Marjorie Lang

Thyme Travels: South African Adventure

by Marjorie Lang Global Stories 1 May 16

It’s a well worn path for my family to travel to South Africa…

For many years we have escaped the dreary English weather of January & February, for the warmth and wonder of the Cape.  Previously, we have journeyed to Hermanus and Stanford, taking in the Emmel and Aarde valley and Elgin for their delicious wines, or the garden route up the East coast through George, Knysna and Plettenburg Bay to enjoy seafood and oysters and wild sweeping ocean vistas. Or Ceres and Montague for their vast, beautiful fruit farms ...

This year we based ourselves in Cape Town, often visited but never for long.  It is the most stunning and fabulous location. Indian ocean on the East coast, Atlantic on the West, spectacular mountain backdrops, superb sunsets  and that warming, never ending sunshine.  So, now to what occupies most of my waking (and strangely but truthfully my sleeping) moments ... the food, the wine, and the hospitality.

I must mention, that Daryll (henceforth DT) my work partner here at Thyme and the other half of my culinary brain, was following hot on my heels for his first visit to Cape Town. So this was a reccie for DT in addition to thinking about what I might share in 'Thyme Travels' and how it might inform what we do in the kitchens & cookery school at Thyme!

The highlight for fine dining - La Colombe at Silvermist, a real treat.  We went often but for me lunchtime wins, simply because of the views… The menus are outstanding: smoked tongue in a warming broth, pork belly and scallop a delight and springbok loin cooked to perfection. Here is a strange bit of culinary-brain-sharing – on debrief later, both DT and I independently declared the whipped paprika butter and caraway bread a triumph! Scot Kirton, executive chef, explains ‘we start by looking at what the season holds, and then we try to think outside the box.  Every dish has to be unique and original, this sometimes means that it takes weeks to master.’  So, starting with the season, something at the heart of everything we do at Thyme, no wonder it chimed.

The small Silvermist Estate produces wine that is definitely worth sampling. Silvermist also boasts a simple eatery on the estate, perfect for breakfast and lunch, and from the tables outside you look down on the Constantia wineries laid out in all their splendour. Right at the top, Constantia Glen (my husband’s favourite for a platter of cured meats, local cheeses and a bottle of their Number 2 White); Beau Constantia and further on to Groot and Klein Constantia; thereafter to Buitenverwachting (translates as ‘beyond expectation,’ and it really is!) where a glorious day was spent at ‘Constantia Fresh’ wine and food festival; Uitsig and Steenberg, where Bistro 1684 is well worth a trip. Do not miss the wine tour, these are some of the finest and oldest vineyards and production is often so small and sought after that it is very sensibly all consumed domestically!

Next port of call that both we and DT separately enjoyed, and where I will hand on the baton to my culinary other half for ‘Thyme Travels - A South African Adventure Part 2’ in next month's Thoughts is Babylonstoren, between Franschoek and Paarl, a destination we both loved. It is just an absolute gem in every way!! Vineyard, restaurant, magnificent gardens and splendid accommodation, it is one not to be missed.

Perhaps we should simply go together next time, and return to Thyme doubly filled with perfectly similar and abundant inspiration.