A foodie’s guide to South Africa
Food can be a basis of celebration, an acknowledgement of a community’s heritage and traditions, and it can also be a way of bonding with newcomers.
Food isn’t just something you eat – of course, it is that, but it’s also a cultural marker. Anyone who wants to truly discover a country should learn about its eating habits. Almost every culture celebrates some kind of harvest festival, for example, and each varies depending on the season, the food produced and the character of the community. South Africa is a testament to the importance of food, and it’s a place where you can experience it firsthand in so many different ways.
Franschhoek Bastille Festival and the Winelands
The Franschhoek Bastille Festival is a celebration of the city’s Huguenot heritage where local food and wine is always aplenty. This year it will be held on the weekend of the 15 and 16 July. From here, it’s only a short drive to the region’s many wine estates. Wine-lovers will delight in the romantic Winelands’ atmosphere of Helshoogte Mountain Pass, where you’ll find Delaire Graff Estate, a working vineyard where you can tour the wine cellars and take in the dramatic landscape from the delightful gardens. Another remarkably scenic part of the Winelands is the Hemel En Aarde (or Heaven and Earth) Valley, which is home to one of Abercrombie & Kent’s most-loved restaurants, Creation Wines. Only a short drive or a long stroll from Birkenhead House, an A&K Favourite hotel in the famous whale watching city of Hermanus, this is a great place to enjoy the best pairings and take part in tasting and other activities. And you don’t even have to love wine to enjoy the Winelands – take a visit to the local breweries in the area to learn about the country’s equally popular beer-drinking culture.
The food markets in Johannesburg
Johannesburg is a booming city with enough museums and galleries to keep any culture vultures satisfied for a lifetime – so it should be no surprise that this cultural explosion is occurring in the culinary scene as well. The city is awash with local markets which are great fun to track down. See if you can find Blu Bird Wholefoods Market, The Jozi Real Food Market, Bamboo Market, Fourways Farmer’s Market and Neighbourgoods Market, which each specialise in different local produce. Though if you’re more into fine dining you won’t be disappointed with a stay at Four Seasons the Westcliff, Johannesburg, which houses five dining venues.
Eating in Madikwe and Bushcraft in Kwazulu Natal
The Madikwe Reserve is an amazing safari destination, but one aspect of the experience here that is equally spectacular is the food. The head chef of Royal Madikwe Luxury Safari Lodge, Amos Mncube, prepares traditional dishes with a luxury twist. But what sets this lodge apart is its commitment to the local area – it even contributes 20 per cent of its profits into local community projects. There’s no better way to understand the local Madikwe culture than to visit the local villages to see how they eat. However, any ranger in these regions can tell you that food is all around you if you keep an eye out for it. When you choose to go on a safari by foot rather than on an open-sided 4X4 you have the advantage of really getting to know the world around you, and having an expert guide to this environment can be an incredibly enlightening experience. At andBeyond Phinda Mountain lodge, the resident rangers are only too happy to show you what you can (and what you absolutely can’t) eat from the world around you.
Knysna Oyster Festival
Along the Garden Route, you’ll find the beautiful historic town of Knysna. Its annual Oyster Festival will be held 29 June to 8 July in 2018, and with over 100 activities taking place, this small coastal town will be full of fun things to do. As well as fresh oysters on the menu, there’ll be music, dancing, comedy and the chance to cheer on those competing in the Maserati BIG5 Challenge. Plus, Knysna is only half an hour’s drive from another A&K Favourite hotel which offers the ultimate in adventure, comfort and service, The Plettenberg, where you can do everything from bungee jumping to checking out its award-winning cellar.