Lunch and wine at Delaire Graff Estate.
Delaire Graff Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa
After an incredible mini holiday to Cederberg National Park, we decided to counterbalance our time out in the wilderness by stopping off in Stellenbosch for a few days of indulgence. Surrounded by the vineyards of the Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch is the epicentre of the South African wine industry and you are spoilt for choice with lavish scenery and luxurious wine tasting tours. Since arriving in Cape Town, more than a few people have told us that Delaire Graff wine estate is a place to be experienced at least once, so we decided to go there and see.
Finally getting into Stellenbosch at about 10pm, we continued driving along the stunning Helshoogte Mountain Pass towards Farm France, our home for the night. We hadn’t quite realised that we would be driving straight past tomorrow’s lunch destination, but it was impossible to miss it. Set back into the hills, the entrance to the estate is impressively landscaped and lights up the highest point of the mountain pass it resides over. All the love, over-excitement and high expectations that we currently had invested in the two large Col’Cacchio pizza boxes in the back seat, suddenly paled into insignificance at the prospect of tomorrow’s lunch. Having shown zero interest in this event up until now, Joe showered me with compliments and head pats for organising such a treat.
The following day, we were excited to learn that the extravagance continued well past the entrance. The long driveway is flanked by lush sprawling gardens and magnificent South African sculptures. The effect is breathtaking. The owner is East London born founder of Graff Diamonds, Laurence Graff, and so it should have come as no surprise when he opened the doors to the estate in 2009, that he would be revealing one of the most luxurious destinations in South Africa. Graff is also a well respected art collector and it is his personal collection of contemporary South African art that decorates the walls of this beautiful estate and its gardens.
After a mesmerising tour of the grounds, we were taken along an expansive corridor (with flooring made from peach stones and resin – lovely!), past the Graff diamond boutique, housing the type of fabulous jewellery that no-one I know could ever afford, followed by giant glass doors that open onto the winery, and finally, to the restaurant for our lunch.
The whole estate is jaw-droppingly grand and seamlessly stylish. Graff worked with designer David Collins to create a high-design interior, using traditional South African materials, techniques and colours, that also works as a dramatic display platform for his South African art collection. It is clear in its design that the estate is a homage to the beautiful country in which he made his fortune.
Like all of the estate interior, the Delaire Graff Restaurant is strikingly elegant. Burnt orange leather seating snakes around the restaurant with double sided open wood fires and a ceiling made from asymmetrically vaulted Tasmanian oak. But since today was a dazzlingly warm spring day (British audience read: smoking hot summer’s day), we were to have our lunch outside on the terrace.
It was the restaurant terrace that made the whole day for me. From our front row seats we were treated to the most breathtakingly beautiful panoramic views over the Banhoek Valley and the vineyards below, almost certainly the most incredible view I have seen in South Africa, or anywhere for that matter. We started with some Delaire Graff Sunrise Brut, made all the more delicious by the knowledge that it was grown in the vineyard below. The food menu is appreciably concise and seasonal, largely dependent on what is growing in the greenhouse at that time. Otherwise, it is locally sourced, fresh and organic.
For starters, Joe went, conservatively, with the Caesar Salad served with free range egg and house smoked chicken, whilst I had the West Coast Oysters (one served natural with tabasco caviar, one tempura with squid ink, and the other with soy caviar). The salad was absolutely enormous and the oysters were creatively served, fresh and delicious. For his main course, Joe ordered the Pork belly from the specials menu. It was served with pork crackling (I was very pleased to see this little slice of Wolverhampton), apricot jus, bacon apricot jam, homemade pork sausage, creamy polenta and roasted carrots. I ordered the prawn linguine which was served with lemon butter sauce, deep fried capers and confit tomatoes. Whenever I order a seafood linguine, I always hope that it will taste like this but it never quite does. It was deliciously creamy, set off perfectly by the salty capers and lemon. Not that we needed it, but we also decided to order some truffle and parmesan chips because the table next to us were eating them and they looked amazing. They came with aioli and, to our delight, a soft boiled egg! I have never before experienced such high-end eggy chips.
However, the food highlight was the dessert. Joe ordered the Textures of chocolate, which was salted crème, Guinness gelato, sesame oil aero, dehydrated mouse and crystallised chocolate. I went for the Peanut butter blondie which was guanaja cremeux, vanilla and mustard gelato, caramelised popcorn, cocoa meringue and salted caramel. They were both impeccably presented and tasted like a dream.
At this point we had also made our way through a fair few bottles of wine, were loving life and really didn’t want to go home. Having arrived for lunch quite early, it was now getting rather late and we decided that we would try to drag our lazy boozy lunch out for as long as possible, ideally until sunset. We managed this quite well with many thanks to the unrelenting hospitality and endless wine recommendations of our waiter, and before long we were treated to the most spectacular African sunset. However long you may have lived in South Africa, I can’t imagine that these views would ever get old.
The estate also has 10 private lodges with their own plunge pools and concierge service as well as a Spa. They are the definition of luxury and don’t come particularly cheap at R17,970 (approximately £930) per night for 2 people. In contrast to this, the restaurant is very reasonable. Although, this is easy to say when you’re converting everything to the British Pound, which even following the post-Brexit crash horror, is still fairing quite well against the Rand. The main courses range from R215 – 285 (currently between £11-15) which is the price of a standard pub lunch in London (this is vomit inducing) and I’ve definitely spent up to that in some of the fancier restaurants in Cape Town. But, at Delaire Graff, you’re paying for the whole experience. It’s not just the mouthwatering food and wine, but the exquisite views over the Banhoek Valley, the opulent architecture, the artwork, sculptures and objects of beauty throughout the estate. From the moment you arrive, you enter a world of affluent perfection. This is, indeed, a place that everyone should experience, at least once.
Starter: R125-155 (£6.50-8)
Main: R215-285 (£11-15)
Dessert: R115-145 (£6-7.50)