Forests, vineyards, twisty roads and the enchanting Steenberg dating to 1682, crowning it as the oldest farm in South Africa.
By RUBIN VAN NIEKERK & ALAN SAMONS
Over the past twenty or so years, we have visited Steenberg a number of times and we both feel this is one of our favourite wine estates. The setting is sublime, the hotel is gorgeous, the restaurants superb and Steenberg’s wines are simply fantastic.
Constantia, Bishopscourt and the Tokai forest offers the most beautiful treelined roads in the country which makes it the perfect experience for a road trip. The best part of this trip was the fact that everything is in the heart of civilisation, so you have everything from gourmet cuisine, to world class spas at your fingertips. The natural beauty of this region is rated the most exquisite in the world and what better way to explore it with, than with a legendary car designed for twisty roads. Delightfully divine, the gooseflesh-inducing Toyota GR Supra makes you want to sing along with Pavarotti, when you allow its playful nature to harmonise with your boisterous mood. An ultra-responsive 6-cylinder twin-turbo insists on showing off a little butt wiggle at full throttle for the grinning boy racer in you. The zest of this antidote for ageing rubs off in a flash, reminding you how a hunk feels as doting fans drool. Conceived as a sports car in its purest form, the global GR model from Toyota Gazoo Racing builds on the celebrated heritage of Toyota’s past Supra generations and original 2000GT sports car.
As driving enthusiasts, we loved the exhilarating blend of rear wheel power and precision that gets a standing ovation thanks to a short wheelbase, wide track and rock-solid body. Oodles of Toyota’s sports car lineage is referenced in the design with a long bonnet, compact body and double-bubble roof that reduces wind resistance.
Ultra-modern, functional cockpit design focusses on the driver and is influenced by the layout found in single-seater race cars with additional switches located on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Gears can be changed using paddle shifts on the steering wheel, but the eight-speed automatic transmission provides lightning-fast shifts.
We had unadulterated fun with the perfectly poised Supra with its exhilarating performance that released the Peter Pans in us and the spa at Steenberg did their bit to help us feel young and gorgeous.
Steenberg Hotel has just gone through an extensive refurb and the results are staggering. Designing modern interiors to harmonise with historic buildings is no mean feat, but at Steenberg the subtle blending of old and new creates a harmony that is incredibly soulful and soothing to the senses. Shades of grey, duck egg blue and eau de nil carry through the spaces, imparting a sense of lightness and understated elegance. Our room, overlooking the golf course, was a symphony in grey and cream. Luxurious, yet pared down and unfussy. The patio was ideal for late afternoon reading while the soft fragrance of potted roses wafted in the air.
One of the most impressive parts of the renovation is the swimming pool area and pool lounge. Built on a domestic scale, the space is intimate and relaxing. Guests can book manicures and pedicures to be enjoyed poolside, as opposed to at the spa. A variety of treatments are available, and we opted for a soothing massage, which was sublime. With all the eating and drinking, one needs a bit of downtime to just be quiet and a massage can be highly restorative.
Tryn, Steenberg’s restaurant pays homage to the original owner, Catharina Ustings Ras, or Tryn as she was affectionately known. The farm dates back to 1682 and is the oldest in Cape Town. By all accounts Tryn was a force of nature – a larger than life character who lived her life as she saw fit and not in any man’s shadow. Even her sons were at the receiving end of gossip… they loved going horse riding without wearing shirts, which scandalised locals and led some gossip about them riding ‘naked’. Now that would have been a sight!
Tryn is an elegant venue. Contemporary in style, with beautiful art and furnishing. Breakfast on the east-facing patio is a lovely way to start the day. At night, the venue comes into its own with subtly shining metallic surfaces and warm wood. Chef Kerry Kilpin’s food relies on freshness and it’s a delight to enjoy a beautiful meal where the flavours are made the heroes and ingredients are presented with a Zen-like simplicity and not tortured into towers and soils and foams. An utter delight!
But, as much as the hotel is a piece of art, the cellar and tasting room, as well as the adjoining restaurant, 1682, should be on every visitor’s to-do list. Steenberg is moving away from red wine and concentrating on what they do best – white wine and MCC. We enjoyed an informative cellar tour before sampling the estate’s fine wines. Thank heavens we didn’t have to drive, just walk a few metres to the restaurant for a superb lunch. With veganism on the rise (and Alan having adopted the lifestyle), we were impressed with the fact that vegans have a separate menu and are not relegated to an insipid dish or two tacked onto a menu as an afterthought – something that happens far too often, even in better establishments.
The food is divine and the waiting staff are all incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. We caused quite a stir when we arrived for dinner about three hours after a rather substantial lunch! But we do the hard work of eating and drinking to bring you, our dear readers, the full scoop, leaving no dish untouched in the process… Dinner at 1682 is tapas-style, with all the dishes served as small plated offerings. Its relaxed, informal and easy to share. Again, there is a separate menu for vegans. Dinner looked great, but we only managed three small plates between the two of us before throwing in the towel and returning to our room.
But wait! There’s more! It just so happened that our weekend visit coincided with Alan’s birthday and when we arrived, a plate of delicious chocolate truffles was waiting next to the words ‘Happy Birthday’ spelled out in rose petals on the bed. Vegan or not, Alan tucked in, chocolate being his one biggest vice.
Steenberg’s exceptional wines, heavenly food and gorgeous historic setting amid the rows of vines never fail to impress. The estate weaves a spell that is simply irresistible. Next time you are in Cape Town, do pay the farm a visit to sample their wines, and enjoy a meal. Better yet, spend a night or two and get the full Steenberg treatment. You’ll fall in love and return again, guaranteed.