With the earlymorning sunwarming my bones, I was determined to take full advantage of waking at Steenberg, Constantia’s—in Cape Town—oldest wine farm, which is also home to a hotel, two restaurants, an 18-hole golf course and a spa.
Basking in the stillness of Steenberg’s vineyard before breakfast, I wandered by the plucked vines, drifting past the scent of fully blossomed rose bushes, while taking in the famous backdrop of Muizenberg Mountain and Table Mountain National Park in total solitude. It was perfect.
Steenberg was my Cape Town base from where I explored this thrilling city for the first time before moving to the suburb of Clifton for a beach house finale. Steenberg is a 20-minute drive from the centre of Cape Town, but if you’re a wine buff, or just keen to learn more about the provenance of the grape as you drink it, it ticks all of the boxes.
The best way of getting to know Steenberg’s wines is, of course, by drinking them. So arriving jetlag free the previous afternoon, I delved straight into a four-flight pairing experience, in the private tasting room above the estate’sBistro 1682, with winemakerJohn Loubser.
John explained more about the history of Steenberg, which dates back to 1682, and the estate’s wines. Interestingly, although lesser-known, Constantia’s wines are considered superior to Stellenbosch’s produce.
Steenberg’s wines range from a sparkling white—colloquially, always referred to as ‘bubbles’—and there’s also a superb sauvignon blanc among several other top varieties.
Grazing over long lunches that carry on well into the afternoon, visitors spill out of Bistro 1682 onto the outside terrace area, where hotel guests mingle with well-to-do locals. It’s the perfect spot for a pre- or post-wine tasting lunch (the charcuterie and tuna tartare were both excellent on my visit).
After lunch, I recommend anchoring down on one of the hotel’s loungers by the pool for the afternoon. Although, if like me you’re eager to explore and walk, instead of snooze, off your lunch, head into Cape Town to get a feel for the most colourful and photogenic neighbourhood in the city: Bo-Kaap. The Cape Malay quarter, where each house is decorated in bright and vibrant colours, Bo-Kaap offers an ideal opportunity to get to know some of the city’s cultural heritage. Keen to try some of the local delicacies, I took part in a Cape Fusion Tour, which included a cooking class with a local Bo-Kaap resident who enthusiastically teaches her guests the art of making samosas and other Cape Malay specialities.
This is just one of the tasty stops on a tour with Cape Fusion. I also visited the heart of the city’s booming coffee culture at Truth Coffee and the upper deck of the city’s main station terminus’ food market, which offers a glimpse of more traditional staples such as braai (barbecued or grilled meat), pap (made from ground maize) and chakalaka.
Back at Steenberg, located in the oldest part of the hotel, my room was steeped in history. With dark ceiling beams drenched in fine lines and leaded-glass windows, complemented with a thoroughly modern and luxurious bathroom, there was a perfect juxtaposition of old and new. There’s also a strong appreciation of art and nature throughout the hotel, such as the green and ruby-hued chandelier installation hanging above the tasting bar in Bistro 1682, which upon closer inspection looks remarkably like the grapes they are based on.
That evening, back on the culinary tour, I headed for Woodstock. Cape Town’s hipster quarter, Woodstock is home to Luke Dale Roberts’ The Test Kitchen restaurant—currently the darling of the city’s dining scene. It’s busy, vibrant, decorated with a cool crowd in mind, including some fabulous artwork, and has the kitchen theatrics in full view of diners.
Sampling the five-course tasting menu, each dish at The Test Kitchen was uniquely crafted, with Luke’s creativity matched by the flavours and ingredients in dishes such as the ‘TK Springbok’, with chestnuts, liver, beetroot and cocoa nib. Luke is adored and the restaurant is becoming increasingly difficult to get a reservation at, so book well in advanced.
Even if you don’t manage to get a reservation at The Test Kitchen, head over to Woodstock anyway. Based around The Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock is filled with unique boutiques and artisan shops, including Dark Horse for home accessories and vintage treats; Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour for fine and rare tea; and Kat Van Duinen Design for fashion and incredible handbags.
After a fruit-filled breakfast the following morning, it was time to hit Cape Town’s biggest and, arguably, most important attractions: the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was once imprisoned during the apartheid, and Table Mountain.
Taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain (it’s also possible to hike to the top), I arrived at the summit to some of the most incredible views I’ve ever witnessed. Down below, Cape Town resembles more of a toy town than reality. Often blanketed in cloud, the mountain had shed its cloth on the day of my visit, offering clear views of the city below, neighbouring mountains, out to sea and beyond. Make sure to allow plenty of time to explore the trails once at the top, taking in the many different outlooks and wildlife, such as the very cute Rock hyrax (dassie), lizards, birds and snakes.
Before catching the ferry to Robben Island, take a lunchtime pit stop at another Cape Town landmark, the V&A Waterfront. Home to museums, shops, markets, bars and many restaurants, I stopped for a light seafood lunch at Mondiall, before taking the 30-minute ferry journey to Robben Island.
The Alcatraz of Cape Town is a bleak island, with wild Atlantic waves crashing against the rock face. The island is larger than it appears from back on the waterfront and we are required to board a coach to take us from the ferry dock to the prison museum. On the way, we pass the leper cemetery, which offers a window into another fascinatingly grim era of the island’s past—1846-1931—when it was used as a leper colony.
Arriving at the prison museum, I joined a group tour to hear about what life was like on the island from a former political inmate, Ntando Mbatha. During the tour, Ntando revealed details of his seven-year apartheid incarceration and talked about Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 of his 27 imprisonment years on Robben Island, after being convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state in 1962. More than just a prison tour, the tales from Robben Island’s past are heart breaking, with visitors hearing personal accounts of the former prisoners and their families.
My journey back to the waterfront was well timed—catching the sun as it set behind Table Mountain. With a chilled local beer in hand aboard the ferry, it was an opportunity to reflect on what was one of the most important pieces of political and historical tourism I was ever likely to experience.
After a long and memorable day, it was time to spend the evening unwinding for a final night at Steenberg at Catharina restaurant. Named after the founder of Steenberg, Catharina Ras, the restaurant offers fresh and seasonal dishes by executive chef Garth Almazan. Plump scallops and perfectly pink springbok, accompanied by some of the estate’s own wines, provided a fulfilling end to my stay at Steenberg.
For my final day in Cape Town it was time to kick back and take in the local beach culture; and there is plenty of it to go around. With vast swathes of coastline, Cape Town is one of the world’s top beach and surf destinations.
In False Bay, take in Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg, before resting up with prime sunset views at Cape View Clifton. Dotted along the False Bay Peninsula, stop at Boulder’s Beach first to coo over the penguins, before continuing to Kalk Bay for some retail therapy.
Kalk Bay is a shopper’s dream with an overwhelming array of craft, antique and boutique shops lining Main Road (I snapped up some vintage crockery, locally made ceramics, scarfs, Cape Town-roasted coffee beans and South African olive oil!). Kalk Bay attracts a relaxed and bohemian crowd, offering plenty of local food shacks, coffee bars and restaurants to enjoy, such as the highly recommended Harbour House, with its ocean views and excellent sushi and seafood.
The penultimate beach stop is at Muizenberg, with its row of iconic colourful beach huts. Grab a surfboard from one of the hire shops; take a swim or just soak up the sun on the long stretch of white sandy beach, before moving on to Clifton.
Arriving at Cape View Clifton guesthouse, the roadside profile gives little away to the house’s glamorous interior. Inside, Cape View Clifton offers a selection of seven suites, each with their own balconies, and while there are a host of luxury facilities, such as a fully stocked honesty bar and artisan tea and coffee in the room, the view is the standout feature. With the Twelve Apostles to one side and Clifton beach and the Atlantic Ocean to the other, it is magnetic.
Downstairs there is a large terrace with a plunge pool, loungers and plenty of space to enjoy al fresco dining, while taking in more of that view.
Cape View Clifton has redefined luxury lodging; offering a small scale bespoke service in what is essentially a beach house setting. Sipping on a sundowner on the decked terrace, there was no place I would rather have spent my final night in the Mother City.
Cape Town Tourism capetown.travel
Cape View Clifton (rooms start from ZAR2700 per night including breakfast)capeviewclifton.co.za
Qatar Airways flies daily from London Heathrow to Cape Town via Doha. Round trip prices start from £747 (economy) and £3122 (Business Class)qatarairways.com
Steenberg Farm (rooms from ZAR2650 per night on a bed and breakfast basis) steenbergfarm.com
The Test Kitchenthetestkitchen.co.za