There are so many organisations in Stanford doing good work that goes such a long way. This is just one of those stories that we trust you’ll enjoy.
Creative Works aims to promote a nurturing, safe and stimulating environment for children and young adults to explore their creative potential. The Creative Works project was founded in 2012 by Regina Broenner, a qualified Occupational Therapist who offered after school workshops in the local community with the support of David Krut Projects and local community mothers.
In collaboration with Star Literacy, they have started distributing their Small Book and Toy Libraries into the communities and to date, there are 7 boxes in homes in the streets of Stanford and Masakhane.
They are aiming to place one hundred of their libraries into the under-resourced communities in Stanford and Masakhane as well as in the farming communities of the general Overstrand region, as soon as possible.
Did you know, in 2016 (four years ago) the Overstrand statistics recorded 7,665 households reliant on free services and 20,410 children under the age of 14 years old, these figures do not include Masakhane.
This is really something to think about.
With Star Literacy, they have filled large boxes with educational books, puzzles and toys suitable for children from 5 to 13 years old and the custodians of their small mobile book and toy libraries are parents, caretakers, grandparents or young adults living in the streets of Stanford and Masakhane.
The custodians receive training on how to manage the mobile libraries and how to present the books and toys to the children to maximize the benefit to the children.
Children have started Reading Clubs. Here are 2 that have started up in Stanford.
They have also put copies of their Creative Skills Factory activity resources into each library for the children to borrow and enjoy the activities at home with their parents or caregivers.
Their resources are available to download and print from their website, www.creativeskillsfactory.co.za
Follows is a little story written by Ethan who lives in Stanford and one of the children who participated in the Creative Works activities every day during the COVID-19 Lock Down, we bring you a story.
Written at home by Ethan during Lock Down
Hundreds of people came to see the zoo each year.
When they left, there was always rubbish everywhere.
“Come on animals” said the Keeper, “time to clean the rubbish”.
The animals grumbled amongst themselves.
“Rubbish gives me a pain in the neck” said the girraffe.
“Rubbish gives me the humps” said the camel.
“Rubbish makes me hopping mad” the kangaroo replied.
“Rubbish drives me bananas” said the chimpanzee.
“It makes me squirm” said the snake.
“I can’t bear it” said the koala.
“You’re right” said the hookadaburro.
“It’s no laughing matter”
The Keeper heard the grumbling. “We’ve got a problem” he said, “but I don’t know how to fix it”.
The Keeper got some board and some paints and made a huge sign; “Don’t rubbish our zoo!!”
And with World Clean Up day on 19 September isn’t this just the most appropriate and relevant poem ever?!
During the month of July Creative Works handed out 1,571activity packs to the children in our communities – 1,013 in Stanford and 558 in Masakhane.
These packs were handed out by their facilitators from their homes every day of the week and in the packs are activities specially prepared for the children to do safely in their own home.
Their amazing team: Tuliswa (Stanford), Bulelwa and Nombulelo (Masakhane), Nicole and Rachel (Stanford)
Donations of educational books, children’s story books, paper, crayons, puzzles and games for their libraries, anything you think a child would enjoy – would be greatly appreciated. Everything is appreciated and used!
Well, that was an interesting last six month was it not? Thank goodness our tourism leisure travel business sector is starting to open up again both around the country but more specifically around the fabulous venues of Stanford Village and surrounds.
Hands up who is excited to finally be able to travel and book accommodation for leisure again as per latest level 3 intra-provincial travel permissions?
Winter is the ideal time to plan a getaway to Stanford and surrounds as a jewel nestled within the Cape Whale Coast. A mere 1.5h drive from the bustling city centre of Cape Town. Think crisp days spent hiking, strolling, or cycling fynbos flowering mountain ranges, whale watching our ocean swells at local whale watching spots or booking a river activity such as paddling or riverside picnicking. Our local restaurants will fill your tummies and are stocked up on non-alcoholic drinks since on-consumption sale of alcohol is still not permitted. Of course there is always the option of just curling up in some cosy local accommodation nook with a good book and an evening beside a warm fire. Only thing missing might be a glass or two from one of our local estates along the Stanford Wine Route.
