Avontuur Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

This review is ‘off the scale’ in terms of ‘further afield’, in fact probably 10,000 miles further afield, but should you be so fortunate to be in the area, I recommend you pop in. Not only is it a wine estate but also a stud farm so the approach to the main buildings has paddocks with horses running free surrounded by the vines and the distant mountains as an impressive backdrop.

The entrance certainly sets the scene and the expectations at the right level for the service and gastronomic experience inside and is accurately described on their website as “contemporary rustic/modern country cuisine”.

So why was I there?  Well, I recently paid my ma & pa a visit who live in Somerset West near Cape Town.  It’s situated on the very edge of Stellenbosch, the main wine producing area of South Africa, and what a stunningly beautiful part of the world it is.

It was a Saturday and I was departing late that evening to return to the UK and it was also ma’s birthday in a few days time so it was fitting to find a suitable venue to celebrate 75 years young and to enjoy our last few hours together before it was sadly time to say goodbye.  My folks had paid Avontuur a visit previously for lunch and had had a very good time and therefore it was agreed to return there on this occasion.

Our table was booked for 12.30 and we were sat in a far corner; we had specified this on making our booking and it was nice to see our request honoured.  This enabled us to be undisturbed by the hustle & bustle of the surrounding restaurant and ‘noisier’ diners in our midst and provided an almost private dining experience.

Our waiter was a very genial Zimbabwean, Michael, who provided us with excellent service; he was able to recommend and describe all the dishes on the menu and was equally knowledgeable about the estate’s  wine.  We were allowed to taste some wines before making our choice to go with our meal.  This turned out to be rather a confusing but amusing exercise.  I think it was six glasses of wine that were brought to the table, pronounced and then set down on the table unlabelled.  By the time the fourth glass was on the table, we were having difficulty keeping track of what was what!  This effectively became a blind tasting exercise which could be said to have its advantages – one concentrates on the flavours without any preconceived ideas of what you are about to get.  In the end it was left to pointing to which one was preferred rather saying its correct name.  Turned out, the cabernet sauvignon won over.

Following the efforts of the wine tasting our energy levels were fortunately sustained by a basket of homemade bread, still warm from the oven.  We could now focus on the task of what to eat …

It was not a big menu but had plenty of interesting choices and offered a range of options for starters or light meals and a section for mains followed by desserts, or ‘Afterthoughts’.

When it came to choosing my starter, I was in a slight dilemma as I initially chose the quiche thinking it would be a small starter portion but turned out it was going to be much bigger than that and Michael suggested I should go for something else.  Slightly disappointed, I went for my second choice which was chicken livers done in a red Thai & coconut sauce on bruschetta.  I am pleased to say my disappointment soon dissipated as this really was very nice and beautifully presented.

I had to deliberate on my main course choice too.  I more often than not go for fish as the Cape seafood is wonderful.  However, I had had my ‘fix’ of Kingklip & Kablejou earlier in my stay so decided it had to be fillet steak with peppercorn sauce, medium rare.  I am not a big red meat eater as am often disappointed with the meat being tough and tasteless.  This was anything but!  It was cooked to perfection being slightly pink inside and extremely tender.  It was absolutely delicious.

I had some difficulty choosing my ‘afterthought’ as none of the desserts really grabbed my attention – crepe suzette, deep fried ice cream (wrapped in filo pastry before you wonder how that was supposed to work!) or brandy snaps to names some of the options.  I had hoped there might have been some baked cheesecake or apple pie but sadly not.   I eventually went for chocolate mousse with some vanilla ice cream.  Again, it was beautifully presented.  The ‘Decadent chocolate & Kahlua mousse’ was very chocolately but not overly so, and was nicely textured with little chunks of chocolate in it.  This was accompanied by a welcome filter coffee.

It was hard to believe that once the last drop of coffee and Cabernet Sauvignon had been drunk that we had been enjoying this occasion for 2½ hours.  The service was excellent and attentive.  I might add that we did have quite a long wait before our starters and main course but that did not detract from the experience and we were quite happy to while away the time and soak up the warm and friendly atmosphere.  I am just sorry it’s not on my doorstep to return again without having to get on a jet plane.

Opening hours:
09h00 – 17h00 Monday to Friday
09h00 – 16h00 Saturday & Sunday
Dinner Wednesday and Friday evenings (Summer ONLY )
Closed Christmas day, New Years Day and Good Friday
The Avontuur Estate Restaurant, P O Box 3414, Somerset West, 7129, South Africa
Telephone:             +27 (0)21 855 4296
Email: openhand@polka.co.za