REPRESENTING more than 200 wine and grape producers, it’s no wonder Stellenbosch Wine Routes had to make things more manageable and user-friendly with sub-routes. These are Bottelary Hills, Greater Simonsberg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Valley and Stellenbosch Berg.
Last week I discovered that with a little more than 24 hours I could have a full and enjoyable excursion to the heart of the Helderberg. I visited Yonder Hill for a soup and wine pairing, Morgenster for exceptional olive oils and stunning Bordeaux-style wines, and wine and chocolate at Lourensford, and it was all wonderfully relaxed, partly because of minimal driving time between venues. More about all these later. This story is about the place I spent the night: Erinvale Estate Hotel & Spa.
The hotel has 56 en-suite rooms and suites, in various guises – terrace, loft, garden and so on. Mine was on the garden level with a semi-private terrace where I could sit in the late afternoon sun with a glass of wine, my book, and the macarons from the welcome box of sweet goodies.
Chef Stefan Bekker came to chat to me about what he’s up to, which is introducing a menu of small plates – not quite tapas, not quite starter portions – of which you can choose four for R205. Later I went to try these in the restaurant. Things are a bit topsy turvy at the moment due to renovations of the Skelligs Pub, which means all lunches and dinners are served in the Seventeen07 fine dining restaurant, or on the terrace if it’s not too chilly. If you don’t know any different, it’s not a hardship, and the hotel makes sure all guests are informed about this.
The menu in general is very well-priced, covering starters, mains and light meals. I’m keen to go back for the Swiss Melt sirloin with cheese, mushroom sauce, veggies, onion rings and chips; it sounds scrumptious. Other main courses include steak and Guinness pie, pork belly, braised oxtail, and eggplant Parmesan. For a light meal, there are burgers, chicken tacos, soup, ramen, asparagus toasties and a charcuterie platter. The wine list reflects the hotel’s neighbours – Morganster, Lourensford and Vergelegen. Not yet listed, the Dome Pinot Noir from Lourensford was recommended to accompany my choice of dishes.
Among the small plate options are Camembert fondue, vegetable dumpling, polenta chips, and teriyaki chicken drumsticks. On the seafood side of things, choose from mussels in lemon butter sauce, sea bass in coconut broth, or grilled scallops. Remember you can have four…and you are not imagining the Asian influences, from Stefan’s time spent in the East.
I ordered the smoked duck pancake with miso glaze, vegetables and pineapple salsa; braised beef short rib with BBQ basting, potato fondant and semi-dried tomatoes for sweetness; and the duo of pork. On one side, a bitterballen croquette, on the other, braised cheek. This was the highlight of the meal and I even dreamed about it that night. I would happily eat 10 of those. I also had a salad, just to balance all the yummy meatiness.
In between the gallivanting within a short radius, surely you’ll be able to find the time for some pampering and prettiness. Lurra Spa offers a range of treatments for day visitors and hotel guests; the on-site hair salon is for hotel guests only.
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PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN © (except featured image)