A Retreat to Boschendal, Cape Winelands. Organic gardens, Orchard Cottages, Soil-to-Fork Cuisine.

I recently enjoyed a retreat to the country thanks to ManleySocial who arranged a visit to Boschendal in the Cape Winelands and a stay in one of their gorgeous Orchard Cottages. Tucked up on the farm, we indulged in warm hospitality, adundant goodness and the farm’s soulful ethos – it was an absolute treat.

Arriving at the Werf Restaurant, we enjoyed a long indulgent lunch before taking time to explore the surrounds, visit the farm shop and walk the beautifully trellised garden before blissfully settling on the cottage stoep to watch the breeze move down from the mountain to send its wistful whispers through the carefully nurtured trees.

The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal

Soil-to-fork dining is offered in the exquisitely revamped original cellar of the Manor House. Here we ordered shared plates that delighted with their intense flavours that spoke of seasonal and ethically sourced produce – and were bigger and more generous than we had anticipated. We opted for the Baked Potato Gnocchi, Stonefruit Salad – amazing, Baby Marrow Fritters, Tomato & Herb Salad, and the Saldanha Bay Mussels. Every bite was sensational. Served overlooking the gardens, accompanied by mocktails (as lockdown at the time meant no alcohol) and sunshine rays. It truly is an ideal place to settle for lunch.

Boschendal Manor House, which dates back to 1812.

The Werf Restaurant, overlooking the garden from which most fresh produce is sourced.

With Kate Nebalzina and below Eden Weiss, who joined me for the stay.

A collection of shared plates, we could barely work through this generous amount of delicious flavours.

Recognising the need for a more accessible, less formal, dining experience, Executive Chef Allistaire Lawrence has evolved The Werf’s multi-course fine-dining offering into a relaxed ‘small plate’ experience, tapping into a wellspring of desire for family, food and reconnection.

“Over the last year we’ve lost that communal sense of sharing, of coming together over food, and I hope the new menu at The Werf can help people rediscover the joy in sharing a meal together,” says Chef Allistaire, who joined Boschendal in 2016,

The menu changes every two weeks, reflecting what is at its peak in the gardens and fresh across the farm, whether it’s juicy stone fruit from the extensive Boschendal orchards or sun-ripened tomatoes from the garden. On fine summer days, terrace tables offer unforgettable al fresco dining with views to the distant Drakenstein Mountains.

Flexibility and the new approach to The Werf Restaurant menu is aimed squarely at encouraging locals and Winelands visitors to reconnect with friends and family over fine food. Sharing plates are priced between R95 – R125, ensuring that The Werf Restaurant offers exceptional value for locals.

After breakfast the following day, we took a garden tour with David, Boschendal’s young passionate guide who has his roots in the valley and a determination to educate as he shares his knowledge of the farming practices so passionately adhered to over the past decade of Boschendal’s transition to an organic wonderland.

We walked between beautifully laid out and elevated vegetable boxes, and below the arched trellises laden with apples and figs. Saw watermelons making their presence known. Artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes and peppers in their various stages of growth – budding, flowering, ripening. And even the heritage rose garden, with some roses as old as 200 years.

Relaxed free-range chickens produce eggs in the adjoining field, while free-range pigs root around in the oak thickets, in turn, opening waterways and contributing to the balance of the ecosystem. Beyond Angus cattle wandered the land, ultimately providing meat for The Werf table.

As a vegetarian, the garden is a dream ripe for the picking, the colours vivid, the flavours intense. Throughout as we walked, birds chattered and insects thrived, raptors flew overhead and tall bat houses served as resting spots for the nocturnal hunters who keep populations of rodents under control.

This is symbiotic living, working with nature and the environment. Farmland in balance, which translates to healthy beautiful food proudly served at The Werf restaurant, the Deli and for sale in the farm shop. Important to note that you can book guided hikes on the property, specifically from the Orchard Cottages, on which side of the farm many trails are marked out. Check with reception when booking your accommodation.

The organic garden on Boschendal, a piece of pride lovingly developed and nurtured over the past 6-7 years, produces enough for the farm’s eateries, with sufficient left over to donate to community feeding programs in the area.

Accommodation at Boschendal

Guest accommodation at Boschendal ranges from the historical Herbert Baker designed Cottage 1685, to beautifully restored farm cottages. With an emphasis on stylish simplicity, the guest cottages are authentic and rural yet contemporary in character. With privileged access to the farm, guests staying are able to savour the best of farm living. Join a farm tour or explore the estate on foot, following trails that take you through orchards and mountain fynbos.