If your cellar is in need of stocking up after several months of lockdown however, then the we’re happy to inform you that our wine route is open for orders and tasting. Wine Route details here. Snap up the chance to take advantage of some current local special offers and exclusive releases available for order right now.
There is so much to enjoy, both indoors and outdoors, at this time of year, that it may be worth putting aside the entire weekend … or perhaps even an additional day either side to make the most of the visit and fit in as much as possible.
Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, Stanford’s selection of fabulous restaurants have only been able to either home deliver your meal order, or, more recently, make your take-away order available for collection. And the senses cannot but be tempted with the delights and variations of fresh produce meals on offer. Not only that, Stanford’s gorgeous cool climate wine route has been littered with specials …
Misty Mountains Estate – Pizza Take-Aways PLUS gin and wine range on days/times permitted – firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 973 5943
Madre’s Restaurant – early morning coffee and other delicious treat take-aways from the restaurant stoep – 082 901 4254
Ou Meul – Take-Away Bootlegger Coffees, baked breads and other favourites – email@example.com or 028 341 0101
Stanford Valley Farm Manor House Restaurant – Take-Away contemporary country meal, or make yourself at home anywhere on our 480-hectare farm for lunch with a view – firstname.lastname@example.org or 072 198 0862
The Tasting Room, Stanford Hills Estate – Take-Away morning coffee and breakfast and lunch menu including door to door flower delivery – 072 603 3521
Martin’s Deli – Martin’s Deli on the R43, Stanford remained open during lock-down as an essential food supplier offering Stanford locals ongoing supply of their favourite deli meats, spices, nuts, seeds and fresh produce, flowers and more from surrounding farm producers – 028 341 0337
Klein River Cheese – You can now order Klein River Cheese online for national delivery! www.kleinrivercheese.co.za or 028 341 0693
Food4Thought Community Project – Deliveries of Fresh Produce Boxes – 072 866 8685
Wine Estate specials in the Stanford area
Stanford Hills – Winery open Mon-Thurs 9-5pm. Order @ email@example.com or 072 603 3521
Walker Bay Estate and Birkenhead Brewery – Winery and Brewery open Mon-Thurs 9-5pm. Currently running a promotional case special. Order @ firstname.lastname@example.org or 028 341 0183
Turn off the R43 from Hermanus up a gravelly road sprinkled with restaurants and vineyards and you’ll find Stanford Hills – a guest farm, function venue, vineyard and restaurant and flower farm born out of a love of family celebrations. We sat down with co-owner and entrepreneur, Jami Kastner, to find out more about making a success of life in the hills.
“Born out of family & celebrations – the good things in life and everything kind of came from that. Being parents ourselves we wanted to share our great life here on the farm. It gives us great joy!”
Kiddie fun at Stanford Hills
Having grown up in the area, with a keen eye for business and hospitality, Jami and husband Peter purchased their farm on April 1st 2005, an auspicious day for a young couple who originally started with Protea farming but soon branched out into the then unknown territory of wine – a decision Jami admits was both naive and a little crazy, but one which has guided their business into the food and hospitality realm.
The Shop serves as the wine tasting, sales and reception hub at Stanford Hills. Pop in for wine, flowers or even some pinotage jam. Sounds yum!
A small rustic building with gorgeous views over the dam grew from a deli/picnic type spot into a small tasting room for their estate wines and now has blossomed into a 140-seater restaurant with the same gorgeous views. The growth of the restaurant opened up the opportunities for special occasions and eventually weddings.
Chef Jana changes the blackboard menu daily according to what is fresh and available. There is also an extensive mezze menu to choose from
Live music concerts with some of SA’s finest musicians can also be enjoyed in the summer months with families spread out across the green lawns soaking up the sun, sounds and local food & beverages.
A big turning point for live music at Stanford Hills was the partnership with Louise Carver (who returns on January second with Ard Matthews). She was the first big artist to take a chance on the venue and attracted 1000 people! Artists refer to their concerts at Stanford Hills as a ‘Kirstenbosch but more intimate’. Jeremy Loops will be rocking the hills in December, have you booked?
