Heading out to Paarl on a sunny autumn day is food for the soul, especially if you take time to explore some of the lesser known spots and discover new offerings at familiar destinations.
Less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Paarl is renowned for its gracious hospitality, unparalleled scenic beauty, wide open spaces and an array of tourism attractions. These factors definitely contribute to safe travel choices during COVID. The various wine estates, restaurants and tourist attractions have enough space to comfortably allow social distancing, while product owners are highly aware of COVID protocols and promote strict adherence to the guidelines.
An early morning rock painting workshop at Expressive Art Studio situated in the vineyards on the scenic Ridgeback Wine Farm sets the tone for a two-day expedition in the winelands. The quaint studio on the hilltop offers beautiful views and doubles up as an art gallery the first weekend of the month. Treat yourself to a delicious breakfast or lunch at The Deck Restaurant or pop in at the new wine tasting centre – both overlooking the tranquil dam with exotic waterfowl. The ethos behind Ridgeback Wines is quality and you can select from three vegan-friendly brands: the premium award-winning Ridgeback range, the conventional Vansha or the lifestyle Lion Hound range. The tranquility of the farm extends to the Ridgeback guest house.
Venturing out a bit further to the foothills of the Paardeberg Mountain in the heart of the Cape floral region, awaits the popular Perdeberg Cellar. Talented chef Rob Hahn is in charge of the Eat@Perdeberg family-friendly eatery that showcases country cooking at its best. Home-style dishes made from locally sourced produce are updated seasonally and paired with Perdeberg wines or very own craft beer. You can opt to dine inside the relaxed, air-conditioned restaurant or outside in the garden. Parents can sit back and relax beneath the trees, while children can enjoy the fun garden play area. If the weather permits a jumping castle adds to the excitement over weekends. The menu also includes wood-fired pizzas and a picnic for two for which booking is essential.
Paarl is steeped in winemaking history and Nederburg has featured on the esteemed World’s Most Admired Wine Brands list no less than five times. The iconic manor house completed in 1800 is a national monument and home to the beautifully revamped Manor Restaurant, where the emphasis is on authentic food experiences. Generous picnics in the sprawling gardens are a great alternative to ensure a memorable visit. Explore the world renowned wine ranges in the Nederburg portfolio perfectly paired with the à la carte menu or delicious charcuterie platters.
Paarl boast a rich and colourful history. Wander back to yesteryear with Hybré van Niekerk of Paarl Historical Walk and Tours and learn more about the roles people such as Abraham Gabbema and Arnoldus Pannevis played in the rich history of the town and the Afrikaans language. Get lost in the rich culture and explore the diverse architectural building styles. Paarl takes its name from the huge granite outcrop that stands proudly on the crest of Paarl Mountain, was founded in 1687 and is the third oldest settlement in South Africa.
The town has many fine examples of Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Cape Dutch buildings that compete for space with a wide variety of fine restaurants and coffee shops spread out along the twelve kilometre-long Main Street. If you prefer a self-guided tour, you can opt for the Paarl VoiceMap app or simply pop in at the tourism information centre and get a printed map.
A visit at 24 Station Street is a must. Chef Mynhardt Joubert, winner of the popular Kokkedoor TV cooking competition, creates an overwhelming sensory experience with each dish. The décor, attention to detail combined with passion and skill is the winning recipe for a once in a lifetime dining experience. In Mynhardt’s own words: “24 Station Street tells a story of colour, life, love, inspiration and love of art.” So, whether you pop in for breakfast or lunch or to celebrate a special occasion, you will always remember the time you set foot at 24 Station Street.
Although Brenda’s Deli are stocked at selected outlets countrywide, a visit to Brenda’s at Spice Route Destination outside Paarl encapsulates the wonder and mystery of the world of spices. It was her quest for fresh produce that spurred Brenda into making her first jars of fig and apricot jam in 2007. In sourcing the ingredients, Brenda met interesting people along the way and formed new friendships; these friendships are an essential part of the company’s story and they continue to inspire the development of fresh new products. At Brenda’s it is all about carefully combining fresh ingredients, traditional flavours and new ideas to create coveted food products.
Since 2013 Wilderer, South Africa’s first private distillery and home to their multi award-winning gin, has a second location at the celebrated Spice Route Destination in Suider-Paarl. Produced in harmony with nature from the purest wine spirits, water from the Franschhoek mountains and unique fynbos botanicals, including buchu, honeybush, wild dagga and devil’s claw, this Cape Gin offers a well-balanced assortment of herbs, spices and zest on the nose. On the palate, it reveals juniper berries and typical Cape fynbos in depth and complexity. The tasting room and stunning restaurant called La Grapperia Bistro & Pizzeria promises an entertaining visit. The latest addition is the Beach Bar where visitors can kick of their shoes, lounge around and sip on delicious cocktails while admiring spectacular views all the way to Cape Town’s majestic Table Mountain.
The latest gem at Spice Route is Jewell’s restaurant. Owner and chef Neil Jewell is a charcuterie master and creates incredible varieties of prosciutto, coppa and salami from pork, beef and lamb reared on the farm. The sumptuous platters are served with home-baked sourdough bread and beetroot butter. The varied menu also include smashed beetroot salad, pearl barley risotto and the pièce de résistance – a plate of sweets featuring madeleines, natural wine gums and chocolate truffles.
The accommodation offerings in Paarl are diverse and suit every budget and occasion from the luxurious Laborie Estate’s luxury double rooms furnished in a Cape French style overlooking the historic Manor House garden, beautiful vineyards and the majestic Drakenstein Mountains to the homely Madeliefie Guest Accommodation in the Main Road of Paarl at the entrance to Paarl Gymnasium High. Built in 1927 this quaint heritage home was renovated in 2016 and transformed into a beautiful bed and breakfast by new owners Willie and Minette.