The Orchard Cottages are a collection of luxury cottages with kitchenettes, outdoor dining areas for braais, a large shared swimming pool and a magnificent setting among the Boschendal orchards. The cottages are about 2 km from the main werf area. A short drive or cycle through the pastures and fruit orchards brings guests to these stylish accommodations.

As I was travelling with my son Eden and his girlfriend Kate, we were in one of the 2-bedroom cottages, suitably named Sunkiss. The feel of the cottages is one of stylish simplicity with a rural yet contemporary character.  The atmosphere carefree and relaxed making the cottages ideal for families or groups of friends. The rate includes breakfast, a farm tour, garden harvest walk and access to The Tree House for children aged 4-14yrs.

Bring your mountain bike or take to the numerous well-marked hiking trails.  You’ll need a costume to swim in the Orchard Cottage pool or farm dams and remember to simply enjoy the opportunity to sit and read on your stoep, relax and generally take in the goodness of life that so prevalent at Boschendal.

The round heated farm pool at the Orchard Cottages shaded by Eucalyptus.

The Werf restaurant and organic gardens at Boschendal.

A capture of me strolling in the garden in the late afternoon, by Eden Weiss.

The Heart of Boschendal

The Cape Colony has its roots as a welcome refreshment station for weary travellers where food, wine and hospitality were never in short supply. Similarly, the Cape Dutch farms that spread outwards from the Table Bay harbour were renowned for their fine farm produce and delicious local cuisine.

On Boschendal today little has changed, with the restaurants offering an array of authentic culinary experiences. First and foremost their focus is on providing flavourful and nourishing farm-to-table food; celebrating the bountiful produce of Boschendal and the Franschhoek valley with menus that shift with the seasons.

Much of the fresh produce you’ll find on your plate is sustainably grown on Boschendal, and where possible they source other ingredients from farms and small producers within the immediate surrounding Winelands. In fact, great effort is made to keep food miles to a minimum: three-quarters of the ingredients on the daily restaurant menu are sourced within 30-kilometres of the farm.

‘Boschendal’s mission is to inspire ways of living that regenerates nature and actively supports communities to pioneer an ethical village, setting a global benchmark through guest experiences and creating more ways to connect in celebration of life and in supporting each other and the planet’s wellbeing.’

Boschendal is one of South Africa’s oldest wine estates. The first owner was Jean le Long, one of 200 plus Huguenots who fled religious persecution in France and was granted land by the Dutch East India Company in 1688. In 1715 the farm was acquired by Abraham de Villiers and it stayed in the de Villiers family for generations. The property was instantly earmarked as a prime grape growing area and the first vines were introduced from the start. The impressive Manor House, one of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture in the country, was built by Paul de Villiers, the grandson of Jacques.

After remaining in the De Villiers family for 164 years the farm passed through various hands until in 1896 the devastating phylloxera outbreak threatened to wipe out the vineyards in the Drakenstein Valley. The then Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, Cecil John Rhodes, stepped in to save this grand estate from ruin. He uprooted the diseased vines and established a deciduous fruit growing industry with then Minister of Agriculture, John X Merriman.

In 1902 Boschendal became the property of the De Beers mining company, which continued to develop its winemaking potential. Until recently the farm was part of the Anglo American Farms Limited portfolio. Current owners, DGB (Pty) Ltd, took over the reins in 2005.

Boschendal has grown with the passing centuries into a cherished source of wholesome produce, great wines and happy memories. In 2013 Boschendal was acquired by new owners, led by Sam and Rob Lundie, with the intention of rejuvenating this magnificent property, which they have done with a hand-selected team of experts at their sides.

The last years have seen remarkable developments and an impassioned move to restore natural and organic farming practices, and offer visitors a place where they always feel welcome.

The Essential Details

During the current pandemic era, The Werf Restaurant is open Monday through to Sunday from Noon until 17h00 with last orders at 15h30. For booking enquiries call (27) (21) 870 4274 or email reservations@boschendal.co.za. For accommodation bookings look to accommodation@boschendal.co.za or call +27 021 870 4200. I was there during lockdown when no alcohol was allowed, but the far has a long-established reputation for fine wines, and you can read about them at https://www.boschendalwines.com/.

Do take note of the current specials.

We loved it so much we went back the following weened for Eden’s Birthday, topping up baskets from the farm shop and sitting under the trees for hours chatting and soaking up the atmosphere. It was perfect.

 

** I was invited by Manley Social and hosted by Boschendal overnight in an Orchard Cottage, with lunch at the Werf Restaurant, breakfast at the Deli, and food hamper for dinner that I ate off for days.

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