With each venture, the couple have been conscious of allowing for organic growth – while some elements were on their original business plan, others have grown from observing and listening to their customers’ needs, and branching out when the brand and team were confident and ready for the next step – bearing in mind that the new additions needed to reflect the brand’s values:
“Everything we do reflects a celebration of life” says Jami. From the food people enjoy to wine, beautiful pincushions or a family-holiday in one of the cottages or the Africamps. Keeping this ethos at the core of their brand has guided the family, and other entrepreneurs looking to enter the industry would do well to take note of their passion – “Be authentic and be consistent. Commit to your decisions. If you’re going to be open 7 days a week, be open 7 days a week. People need to trust they can come to you.”
Stanford Hills may seem laid back and casual – trademarks of their vibe, but their branding is sharp, well-displayed and consistent. Even Pinot the giant ridgeback is part of the Stanford Hills experience.
What about the challenges of running a business that relies on such a strong tourism focus? “One of the biggest challenges has been keeping up with the times and the technology. As a business owner you have to figure out a way to keep up.” says Jami. The brand has embraced social media and once she’s tuned into a new platform Jami explains “it’s such an easy thing to market something you genuinely love. Business has to have heart. People can feel that energy in your business.” It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to offer something based on revenue potential, but if it’s not your passion, you’re not going to have the fuel you need to get you through the difficult times. Authenticity is important, “consider what you love and offer that.”
“Peter & I both love the hospitality industry, we love watching people enjoying themselves.” Share your Stanford Hills good times with the team on their social media channels and tag #stanfordhills #visitstanford
And what about success? What works when marketing a business like Stanford Hills? “It’s vital to listen to your local people and keep them happy, it’s not just them coming here, it’s them telling people to come here.” says Jami. Mid-week food specials and community-initiatives like the Stanford Striders walking group who meet for a meal and glass of wine for just R60 after an active walk around the farm on the last Monday of the month, are just two of the ways Jami and her team reach out to the local market. Jami emphasizes how important it is for locals in an area to know that a business values them. Word of mouth marketing, especially in a small community like Stanford is invaluable. Other key points for the business’ success, in addition to being sensitive to a local market, has been clever collaboration with like-minded brands.
All accommodation is self catering but guests can order breakfast or braai baskets delivered to them to prepare at their leisure.
“What has really tipped the scales for us has been the collaboration between Africamps and Stanford Hills.”
While Stanford Hill’s accommodation arm was enjoying steady weekend trade, the partnership with the boutique camping brand has seen an impressive increase in midweek stays – which has a positive knock on effect for the restaurant, and surrounding businesses.
African Wings, an air charter service popular during whale season also based on the farm, has benefited from the Africamps clientele who are well matched to the service.
TIP: For entrepreneurs looking to expand their footprint or marketing reach, look for partnerships that complement your own, aim for a ongoing working relationship and nurture it.
The magic ingredient for Stanford Hill’s longevity, has been the very hands-on involvement of both Jami and Peter –
“Nothing can replace owner business involvement – nobody cares for or loves your business like you do. Keep your own finger on the pulse.” Says Jami. Complementing their management style is a happy, enthusiastic team who embody the brand. Jami shows a keen interest in her staff and loves discovering hidden success stories right in her own backyard – Vuyo, who started on the farm as a flower picker for example, is now an amazing, and proud, teacher at The Butterfly Centre, another family initiative Jami is unbelievably passionate about. (You can find out more about them here).
Despite the brand’s success Jami is very aware that no man is an island, especially not in the hospitality and tourism game. With experience on both the Hermanus Tourism Committee, and later as the chair of Stanford Tourism, Jami has a keen understanding of the value of Destination Marketing – she explains that tourism businesses shouldn’t look at tourism as competing against each other, rather with the idea that the whole town or region is competing against other destinations. This helps people to unify under their tourism brand and represent a strong front.
“I couldn’t feel more strongly that we need to work together. It comes down to aligning with brands who have a similar ethos.” – explains Jami. Support other businesses trying to achieve similar goals; value word of mouth – it is more powerful than even the most active social media accounts!
