I get a whirlwind tour of a few Franschhoek gems

by Karisa

Franschhoek has always had a special place in my heart.  It’s such a gorgeous little town surrounded by some incredible wine farms, there’s really just no way anyone wouldn’t be blown away.

So when I recently got an invite to join a media tour of the area which allowed me to tick off a few new Franschhoek gems (well new to me at least), there was no way that I was going to miss out.

The agenda for the day included the following:

Yup, that’s quite a lot to squeeze into one day…  So expect a lot of photos coming your way.  Let’s get to it, shall we…

Now I knew of Babylonstoren‘s existence before this little excursion – mainly because it has to be one of the most Instagram’d spots in the Franschhoek area.  And from what I had seen on my Instagram feed, it had left me wondering “does a place like this really exist?”.

Well now I can happily confirm that 1) Yes it does, and 2) It certainly lives up to the hype.

Things you need to know:

  • You too can join them for a Garden Tour.  These happen at 10am daily and cost only R10 pp (with all funds donated to the Babylonstoren Trust).  Booking is essential & comfy shoes are advised.
  • They have 2 restaurants:
    • Greenhouse:  Open 7 days a week from 10am until 4pm.  There’s no need to make a reservation here (unless you’re in a group of 13 or more), they simply seat guests on a first come, first served basis.  Their menu is all about fresh salads, breads, dressed meats & handcrafted cheeses, and everything you taste there is also available at their Farm Shop.
    • Babel:  Getting a table at this restaurant is a little trickier, because (particularly for dinner & over weekends) they have been known to be fully booked for months.  They are only open Wed – Sun and booking is essential.  But from what I’ve heard, this place is a food experience that’s definitely worth the wait.
  • They also have a selection of beautiful wines which you can purchase there or from their online store over here.
  • And then they also offer accommodation in their gorgeous Farm Hotel, or a bit of pampering at their Garden Spa.
  • For bookings and enquiries, you can contact them on:  + 27 (0) 84 275 1243 or enquiries@babylonstoren.com

On the day we didn’t eat at either of there two restaurants as they had prepared a special table and meal for us to tie in with the garden tour.  During the tour we learnt about the various varieties of plants they grow on the farm (of which there are over 300 I’ll have you know).  All fruit & veg is harvested year round for use in their restaurants and the garden is divided into 15 clusters spanning vegetable areas, berries, bees, indigenous plants, ducks and chickens and includes a prickly pear maze.

They also introduced us to their various mushroom growing techniques which included how they manage to grow them in manmade logs – something which was seriously interesting to see.

Now let me show you around:

That’s Leigh (Lipgloss is my life) top right – I believe the correct term is “nesting”…

Peanuts straight from the earth…

It’s said that if you make a wish while under this tree, it will come true… Dawn from The Incidental Tourist decided to give it a bash…

Dax (from Relax with Dax) looking quite chuffed…

Those are the mushrooms I told you about… very cool…

The scene of the lunch…

This was definitely as fresh as it gets… I paired my lunch with their Viognier, which is a really beautiful wine…

This is the Greenhouse restaurant

Another shot of the Greenhouse restaurant

This is their Babel Restaurant

Absolutely gorgeous right?  If you haven’t yet paid Babylonstoren a visit – add it to your must-see list right now…

Next up we headed over to Allée Bleue (which translates to “avenue of blue”) where we learnt all about the herb growing they’ve been doing on the farm.  But this is no little hobby of theirs, oh no.  They currently supply fresh herbs to major retailers like Food Lovers Market, Spar, Pick ‘n Pay and Checkers across the Western Cape, and their setup it quite impressive.

The range of herbs which they grow include:  Sweet Basil, Coriander/Dhania, Dill, Fennel, French and Garlic Chives, Rocket (wild and cultivated), Rosemary, Sage, Mint, Thyme, Lemongrass, Oregano, Sorrel, Tatsoi (Spinach Mustard), Watercress, Tarragon and Chervil.

Things you need to know:

  • You can join them for a Herb Tour every Friday.  Tours start 10:30am for 11:00am and are followed by a 3 course herb-inspired lunch at Bistro at Allée Bleue (all at a cost of R185 per person)  Bookings are essential, so do contact them on info@alleebleue.com or 021 874 1021.

This is “coir” an eco-friendly soil made from the hairy bits of coconut shells…

We also got to enjoy a fresh salsa verde made from their farm fresh herbs and prepared by Chef Beau du Toit, paired with their lovely Brut Rose MCC…

This little visit has inspired me to try some herb growing of my own…  I mean, I’ve finally managed to keep a plant alive for just over a year now, so I think I’m ready to step things up.  (if there was a plant anti-cruelty league – you would’ve needed to call them now) 😉

Stop number 3 was the oh-so-beautiful Maison Estate.  This place is an absolute must for its gorgeous decor & views.  Here we enjoyed a canapé platter which gave us a litle taste of their Deli Menu which included dishes like Confit chicken rillette with plum pea & pickled onion (R75), Miso lamb belly with gooseberry, apple, celery & mint (R85), and Perlemoen with crisp corn, corn custard, melon compression & cucumber spice (R125).

Things you need to know:

  • Their restaurant is called The Kitchen. Here you can enjoy unique dishes created by Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg.  They are open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch from 12:00 – 15:00 and you can call them on 021 876 2116 to book.  You can also have a look at their menu over here.
  • Their Tasting Room & Deli is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm.  I tried their Viognier, which was lovely, but their Shiraz got some rave reviews as well.  Do have a look at all of their wines over here.

I’m not a fan of things like perlemoen and squid… so a few items here were not really my thing, but there were definitely some very interesting combinations and tastes…

Dessert on the other hand was exactly my kind of thing… heaven on a plate I tell you…

And then we’ve finally come to our last stop (and the most difficult one to pronounce):   La Clé des Montagnes a selection of four unique villas, designed with ultimate luxury and decadence in mind.

Here’s a little taster of what to expect:

We unfortunately didn’t get to stay over here (and with the joys of freelancing – I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to), but the dinner they put together for us included the best fillet steak I’ve had (quite possibly in my entire life), something which I’ve been dreaming about non-stop ever since…

Food, glorious food… definitely the way to my heart…

That’s the steak far left… doesn’t look like much, but trust me, if you ever stay here – you have to find out where they source their meat from & then email me. Capish?

Dinner was paired with wines from Stony Brook Vineyards.  I was quite taken with their Lyle MCC 2009 & their Ghost Gum White 2013:

Do have a look at their website – you can order online…

And that’s as they say… a wrap!  (there may or may not have been some pub crawling after this – but that’s a story for another day)

I have to say a big thank you to Tammy White from Destinate for coordinating this amazing outing.  I have so many new places to drag my friends and family to now, and hopefully you guys have spotted a few too.

If you’re wanting to do your own Franschhoek outing – do have a look at all their current specials (from meals to accommodation) over here:  Franschhoek Specials

Finally, don’t forget:  It’s the Franschhoek Bastille Festival coming up soon on 11 & 12 July 2015.  This festival is an annual highlight and this year I’m not missing it for anything in the world.   For all the info, do visit the festival website over here.  (Tickets cost R200 per person, per day and are available via Webtickets)


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