LAGOON – Brunch & Carvery – 7 September
Also at Benguela Manor and starting from 11:30am, enjoy a brunch of cured meats, artisan cheese, olives, breads, roll, croissants and other delicious eats, followed (not immediately, of course) by a traditional carvery of roast meats, salads and veggies. Dessert includes Belgian waffles with yummy accompaniments. Live jazz, wine tastings and newspaper included. Full details here

BURGERS & BLENDS at SPIER – 6 September
Who doesn’t love a good burger? On its own it can be glorious, but on Saturday, 6 September, head to Spier where you can learn more about Spier’s blending secrets, taste their recently-launched Signature blends, try your hand at blending your own Spier Creative Block 3 and enjoy one of their famous Angus beef burgers with gorgonzola, plum and pink peppercorn chutney (served with chips). Vegetarians don’t need to lose out; let the folks at Spier know and they will create something specially for you. Tickets cost R175 per person. RSVP to Tania Lawrence on 021 809 1984 or email tanial@spier.co.za. More details [here](http://www.wineroute.co.za/calendar/event.aspx?DIARYID=13073 or here

It’s World Tourism Day on 27 September. Celebrate by visiting Stellenbosch for a brand new event: Savour Stellenbosch. For one night only, you’re invited to discover the old and the new of the Stellenbosch Valley at the historic Neethlingshof Estate. Enjoy a spectacular array of wines and tasting dishes unique to valley, along with live music. The event starts at 4pm and is set to end at 9pm. Tickets cost R300 inclusive of tasting glass, tastings, food and entertainment.

For more info call 021 886 8275, email events@wineroute.co.za or visit the website. Pre-booking is essential.

Head out to Black Oystercatcher on 11 October for the Elim Wine & Food Celebration. If you’re feeling active you can take part in a scenic cycle race or trail run. The rest of us will be relaxing and enjoying the region’s cool climate wines, craft beer, locally sourced food and live music. Event details here.

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