The Jonkershuis, Groot ConstantiaWhen Dutch Governor Simon van der Stel selected the piece of land on which to establish the first (his own) private farm and wine estate in the Cape Colony, he chose well. The estate, which he named named Constantia, backs against the lee of Table Mountain and the view rolls down, across the Constantia hills and valley, to False Bay and the distant Hottentots Holland mountains beyond the silvery-blue ocean. The estate was subsequently split into several, and the core of it is today named Groot (or high) Constantia, and that is where our business is today.
In the courtyard in front of the splendid gabled manor, where carts once rolled in carrying dignitaries from far across the Dutch East India Company's realm, or slaves toiled in the vineyards alongside, you can now sit and sip a Sauvignon Blanc made on the estate, and savour the vista across a plate of tagliatelle with wild mushrooms. In selecting where to eat in Cape Town, the Jonkershuis best suits long summer days.
When to Go and What to Eat
The restaurant does not serve the most refined cuisine in the Cape, to be sure, but the menu of mostly light dishes (light pastas, gourmet salads, spicy Cape Malay specials) perfectly complements the setting, under centuries old oaks. The entire werf, or homestead, is a national monument. In summer you should book a table al fresco, while during the notoriously wet and blustery winters you'll want to sit close to a fire indoors the Jonkershuis itself. The name means “young man's house” and it was a second dwelling typical of all Cape Dutch homesteads, where the eldest son would set up house in anticipation of inheriting the whole.
Among my favourites is what is maybe the best burger in town (served with bacon and cheddar cheese), or the bobotie – a baked Cape Malay dish with heavily spiced beef mince, sultanas, diced apricot and an egg topping, served on almond yellow rice with roasted butternut on the side. It is not a hot curry dish, but rather delicate and mild. However, the fried calamari and grilled salmon trout always tempt.
A Small Whine About the Wine
The wine list is worthy of a Governor's attention, the emphasis being on flagship blends and single varietals from the surrounding Constantia valley. Wine has been made on this and the adjacent estates since 1685 and today Groot Constantiaa – after decades of vinicultural neglect – has been re-invigorated by current cellar master Boela Gerber.
My only gripe is about some of the prices: while Groot Constantia's fruits are as good as any table wines of the Cape, they cannot be considered exceptional or flagship in any way. And yet on the wine list they are priced right at the top, sometimes as much as twice as much as other of the same varietal and of much superior quality. This is, simply, a tourist rip-off and I suggest you don't fall prey to it.
On the other hand, if you come armed with euros, dollars or pounds, the prices are so cheap, who cares!
What it Costs
Most dishes are less than R100: the most expensive is the tasting plate at R120, while a hamburger with everything is R68. Most wines are between R80 and R120 a bottle, but with some (Paul Cluver Chardonnay, Groot Constantia Cabernet) in the R200+ bracket.
Groot Constantia Road, off Constantia Main Road
Tel 021 794 5128
To make a booking or enquiry online, or for a map, click here.