A taste of heaven in Hemel-en-Aarde

Our decision on which winery to choose from the many in the scenic Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus was based on a review which was so effusive that we had to go there just to compare our own experience. Thank you to that gentleman – your review of Spookfontein was accurate in every way.

The wine farms in the valley lean heavily on the aspect of cooling breezes from the sea to differentiate themselves from the Cape and Breede River winelands that contend with sweltering heat, and although the sun was shining the breeze was indeed cool and we were happy to enjoy the sweeping views from Spookfontein’s unpretentious yet architecturally enticing restaurant. The buildings nestle in the side of the hill and are placed to face the far distant Cape Hangklip and the vineyards across the valley. Only a fraction of the estate is under vines, and the fynbos provides an untended natural garden to be admired from the comfort of your easy chair. Wine tasting takes place at your table (or in our case the seating area in a glasshouse-like section right next to it) and we were handed menus straight away to give us time to decide on our dishes to ensure no delays from the kitchen – something many estates could safely follow. The three chefs in the open plan kitchen produced gastronomic delights unobtrusively while guests sipped on the excellent wines offered by a knowledgeable young man who told us it was a quiet day, despite looking fully booked. Tasting the first vintage of the new winemaker, we agreed that he was extremely skilled and worthy of continued support in the future.

The limited menu comprised a simple A4 sheet – an indication that the chef is constantly changing the menu in keeping with their ethos of fresh, sustainable and flavoursome. We chose chicken ramen, a seafood broth and beer-battered hake with mushy peas, all of which exceeded our expectations – I think I have now been spoiled by the hake which was undoubtedly the best I have enjoyed in a long relationship with this fish.

The interior design of the restaurant is beyond my limited capabilities to describe – a few photos will say it all – but a visit should be on everyone’s bucket list, with welcoming hosts, magnificent surroundings, alacrity being the best word to describe the service and great value for money overall. It was only the prospect of a sumptuous dinner that evening that prevented us from testing the desserts, but that will be a definite next time!

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