Exploring SA

The best spots for foodies and culture vultures to visit in Riebeek-Kasteel

Riebeek-Kasteel, 80km northeast of Cape Town in the fertile Swartland, is one of SA's oldest towns with much to delight a visitor

29 December 2020 - 06:30 By Allison Foat
Looking out from the Vineyard Views guesthouse in Riebeek-Kasteel.
Looking out from the Vineyard Views guesthouse in Riebeek-Kasteel.
Image: Allison Foat

The Western Cape is road-trip nirvana and the Swartland, deep in undulating wheat country, impresses with a suite of quaint towns and Insta-worthy landscapes, no matter the season.

The standout dorpie in the collective is Riebeek-Kasteel, charming and with an artisanal edge to romance the foodies and creatives among us.

Here’s what to see and do on staycation as the festive season approaches:

Coffee with views

For coffee on the fly with a next-level spectacle on the side, follow the marker boards up the hill above town to the Eight Feet trailer and sip a flattie either at the Bothmaskloof Pass lookout or down in the Kloovenburg vineyards below. What stretches out before you is a treat in triplicate: the Kasteelberg mountains, dense olive groves and flourishing vines.

Breakfast

Aside from spreading the gospel of good coffee, Beans About Coffee on Fontein Street is the go-to for all day brekkie, from a traditional farmhouse plate to muesli bowls, mini quiches, pastries and freshly squeezed veggie juices. Thomas Jamneck of The Barn fame is behind the menu, so you’re in excellent hands.

Lunch

Long lunches at The Barn on Church Street are a thing, and for good reason. Jamneck’s al fresco eatery entices with its bistro fare, the epic location and family friendly atmosphere. As the grown-ups work their way through an unfussy menu, little feet can muck about with abandon in the fountain and play on the sprawling lawn. If you’re looking for destination dining, The Barn is it.

Culture

Creativity runs in the valley's DNA and RK locals know how to pull a culture-centric crowd. Anticipate art exhibitions, public installations, theatre, and immersive experiences. Performances by community groups and A-listers are regularly presented at the amphitheatre in the gardens behind The Royal Hotel, where gin on the stoep at 5pm is something of a ritual.

Emma Willemse’s Boat Circle installation is another attraction in that outdoor space and be sure to look down and note the stone Amphi Circles loosely arranged into the seating tiers, created by youngsters from the town as a social distancing reminder to audiences.

‘Graceful' is just one of a series of incredible murals by Falko One, painted on a derelict building for a recent arts show.
‘Graceful' is just one of a series of incredible murals by Falko One, painted on a derelict building for a recent arts show.
Image: Courtesy Falko One

Solo Studios Intimate Arts Encounters just wrapped, an annual multicultural showcase that sees colabs with chefs, sommeliers, galleries, community projects and street artists such as Cape Town graffiti star Falko One, whose site-specific wall murals in nearby Riebeek West were the wow factor this year. 

Things to look out for during the festive season are First Fridays, and the Christmas Market on December 19. For other event intel, visit Arts Town.

Shopping

Part with your plastic on Main Street, the straight-as-an-arrow artery that slices through town from the turn off at the top of the hill - where you’ll want to take a moment to snap that picturesque intro — all the way down to the landmark NG Kerk at the opposite end.

Browse the fancy interior store Crystal & Twine, shop for local art at The Gallery, stock up on established and emerging Swartland wine brands at The Wine Kollective and wander through Ancient Spirit for leisure wear and handcrafted fynbos botanicals by Still Pure, among other temptations. Meander down Short Street for a choice of eateries and watering holes like The Alchemist. Find out more on the Riebeek Valley Tourism website.

Olive tasting

One of the standout olive tasting rooms is at Kloovenburg Wine and Olive Estate. Conveniently, it’s right next to a spacious cellar and wine emporium, so once you've waded through tapenades, infused oils and bowls of marinated, smoked, pickled and sun-dried olives, you may as well bounce across the threshold and sample their vino.

In other news, the estate recently launched guided hikes through the vineyards that culminate in a picnic and wine tasting under ancient oaks. 

Port and wine tasting

Dating back to 1704, Allesverloren on the R311 between Riebeek-Kasteel and Riebeek West is the most established wine farm in the region, owned by the Malan clan since 1872. Their flagship fortified wine (aka port) is the Fine Old Vintage, a world famous tipple that’s smooth as velvet with hints of raisins, coffee, vanilla and mocha on the nose. 

The tasting room, part of which is a converted granary from way back when, leads to a spacious veranda where you can sample their full range of excellent wines.

Accommodation

Vineyard Views is a classically styled home-cum-guest house set on the edge of a Colombard vineyard and a sublime staycation spoil. The setting is superb and owners Grant Dewar and Gareth Dewar-Pienaar are hospitality personified.

If you prefer to remain ensconced, a three-course gourmet dinner is provided at an extra cost. If cakes are your undoing, be warned — Gareth’s gateaux are an ever-present and irresistible temptation.