Weddings are popular and very often become weekend celebrations – that means more and more people are benefiting. Her best advice for businesses in small towns and villages? Remain aware of the fact that you’re part of the bigger picture.
Jami goes on to discuss Stanford’s unique offerings, including the gorgeous river and its related activities – “People still don’t realise the beauty of the river. One of the most unique Stanford experiences” And don’t forget the village’s food scene – “We are proud we are to be linked to Stanford, which has a number of very highly rated restaurants and is becoming more and more of a ‘foodie’ destination.”
A big thank you to Jami for her time and for sharing her entrepreneurial insights!
With so much on the go, the village of Stanford offers just about something for everyone. Come and meet our entrepreneurs, support owner-run businesses and enjoy an escape from the city with us. We look forward to welcoming you! Share your experiences with us on Facebook (@stanfordtourism) and Instagram (@visitstanford) and tag #visitstanford!
Watershed started their ‘short, and very sweet’ April Road Tour on the lawn of the Tasting Room at Stanford Hills Estate on Easter Sunday. Easter is traditionally a day spent with family; in my family, we don’t go beyond the garden perimeter which is scoured for chocolate in the early hours, and casually rescanned throughout the day for any escapee eggs. This year, Easter Sunday also fell on April Fools Day. These factors might have made a live performance, in the late afternoon, a fairly hard sell for a live concert. Was it all a joke? We know Sunday concerts work in Kirstenbosch, but life slows down when you come to Stanford, even more than it does when you pop out of the city bustle, and into the Mother City’s botanical gardens. And over the Easter long weekend, would anyone make it out of pyjamas by mid-afternoon in Stanford, let alone into a car and up to a wine farm with sugared-up kids?
Watershed frontman, Craig Hinds, admitted to being unsure whether a Sunday was going to work in Stanford. But luckily for us, it worked a charm and hoards of people turned up to listen to the dulcet tones of one of South Africa’s favourite acoustic bands that has been weaving magic since 2000. Bedouin tents provided shade as people lolled and lounged on picnic blankets and deckchairs, and kids cavorted on the jumping castle and paddled around the waterlily dam. It couldn’t have looked more idyllic – a ‘perfect day, with perfect people,’ Hinds called it. A neighbouring farmer pulled up in a tractor loaded with couches, kids perched on the top of the sturdy swing, and I hastened to spread out my blanky in one of the last remaining central spots. I quickly realised the reason why it was still available was because some early birds had marked out their spots with camping chairs, and were going to partially block my view. But my heart was filled with good vibes and an overriding sense of South African good will – nothing a gentleman’s Panama hat could obscure.
My goodwill faltered when I saw the length of the beer queue, but the peppy team of Stanford Hills barmaids made quick work of it, keeping my good mood intact. And the food trucks handled the crowds with ease, serving tornado-tatoes and other delicious festival-style food.
Watershed kicked off their performance with ‘Close my eyes’ – a solid favourite from the 2006 Mosaic album. Everyone was swept away with the melody, singing along and swaying to the familiar tune. The 1000 strong audience was made up of a delightful mixture of young and old, glamourous and casual, and the band engaged warmly with the crowd, getting cheers from those from Hermanus, Cape Town, Stanford and even a contingent from the middle of the Free State.
The line-up included a sprinkling of original songs from all the Watershed albums, including Watch the Rain, My love is gone, Nothing about you is the same and Letters, glittering and perfect on a balmy afternoon. And as it was Easter Sunday, a pucker Watershed rendition of Leonard Cohen’s epic Hallelujah seemed fitting. A rhythmic cover of the Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues and Counting Crow’s Mr Jones nailed the brief as those audience members who came of age in the 90s sang along. A few couples were spotted busting out some langarm moves on the bank of the dam – always a good sign.
