• Fired up

    Temperatures are dropping, but that’s no reason to hibernate… Here are the hottest eateries, watering holes and places to explore this autumn. By Keith Bain
    Fired up

    Cape Town


    Feverishly fabulous food

    Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg’s culinary creations created a big stir among foodies who found their way to his Franschhoek outpost, The Kitchen at Maison. It became a Winelands darling, especially noted for the creativity of Chef Arno’s experimental flavour combinations. The daring chef is now applying his love of carefully sourced seasonal ingredients to his city restaurant in Kloof Street, Janse & Co. With plenty of fresh ideas (think raw beef with black-garlic aioli, for example, or slices of raw blue marlin with apple and nasturtium leaves), plus statement-making decor, it’s likely to become one of Cape Town’s food-pilgrimage destinations. If it’s warm enough out, you can sit around a vertical hydroponic veg garden in the courtyard. Inside, amid the charcoal hues, leather, glass, steel and exposed beams, you will find a harvest table, an open kitchen and a dedicated glass room for meat and charcuterie.

    Get away

    Valley of the wines

    Franschhoek, merely 75 km from Cape Town, derives a special joie de vivre from its position in a long and beauteous valley. In winter, the French holiday Bastille Day (14 July) is an excuse for festivities, complete with wine-tasting (and drinking), live music and challenging trail runs on the surrounding slopes. Of the many wine estates in the valley, some are worth special mention. The magical, slightly unconventional little farm of Boekenhoutskloof is responsible for some of SA’s favourite wine brands, including The Chocolate Block, The Wolftrap and Porcupine Ridge. La Motte, meanwhile, not only produces lovely Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, but has an exquisite restaurant, museum, farm shop and hiking trail. Don’t miss out on the estates that lie a little away from the town itself. You’ll taste wonderful reds at Allée Bleue, while community-minded Solms-Delta (besides cultivating great wines) has a restaurant focusing on traditional recipes found nowhere else. Many of the estates can also be visited on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a hop-on hop-off tour, allowing you to drink to your heart’s content at the estates you discover.


    Red-hot art

    Besides the sheer breathtaking cleverness of its architecture, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) is a phenomenal addition to the Mother City’s network of cultural destinations. Spanning more than 100 gallery spaces on nine floors, works by the most cutting-edge of Africa’s artists are showcased alongside those of creatives from the diaspora, and special artists and exhibitions from around the world. South Africa has never had a museum of such mind-bending scope or one with such focus on the latest developments in creativity. (Everything on display here was created after the turn of the millennium, making it feel exhilaratingly relevant.) It’s a great space in which to spend an entire day. Be warned: Some works may disturb you, but this is trumped by the heart-warming sensation of seeing a vast number of artists from our continent creating such a stir. The museum runs a packed programme of events, with new exhibitions, guided tours and film screenings, and there’s a daytime restaurant, too.


    A trip to Morocco

    Designed to feel as though you’ve stepped off Long Street and into the heart of a Moroccan bazaar, Souk is a maze-like arrangement of beautiful rooms, each filled with texture and colour and flickering lantern-light. Exposed brick walls are interspersed with tiled surfaces, welcoming fireplaces, packed bookcases and cosy sofas upholstered in plush fabrics. Even if you have no interest in the delicious tapas and sharing platters served on large wooden boards, it’s a worthy destination for its innovative cocktails. There are shisha pipes to mellow out on, and DJs provide an absorbing soundtrack while bartenders mix grapefruit juleps and litchi-and-elderflower martinis.



    The warm heart of Rome

    Accolades for the authentic food and lively atmosphere at Gemelli Italian Restaurant in Bryanston simply never cease. Founder Alessandro Mosupi Khojane grew up in Rome, where he developed a passion for entertaining with food. He and Head Chef Paulo Santo have a strong reputation for their kitchen’s use of sustainably grown and ethically sourced ingredients to prepare everything from Venetian-style cicchetti starters to fragrant and tender lamb meatballs, and a most wonderful porcini risotto. The pastas are a triumph, of course, and the seafood linguine in particular is a stand-out – so tomatoey and lip-smacking, you’ll need to don a bib before you start slurping up the goodness.

    Get away


    In north-east Mpumalanga, where the magnificent northern Drakensberg escarpment drops away to the shimmering Lowveld, the Panorama Route provides a succession of jaw-dropping views: Big skies meet vertiginous cliffs, and waterfalls plunge from incredible rock formations. A road trip here is packed with heart-stopping vistas from the rim of the 33 km-long Blyde River Canyon. Plus, there are scenic passes and quirky hamlets such as Pilgrim’s Rest, a gold-mining boom town that was once so prosperous it had electricity two days before London. Other essential stops include the 65 m Mac Mac Falls and God’s Window, a natural viewpoint where you frequently find yourself standing above the clouds. Further north, the Bourke’s Luck Potholes are large, scooped-out rock formations at the confluence of two rivers. Beyond these are The Three Rondavels, a trio of massive hut-shaped rock outcrops that are viewed from the edge of a sheer precipice high above the Blyde River. At the Route’s northern end, the road descends from the escarpment via the Abel Erasmus Pass. Down below, you can take a 90-minute barge trip on the dam, or settle in somewhere for the night and then sail up and away at dawn with Sun Catchers Hot Air Ballooning for a spectacular flight above the escarpment.


