Craft beer comes to Franschhoek

The Franschhoek valley is famous for its French cuisine and fine wines, but a craft brewery with Asian owners and a Mexican bent is breaking all the rules.

Franschhoek is about wine. Any tourist knows that. And if your day of meandering through genteel estates ends at a cosy French bistro lifted from the streets of Paris? Well, so much the better. It’s a tried and trusted recipe in this scenic winelands valley an hour’s drive from Cape Town.

But Tuk Tuk Microbrewery is hoping to spice up that recipe a little. Craft breweries are all the rage in Cape Town right now, but this is the first in a valley more famous for its pinot noir than its pale ale.

Part of the acclaimed Leeu Collection, which includes the superb boutique hotels Le Quartier Francaise and Leeu House, Tuk Tuk will soon start turning out its own range of craft beers from a state-of-the-art microbrewery. Beers are brewed using spring water from the nearby Leeu Estates’ mountain spring, local and imported hops and malts and bespoke cultured yeasts.

“The choice of ingredients is the first step to creating exceptional craft beer,” says Dewald Goosen, brewmaster at Tuk Tuk. Goosen started brewing at home, before cutting his teeth amid the tanks of Woodstock Brewery and Cape Brewing Company (CBC).

“Tuk Tuk is a very nice little brewery on steroids, especially when it comes to technological advances and energy savings,” adds Goosen, who plans to release a Lager, Weiss, Dunkel and Pale Ale.

While the Tuk Tuk brews are maturing quietly in their steel tanks, the brewery will be serving up a range of CBC beers; a perfect match for the delicious taco offering.

Yup, there’s no Frenchified food on offer here: the taqueria alongside dishes up beer-friendly Mexican fare. Think spicy tacos, fresh ceviche and cheesy nachos all whipped up by Leeu Estates’ Executive Chef Oliver Cattermole.

Fancy a glass of light Sauvignon? No thanks, make mine a lager…

Where to eat on the Camps Bay ‘Strip’

The Camps Bay “Strip” is perhaps the most glamorous corner of Cape Town: palm-lined boulevards straight out of Miami fringed by drop-dead gorgeous beaches. No wonder tourists and locals love to watch the sunset here. But once the light is gone, where to eat? There’s no shortage of restaurants, but it pays to choose carefully. Here are some of my favourites…

You could do worse than booking ahead for a table at Umi. This Japanese “small plates” restaurant is, unlike many other eateries, raised above street level, allowing for an unobstructed view of the beach and Atlantic Ocean. And the food is delicious, with a range of sushi plates and innovative Japanese options.

Next door, Del Mar does the same for modern Mexican cuisine. The décor is as contemporary as the cooking, with a decidedly upmarket take on traditional antojitos (street food). These small plates include everything from tacos to ceviche, while main courses focus on grilled meats and seafood. The grilled tuna in adobo marinade is particularly good. The prices aren’t shy, but then Camps Bay has never been a budget destination… those views don’t come for free!

Vicky Cristina’s is another good choice: inspired broadly by Spanish cuisine, the menu here combines flavours from Latin America and the Basque country into a fusion of fine fare. The highlight is the wide selection of tapas dishes, ranging from mussels in a saffron-infused cream sauce to pork riblets rubbed with coffee, chocolate and citrus. Don’t miss the traditional Catalan coca (flatbread) or the Brazilian-style beef picanha.

Of course, with that entire ocean glinting back at you, chances are you’ll be in the mood for seafood. Here your best bet is The Codfather, a restaurant set a short way back from the beach. A stalwart of the Camps Bay scene, this local favourite does top-notch seafood with a wide range of fresh fish available daily. The day’s catch is displayed up at the seafood counter, with all seafood charged per weight. Your fish or shellfish is then simply grilled, plated and served in rustic skillets. If you fancy an appetizer, there’s an excellent sushi counter.