The variety of instruments from the bass and acoustic guitars, drum and violin to the ukelele, tambourine, and harmonica, along with resonant lyrics is what has earned Watershed wide respect and a loyal following across generations. Guest artist Renata Riedemann’s violin added a sound reminiscent of Irish moor mists as well as the jaunty sound of a fiddle. And they saved their first hit, Indigo Girl (2000) for last, delivering it loud and true to the fans. What a superb Sunday afternoon! Step aside Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts because Stanford Hills Estate delivers a top notch open air concert. And we have it on good authority that the team from the Hills is going to keep building their live music line-up, keeping it fresh, proudly South African and strictly full of good vibes.
Thank you to Stellenbrau, sponsors of this Watershed April Road Tour. The beer and the gees was lekker.
The Winter Long Table and Wine Pairing at Beloftebos was a magical night that saw 150 guests seated under twinkling lights, enjoying an elegant meal that was full of surprises. The rain beat down on the soft top of the ivory bedouin tent while the wind battered the wall of glass windows reminiscent of London’s Crystal Palace at the turn of the last century. Sparks flew from crackling braziers creating a natural fireworks display in oak tree garden, and inside, guests were toasty and relaxed, warmed by the enormous fireplace, gas heaters and smooth local wines.
Chef Corneli pulled out all the stops as guests were greeted at sundown with glasses of Hermanuspietersfontein Bloos, Raka Sauvignon Blanc and trays of canapes around the braziers. Smoked salmon served on cucumber discs, bobotie springrolls, and amuse bouches of braised beef got the juices flowing before guests were invited inside to a table cleverly laid with bite-sized roosterkoek, Klein River cheeses, local honey and preserves.
Three long tables of raw sanded wood were simply set with an array of simple vases and fynbos, and guests slowly found their way to their places, each lovingly labelled by hand with a simple sprig of rosemary. Andries de Villiers welcomed everyone in his warm, relaxed and cheerful manner, thanking his wife and the close family team at Beloftebos. The local Stanford Mill cut all the local wood for the venue renovation, while Grant Anderson helped with the architectural drawings. Beloftebos is now an all-weather venue which can comfortably accommodate weddings, conferences, and parties all year round.
And you feel like family when you go to Beloftebos. The venue and decor has captured country chic at its best without any rustic stumblings and rusty excuses. The sense of simplicity and beauty is visible everywhere from the outdoor and indoor lighting and garden pathways, to the bathrooms. The warm easy smiles and laughter of the staff, and comfortable couches put everyone at ease. The band played an excellent line-up of fresh covers, and the vocals and harmonica added quality to the two guitars.
Four courses which cleverly mixed salty, sweet and savoury tastes of modern South African cuisine showed off the wines, grown by neighbours and friends of the de Villiers family, Hermanuspieterfontein and Raka. The guinea fowl risotto was a first for many, while the orange and ginger glazed and roasted patats were a triumph in themselves. The snoek samoosas would have impressed Marco Pierre White himself, but Chef Corneli had one more surprise for everyone after the 4th plated course. Wooden boards laden with little espresso cups of Crème brûlée with glazed oranges and chocolate brownies were set down the middle of the tables and completely stole the show!
The Winter Long Table and Wine Pairing was an utterly delightful evening filled with sensory spoils. Beloftebos is the perfect venue for all seasons.
Stanford is fortunate to be a mere 10km fromGrootbos, an astonishingly beautiful guest lodge that reclines discreetly on the fynbos slopes above the Walker Bay Whale Sanctuary. Built from earthy materials like stone and wood, with huge glass windows to maximize views, Grootbos blends into its natural surroundings. Winding pathways curl through ancient milkwood groves, and bright and smiling staff welcome visitors to Forest Lodge and Garden Lodge, two halves of the same destination. Grootbos is also the home of the Grootbos Foundation which is a non-profit organisation fully committed to empowering and uplifting local people by developing sustainable livelihoods through ecotourism, enterprise development, sports development and education. Everyone benefits.