    Africa’s hottest threads 

    Work Shop New Town is a hybrid shopping space intended to become the city’s epicentre of contemporary African design. It’s where you can shop for iconic local fashion brands such as Black Coffee, pick up vintage threads from Lukhanyiso Kona’s iVintage Yakho and buy colourful African fabrics from Ndlovukazi. Other offerings include the Xhosa-inspired knitwear from Maxhosa by Laduma; bracelets, watches and other accessories from Era by DJ Zinhle; and streetwear from rapper Cassper Nyovest’s label, Family Tree. In-between browsing, you can take a break at Old School Coffee or get a trim at Legend’s, easily the most sought-after barbershop in the city.


    Licence to thrill

    Leather sofas, furls of smoke rising from cigars, expensive single-malts being sipped by confident men, and bar staff who know how to mix a decadent-sounding cocktail… Churchills Bar borrows its atmosphere from the kind of members club James Bond might frequent. It’s chock-full of comfy Chesterfields, mahogany bookshelves, ottomans upholstered in blue velvet and whimsical cushions sporting the Union Jack. Designery though it may be, the atmosphere is decidedly relaxed and convivial, perfect for rubbing shoulders with Joburg’s best and brightest.



    Spice and all things nice

    At Indian Summer in Glenashley, the owner and chef, Anand Pacholy, offers an authentic taste of home that begins with yummy chaat (snacks traditionally served from street carts). These include pani puri – crunchy, wafer-like balls filled with deliciously spiced mint juice that you pop into your mouth for an explosion of flavours. They’re exquisite and can be ordered as platters to share before tucking into a selection of fragrant main meals – judiciously spiced tikka masalas, sweet and tomatoey makhanis, creamy kormas and wondrously rich vindaloos. Pacholy’s curries, like those found in India, are not quite as tongue-blastingly fiery as your average Durban concoction. Instead, emphasis is on flavour-focused sauces that you can soak up with breads (dosas, naans, rotis and stuffed parathas), which are all freshly prepared in the restaurant’s coal-fired tandoor.

    Get away

    Jungle escape

    Some 140 km up KZN’s wondrously green and still-quite-wild north coast, Mtunzini is a gem of a getaway, cradled by pristine forest, mangrove swamps, estuaries, tall dunes and long stretches of sandy beach. In its pristine Umlalazi Nature Reserve, a timber boardwalk takes you through the swamp forest to a grove of protected raffia palms, humongous trees that produce fruit eaten by Mtunzini’s colony of rare palm-nut vultures. Wild zebras roam the streets and are frequently seen grazing on the fairways at the country club’s tricky nine-hole golf course. The country club, where the restaurant serves great curries, is among several sociable hubs in this town; another hangout is the Umlalazi Ski Boat Club, where you can launch your boat on to the lagoon and go deep-sea fishing. Barges and house boats traverse the river too, where stray crocodiles and hippos may be spotted, and the odd shark has been seen heading upstream. The town has guest houses and B&Bs, and in the reserve there’s camping and chalets. You can come for a total chill session, or bring your bike and join the Mtunzini leg of the Big5 Mountain Bike Series which happens in May (big5mtb.co.za).


    A subtropical garden

    In Yellowwood Park, a suburb 14 km south-west of the city centre, the 253 ha Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is a soothing, green oasis of grassland and coastal forest where it’s possible to retreat from the urban hubbub. More than 200 bird species have been recorded here, including narina trogons, grey waxbills, African goshawks and elusive lemon doves. If birds aren’t your thing, there are free-roaming zebras, various antelope, vervet monkeys, dassies, water monitors, genets, bushbabies and three kinds of mongoose. You can set off on a walking trail or bring your mountain bike for the 10 km cycle route. You can also pack a picnic and steal a glimpse of Coedmore Castle – the home of the Stainbank family, who settled here in 1857 and owned the land until Kenneth Stainbank donated it for public use.


    The hottest jazz in town

    Hidden away in a revitalised part of the docklands, where once only sailors and ladies of the night dared roam the streets, The Chairman is the ideal place to cosy up with a fine tipple and a handsome crowd. This sophisticated speakeasy-styled spot is named for the architect-owner’s love of designer chairs, and it rates as surely the city’s sexiest after-dark haunt. It’s a jazz bar consisting of various rooms with mismatched furniture, chunky couches to sink into, thickly textured drapes, rough-hewn walls, and mirrors in heavy frames – all very cool and hip, yet remarkably unpretentious.

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