Could this setting be any more beautiful? Awe-inspiring scenery and world-class wine farms surround an old Cape Dutch town, found just an hour drive from the Mother City. Known as the ‘food and wine capital’ of South Africa, Franschhoek is a popular tourist destination for foodies, families and outdoor-lovers alike with award-winning vineyards, an abundance of gourmet restaurants and popular hiking trails such as Cats Pass and Le Motte.
On the outskirts of this breathtaking valley lay the family-friendly vineyards of Leopards Leap, opened by the influential Rupert Family in 2002. With 3.5 million bottles of wine exported around the world each year, Leopard’s Leap is one of South Africa’s leading wine producers, celebrated for both quality and affordability. Leopard’s Leap is not only committed to excellence in their wine production, they also have a strong commitment to conservation of the Cape Mountain Leopard, protecting the endangered animal from extinction alongside the Cape Leopard Trust. It’s encouraging to know that a visit to Leopard’s Leap supports such a significant preservation scheme.
Nestled in a stunning location, Leopard’s Leap offers an inviting Rotisserie lunch to accompany their selection of wines, with bright open views across the vineyards. The popular restaurant prides itself in serving local food and produce wherever possible and the subsequent effects of supporting local farmers in South Africa cannot be downplayed, ensuring food served at the Rotisserie is both local and seasonal.
During my time in Cape Town, I was fortunate enough to be invited to enjoy a ‘South African Table’ at Leopard’s Leap, a food experience occurring three days a week, hosted by world-renowned chef, Pieter de Jager. Growing up amongst the hustle and bustle of his parents’ restaurants in Pretoria, it was only a matter of time before Pieter stepped out into his own kitchen after returning from England where he worked under the watchful eye of Michael Roux.
“Sharing the diversity that is South African food, the Leopard’s Leap South African Table presents guests with the opportunity to taste authentic South African dishes and to learn more about the food heritage while sharing a meal.” (Leopard’s Leap Website)
(Above images courtesy of Leopard’s Leap)
Welcome drinks beside a cosy blazing fire upon arrival, we were served delicious quince chutney from the restaurants own vegetable garden with warm sourdough bread, referred to by the chef as his ‘3 day baby’. Over the course of an elegant three-course meal, Pieter talked us through each South African inspired dish and accompanying wine across a large hosting table within the exclusive kitchen area. Renovated 7 months ago, this modern, bright venue hosts a relaxed, conversational food tasting which is particularly well suited to small groups.
Our first course drew inspiration from Durban’s ‘Spice Route’ with an aromatic Cape Malay curry served with delicately spiced hake and prawns. This was followed by a succulent lamb course, concluding with the most amazing malva pudding I have ever tasted. Needless to say, the food at Leopard’s Leap surpassed all expectations and I wouldn’t hesitate to return with friends and family visiting from around the world. We left the Rotisserie restaurant greatly satisfied and continued to rave about the malva pudding for the duration of our drive home.
What sets Leopard’s Leap apart? The people. Pieter is not only incredibly knowledgable in his craft but genuine and charismatic; it was such a pleasure to hear of his time in the UK as well as his story leading up to becoming chef of the Rotisserie. Modern, fresh architecture in a young and charismatic environment, Leopard’s Leap is about more than just great food and wine. The Afrikaans word, ‘samesyn’, meaning ‘togetherness’ is a perfect adjective to describe the restaurants’ fundamental principles: when food is sourced locally, there is a positive knock-on effect throughout the industry and that is surely, the greatest result of all.
Thank you to Leopard’s Leap for an amazing experience. For more information, visit http://leopardsleap.co.za/. Images provided by myself and Leopard’s Leap.
‘The South African Table’ takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 12:00 – 13:00 at a cost of R 250 per person. Reservations can be made at email@example.com