Greener futures for all through learning and growing
From the staff and students at the Green Futures Programme, to the children on the sports fields in Gansbaai, Stanford and Hermanus, to families in Masakane, Gansbaai who have access to a community garden where they can grow and then sell fresh produce, the Foundation is committed to giving back. The Foundation creates jobs, and teaches people sustainability in a world which is only gradually beginning to consider introspection regarding our consumerism. The Grootbos Foundation offers in-house training with certifications in eco-tourism, with the emphasis being on preserving and even expanding the indigenous flora and fauna of our surroundings. One team is working on linking the pristine fynbos nodes in a continuous corridor from the Walker Bay Conservancy all the way to the Agulhas Plains and the Southernmost Tip of Africa. This will not only create jobs and preserve nature, but it will create an experience for visitors to travel, and will improve the knowledge of locals and farmers so that farming and livelihoods can become more sustainable and successful in the future.
A Grootbos Foundation Project: The Community Garden in Gansbaai where people can plant and tend their own allotments, growing food for their families and for sale.
The team at the Grootbos Foundation dreams big, and it puts its money where its mouth is. No plastic or straws are permitted on the property which now bottles underground spring water in glass reusable bottles for lodge guests. The nursery is full of cuttings and seedlings lovingly borrowed from nature. Volunteers and students help coach sport at local schools wherever they are invited, including the Stanford Canoe Development Academy. The general optimism and enthusiasm of everyone at the Grootbos Foundation is inspiring.
Grootbos herbarium filled with every plant species found at Grootbos
Michael Lutzeyer, owner of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, believes that everyone can grow food, anywhere, and his passion for fynbos and conservation is evident everywhere. The Grootbos Foundation is prolific in the work they do to help people in this region. Their imagination and generosity knows no bounds – all we need to do is to take their hands and walk with them on this amazing eco-tourism conservation journey. This is exactly what Stanford Tourism and Business intends to do.
Cool, liquid, floating relief from the heat of summer comes in many forms in Stanford. These glorious pools are tucked away at guest houses, self-catering cottages, and on farms. Don’t forget Stanford’s very own Klein River, perfect for cooling off. Go on, take the plunge!
And Stanford boasts the Klein River, a cool, winding ribbon of water that flows from its source in the mountains outside Caledon, just 5km as the crow flies to its mouth on the outskirts of Hermanus. The Klein River is fun for swimmers and paddlers who need to cool off on lazy, late summer afternoons.
Stanford is home to a uniquely South African product. Kiwinet has been growing from strength to strength, draping the bedrooms of local homes and luxury boudoirs of guest lodges in Southern and East Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean Islands with their elegant yet functional mosquito nets. From Out of Africa white that gently billows in the breeze to highly customised nets, dip-dyed in shades and hues or beaded to match individual requirements, the Kiwinet team is dedicated to delivering flawless nets that add romance to any bedroom, daybed or outdoor living area.
Front of house
Robyn Lavender bought Kiwinet in 1998 from Sharon Jevon, a New Zealander (hence the name Kiwinet) living on a farm near Elim, who started the company in 1994. Robyn based the business on Boschheuwel Farm near Stanford until she moved the business into the village in 2005, and then secured its current premises which were opened to the public on 1 April, 2015.
Natural linens and a Traditional Kiwinet in simple white and grey with button detail
Three Standard Ranges – Basic, Classic and Traditional – will accommodate your needs and budget to ensure you have a peaceful night’s sleep. If you can dream it . . . Kiwinet can make it. The Hoopnet and Suspended Four-Poster, Kiwinet’s two standard designs, are designed to dress cots through to king and custom-sized beds. Robyn’s flagship Suspended Four-Poster Kiwinet floats over ones bed to create a four-poster feel that is magically light and airy.
Tutus for the playful at heart
Robyn is immensely proud of her team. She is always expanding her product range and is currently adding beautiful natural bed linen and other speciality bedroom accessories to the shop, situated near the entrance to the village on Daneel Street. She is dedicated to conservation and the environment and plans to build on her range of Consol solar jars to include other sustainable items. To minimise wastage and landfill, offcuts are used to make cushion covers, travelling, washing or lingerie bags as well as children’s tutus so that no fabric goes to waste.
Kiwinet employs a team of local women and men who work cheerfully to the background rhythm of the radio. The constant snipping of scissors, hum of the sewing machines and swish of each net being hung and checked for imperfections while Kiwinets float on the line in the sun makes Kiwinet a vibrantly busy and yet calm place to visit.
