It is one of the more frequent gripes of Capetonians, especially those with children in tow, that lunch or dinner at a Cape wine estate can deliver a bit of a blow to the budget. A sit-down meal of gin-cured Franschhoek trout or Karoo lamb–braised neck and sweetbread might sound incredible to an adult, but to those young whippersnappers, whose greatest aspiration is to go out and play (and whose idea of the perfect meal is a toasted cheese sandwich), it’s quite frankly a total waste.
This spring, however, Grande Provence has created a family-friendly space within the borders of its sprawling, verdant estate. They’re calling it The Bistro, and it was on the very first day of Spring that we were invited here to a delectable buffet-style lunch, courtesy of Executive Chef Guy Bennett and the hard-working kitchen staff at Grande Provence’s fine dining restaurant.
A stroll around the sculpture garden
After grabbing a welcome flute of the Grande Provence MCC Brut Rosé, we went on a slow stroll to explore the new space and the surrounding estate. Grande Provence is home to a magnificent garden, which is as much an ode to nature as it is to art.
Incredibly life-like bronze sculptures are arranged at carefully considered intervals in this serene, emerald space, from the beautiful heart-shaped horse heads to the puppies playing on the lawn.
All of the featured artworks blend seamlessly into the environment, rather than dominating it. This is true even the enormous trio of metallic faces by celebrated South African artist, Anton Smit, who has just selected Grande Provence as his exclusive public sculpture exhibition venue in the Cape Winelands.
The new Bistro is located in what used to be the old admin office and conference room at Grande Provence, which the staff only used once a week for Monday meetings. With these offices having direct access to a generous veranda and oak-shaded lawns, as well as glorious views of the vineyards and the bordering mountains beyond, the team at Grande Provence realised that this space was being wasted. And so they cooked up the idea of opening up a less formal eatery to complement their already fabulous food and wine offerings: the Bistro was born!
The Bistro is a casual, yet contemporary eatery and the perfect destination for anyone in pursuit of a top-tier Cape wine farm experience but with meals taken in a more relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. Having said that, it doesn’t compromise luxury for accessibility, and we found the service exceptional, the tables beautifully decked, and the décor striking the perfect balance between casual and sophisticated.
We kicked off the meal with a wine and hummus pairing – something new the ever-evolving Grande Provence wine estate has recently cooked up. The experience covered the lightly wooded 2017 Chardonnay (paired with a creamy, nutty hummus), the peppery yet smooth 2015 Shiraz (paired with a paprika-spiced red lentil hummus), and the fruity Angels Tears Moscato (paired with a fig and pumpkin seed hummus). Each pairing was a smooth and harmonious marriage of flavour and texture that was designed to bring out the best in the wines.
Lunch was a buffet of mouth-watering dishes that included tender chicken pie with a crispy cap of pastry, flavoursome spinach quiche, and garden salads bursting with pumpkin seeds, shaved nuts, grilled vegetables, and other colourful treats. There were also freshly baked bread rolls and loaves, fruit salads, a selection of spreads, pestos, and relishes, an enormous cheese board, and the most delicious homemade cakes (chocolate and carrot) for dessert. The chocolate cake with its crown of berries was an absolute winner, having a devilish interior that was blacker than night and moister than your eyes after watching The Notebook.
Future plans for The Bistro
During our sit-down meal at The Bistro, Grande Provence’s Hospitality Manager Marna Steenkamp explained some of the exciting plans they have for their new venture. In keeping with the whole family-friendly vibe of The Bistro, weekends will feature a variety of “fun days” and sociable braais, during which families can enjoy a barbeque style lunch with a selection of cold dishes, salads, and breads. They also plan to convert the two rooms directly behind The Bistro to a coffee shop and a gin bar and to eventually add a pizza oven to the outside section.
The emphasis here appears to be on casual, communal dining where guests are encouraged to pick and choose what they want from a barbeque, buffet, harvest table, or, eventually, pizza oven, while kids can let loose on the beautiful lawns out front. Currently, while the front-of-house section of The Bistro is completed and looks absolutely stunning, the kitchen still needs to be installed so that it can become a self-sustaining operation. The day set for completion isn’t far off and Marna estimated that sometime in the next month or two, The Bistro will be up and running and attracting more families than ever to Grande Provence. *Watch this space.*
An exceptional experience
Knowing that my derrière was the first The Bistro’s chair had ever kissed in its lifetime was honour enough (for me, at least; the chair might beg to differ). But to preview Grande Provence’s gorgeous new space and enjoy the estate’s incredible gastronomy and wine, all on a perfectly sunny spring day made the entire experience exceptional. And so it is with the appearance of the first tender buds on the bare branches of the estate’s deciduous trees that Grande Provence’s budding Bistro opens its petals to greet the new season. And I very much look forward to going back again to see it in full bloom!
Located in Franschhoek, the heartland of South African wine country, Grande Provence offers true South African wine heritage, exceptional food and wine, and luxury boutique accommodation. For more information visit www.grandeprovence.co.za, Facebook.com or Twitter @grande_provence.