Open to the public Monday – Friday 08:00 – 17:00, Saturdays 10:00 – 14:00
Neill Anthony breezed into Stanford, cool as a cucumber. His casual T-shirt and jeans, and easy smile made him seem right at home at Haesfarm in the creative home of architect Harry Poortman and Steyn Jacobs. Guests were greeted by the cat on the driveway before gathering on the lawn which overlooks the Klein River Mountains and the Stanford valley. Harry and Steyn kept the champagne flutes filled with Wildekrans MCC as the small group made our introductions, got to know each other, and played with the dog, Ginger.
And then it was time for us to go inside. The bright spaces inside the crisp and yet comfortable home are quite breathtaking as enormous glass windows show off the best views of the valley. The seams between inside and outside are barely there as wood, mortar and glass blend into the fynbos. The understated art collection and modern house music played by djtessprins instantly captured the imagination of the guests, as we chose our seats at the tables set with tall glass beakers of fresh spring water flavoured with springs of rosemary and fresh ginger root. This was not going to be an intimate lunch for couples, but rather an experience shared by a group of relative strangers who found ourselves caught in an incredible moment. Our excited smiles gave away how thrilled we all were to be there, despite the effort everyone had made to dress down, wear sandals and tousle our hairstyles.
Harry and Steyn’s home
Chef Neill’s menu was a line-up of eleven courses! How does anyone really eat eleven courses? Well, I’ll tell you how…with relish! We were in for a treat in which our senses would be indulged. From the get-go, we were put at ease when the first course to be served arrived on the tables. It was announced as the bread course, and wasn’t even on the menu. Crusty hunks of warm sour dough bread were placed on the table alongside frying pans of nut brown butter and wild sage. Usually a sneaky treat reserved only for the cook in the house, we were encouraged to break off pieces of bread and dunk them into the melted herby butter. There is no way one can do this with a knife and fork, or remain elegant, so we rolled up our sleeves, dunked with gusto and relaxed for the rest of the adventure.
The second course arrived in little nests of marjoram and wild flower petals. Crispy slim cigars of phyllo pastry filled with cool, nutty humus and fragranced with cumin were the second cutlery-free course. We were getting the hang of the meal, and getting into the spirit of sharing, laughing and delighting in the show that Chef Neill had cooked up, which stimulated not just the sense of sight, but also of smell and taste.
Neill’s third course was called Tuna Taco. While this sounds like an understated name, the course showed off great ingredients, and great ideas. This plated course was delicate and witty, playing on our misconceptions of what Mexican food looks like. The raw, semi-translucent tuna was placed on and inside miniature tacos, next to plump dollops of silky avocado and funky chipotle mayo – no grated cheese or lumpy guacamole in sight! Messy Mexican became modern in the hands of Neill Anthony, and the Hermanuspietersfontein Bartho Sauvignon blanc/ semillion blend, with its smokey minerality was a delicious compliment to the fish. Make no mistake, we all licked our fingers and mopped up every smudge of taste from our plates.
Course number 4 was Cured Yellowtail. This was a triumph of flavours from bold, sharp fish and sweet red onions to brilliantly green yet nutty broad beans and punchy aubergine puree perked up with sumac. I did not think this taste sensation could be beaten, not even by this private chef who was clearly on a roll, and I was torn between tasting each individual flavour independently or together, as a symphony. Springfontein Terroir Selection Chenin Blanc 2012 was the perfect accompaniment.
Plate number 5 was an enticing plate of emerald broccoli puree and a decadently crispy, nutty ever-so-slightly salted sprout of tempura broccoli sprinkled with miso crumbs. The miso crumbs were a knock out, and transformed the green earthy flavours into something exotic and Asian.
DJTess got a giggle when she said she would match her music to each course, but she seemed to pull off some kind of wonderful magic. Her cool house tunes skipped seamlessly from sounds reminiscent of the pings of underwater submarines to the whirring of wind and keening of whales, all to the rhythm of chic city loft parties.
The next plate arrived looking like a party on a plate. Smoked ham was shredded and served with gently boiled quale eggs, pea puree, jewels of roughly chopped peas, grain mustard and a confetti of pink and white corn flowers. The pork was deeply and decadently smoked and salty, and yet the slightly sour taste of the flowers were a perfect match. Another perfect match was the smooth plummy Walker Bay Amesteca 2015 with its lingering cigar box flavour.
Chef Neill Anthony
Course number seven made us sit up and rethink some traditional dishes. Chef Neill served mixed grains which included lentils and barley with mushroom ketchup and parmesan chips, a generous sprinkling of salty grated parmesan and purple flowers. A wonderful nuttiness filled our mouths and noses, and the textures and richness outstripped even the most authentic risotto. And that mushroom ketchup far surpassed tomato ketchup as we know it. Neil explained that mushroom ketchup actually precedes tomato sauces and has partially fallen out of modern consciousness…well, not any more. The mixture of earthy mushroom with acidic vinegar, salt and sugar made this a truly exciting relish to accompany this clever course.
The quail was served like a Jackson Pollock painting on a plate of cobalt blue. Slivers of kolrabi, turnipy in taste, and hazel nuts joined an avalanche of olive oil snow which turned the meaty, almost sweet roasted quail into a heady treat. The bitter celeriac puree, sweet roasted celeriac and sour wild sorrel meant that every taste note was on the plate. And the olive oil snow was as exciting as the first snow fall before Christmas. What a fun dish this was to eat.
The nineth course was a brainteaser. It looked like a dessert but smelt like baked potatoes. The delicate sea bass and crispy skin which smacked of the minerals of the sea were placed on a light creamy pillow of baked potato puree, spicey tomato fondu, sprinkled with savoury potato skin dust and a bloom of blue cornflowers. Chef Neill had only just begun to show us the diversity of his tricks and kitchen gadgets, and his syphon gun was a show stopper. Springfontein Daredevil Drum Chardonnay Juices Untamed accompanied this magic act perfectly.
Chef Neill then served a little surprise called Carrot. This simple plate showed off a sweet and mellow sticky roasted carrot in a carrot and orange sauce with paper thin slices of black radish. This whimsical dish redefined carrot as simultaneously sweet and also savoury, reminiscent of the sweetness of peanut brittle but with a gentle warm spiciness from the radish. It would have been impolite to lick our plates, but everyone found a discreet way to slurp up as much of that delicious golden sauce.
Overlooking Stanford Valley
Course eleven was rich shredded beef cheek, grilled nutty and bitter cauliflower, sweetly roasted onion and a sharp, fiery herbaceous relish of parsley, capers and chilli. The relish cut through the deep indulgence of the beef cheek perfectly and the little wedge of sweet, irony beetroot heightened the taste experience.
Chef Neill was not yet finished as he charged his syphon gun for the ginger Espuma with honeycomb. This course was a show in itself, served in rock ‘n roll bowls which danced on the table. The cloud of light creamy foam which pulsed with the heat of fresh root ginger, and the sweet shards of honeycomb had everyone speechless with wonder. What a triumph, just when we thought we could not eat another thing.
Next up: almond olive oil cake which was aerated by the syphon gun before being cooked and served with dollops of tart, buttery yellow lemon curd and a caramelised pear. By this stage, guests were requesting extra lashings of the lemon curd, unable to resist the hedonism of the food.
Almond and olive oil cake
And finally, the fourteenth course was a perfectly neat square of baked custard served with a sweet and heady nectarine poached in rose geranium syrup and served with fresh flowers and cream. This visually striking course, packed with flavour and scent made a perfect finale to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The view from the balcony
Fynbos Distillery grappa
Sir Robert Stanford Fynbos Distillery brought a selection of grappa-based liqueurs to round off the modern, country chic South African Sunday. The food, wine, music and view made this a series of magical moments stolen out of real life. Harry and Steyn made everyone feel truly welcome in their own home and we all knew exactly what they meant when they said, ‘We know everyone thinks we are crazy, but we like to do crazy things in spectacular places.’ What a perfect day to be able to share with them, Chef Neill Anthony and Jeanae, and what a stellar showcase of local talent and local flavours.