Bosjes – The perfect Breede Valley hideaway

September 14, 2018

Just under a two hour scenic drive from Cape Town situated in the Breede Valley, lies a perfect little hideaway, Bosjes. You may very well remember me spamming your social feeds a few weeks back when we went to stay there for two nights. Named after the old Bosjesman’s Valley Farm which has been owed by the same family since 1831.

The farm had a complete renovation just over a year ago and is fast becoming one of the most popular wedding destinations in the Western Cape thanks to it’s architectural masterpiece, The Chapel, and it’s breathtaking views.

The old farm barn has been converted into a guesthouse comprising of five luxury suites and a shared swimming pool overlooking the nearby mountains.

After checking in we headed straight for the restaurant (obvs!), Bosjes Kombuis. A beautiful Scandi design with high ceiling, lots of wood and large glass windows offering you the best lunchtime views in the valley. The menu, which is created by Chef Pete Goffe-Wood and Chef Kim, is a combination of various bistro-style dishes. Think refined home cooking, with dishes like apple and plum crumble that take you straight back to your childhood.

We pretty much ate our way through the entire menu during our stay. Everything from the Moroccon style spiced chicken with cous cous and apricots to the tempura duck livers with pickled cucumbers (what a combo!) however our standout meal, which I still think about to this day, would be Chef Kim’s fillet medallions cooked to absolute perfection served with potato dauphinoise, sautéed greens and (yes, hear me out) crumbed exotic mushrooms. Paired perfectly with a bottle of Syrah.

 

Outside tables spill out onto the terrace besides a rather whimsical mural consisting of 366 blue and white hand painted tiles featuring over 100 species of flora and fauna by artists Lucie de Moyencourt and Michael Chandler. The inspiration behind the design is that of the old shards of porcelain that were dug up on the farm. Bosjes’ very own Tree of Life reminding me of my Portuguese adventures around Porto last year with all their blue and white Azulejos.

P.S it makes for a perfect ‘insta-moment’. 

We spent a lot of time at the Bosjes Chapel in the mornings and evenings as it’s the most marvellous light study.

Designed by architect Coetzee Steyn of Steyn Studio, the Bosjes Chapel is hard not to gape at. Striking white curves and a seamless flowing roof that merges so effortlessly with the water that surrounds it. Once inside the chapel you are greeted by the Slanghoek and Waaihoek mountain range through the chapel’s large glass windows and a sense of serenity washes over you.

Alongside the chapel is a charming garden, complete with a meditative circular walkway and a sculptural water feature, and close by is the estate’s new sunken tea garden. Unfortunately the tea garden was closed for renovations during our stay but when it’s open you can expect to find all your favourite sweet and savoury refreshments in the garden’s amphitheatre.

TIP: Make sure when visiting to take a stroll up the hill beside the chapel for an overview of the farm. Best enjoyed at sunset. 

Mornings on the farm start peacefully, with the sun slowly rising from the mountain range as the dew clears up from the guesthouse’s windows. A continental breakfast is served in the communal dining area which comprises of freshly pressed juices, various home-baked farm style breads, meats, cheeses and fresh fruit.

A stroll around the farm in highly recommended, you may even bump into one (or two) of Bosjes’ honorary residents – the black swans – enjoying their morning sun. Bosjes is a working farm which produces wine grapes, olives, peaches and proteas, so the farm is usually buzzing with activity in the mornings.

If you feeling a little more energetic the farm also offers 5km and 12km hiking trails which is home to some tame game such as bontebok, zebra and ostrich, if you lucky you’ll even spot some giraffes.  Birdwatchers will be in paradise, the Bosjes’ website even has a full downloadable birdwatching list. See here.

If hiking isn’t your thing there are 27 wineries nearby and 4 craft beer breweries. Some of my favourites being the Stofberg Family Vineyards and Bergsig Estate and if you prepared for an hour drive, Springfield Estate in Robertson.

Overall we had the most magnificent stay at Bosjes. A true space to slow things down and take a moment of two for yourself amongst the Slanghoek Mountains.

Photos by myself and Justin Polkey

48 Hours in the Cape Winelands

July 5, 2018

Last week we headed out of town for a two day adventure in the winelands to celebrate my birthday. I’m a bit of an introvert and not big on parties but prefer getaways, particularly ones that include lots of food, as my birthday treat.

Our first stop on our mini road trip was Terroir at Kleine Zalze, a quiet vineyard setting overlooking the mountains of Stellenbosch where we were greeted by Chef Michael Broughton who has been running to kitchen at Terroir since 2004. I was completely blown away with my experience at Terroir. No fancy entrance or decor, no frilly airs and graces but rather a restaurant that serves exceptional food plated with a certain flare and refinement. The service is phenomenal with the perfect amount of small talk from the waiters and small touches like the refolding  of our napkins each time we got up to take a stroll around the garden.

It’s hard to choose a favourite dish from our four course (more like eight because Justin and I shared each dish on the menu) tasting menu however the Malay style baby squid with smoked mackerel, aioli and coconut was a definite stand out, presented as a beautiful wreath and robust in flavour, I won’t be forgetting that dish anytime soon.

Each dish on the menu was paired perfectly with Kleine Zalze’s award winning wines. The perfect opportunity to sample and savour the the farms wines. In the end we stocked up on a case their 2016 Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier, a fruity wine with allspice flavours and floral nose. They also have a range of rather affordable yet sophisticated MCC’s.

Kleine Zalze are currently running a winter special which is valid till the 30th September –  a 2 course menu for R295 or a four course menu for R450 p.p with each special including a glass of Kleine Zalze award winning wine. Booking is recommended.

Terroir’s menu evolves with the seasons and the inspiration of chef Michael Broughton however I’ve attached an example of what we experienced below in order of the images:

Starters
Comté onion soup with a poached hens egg and onion brioche
Malay style baby squid with smoked mackerel, aïoli and coconut
Prawn risotto with Broughton’s famous sauce américaine (This dish has been on the menu for 14 years!)
Lamb with parision gnocchi, kimchi, aïoli and jus

Mains
Duck with roasted kohlrabi, rhubarb jus and carrot crumble
Pan fried line fish served with coconut yogurt curry, bhaji, pak choi and confit onion

Desserts
Sacher with caramel crunch and kirsch ice cream
Vanilla bean tart with honey ice cream and almond crumble

 

With fill and happy tummies we headed to Majeka House in Stellenbosch to check in for our night’s stay. Majeka House has been on my travel wish list for years now and was voted the best design hotel in the Condé Nast Johansens 2017 awards. The hotel is situated in a small leafy suburb of Stellenbosch surrounded by mountains and vineyards and a ten minute drive to the town’s centre.

The hotel went under a major refurbishment in 2011 by designer Etienne Hanekom who created a “neo-colonial look with subtle French and Moroccan influences.”  A light and airy ambience is filled with hand crafted furniture and quirky design details such as a statue, carving or painting of a pig as a tribute to the owner’s love for the animal.

We were shown to our dreamy poolside room complete with flamingo wallpaper making all my pink and electric dreams come true. Majeka House has a total of 23 rooms spread across four room categories offering a wealth of experiences for a variety of travellers.

I spent the remainder of my afternoon between the hydrotherapy pool, sauna and swimming pool at Majeka House’s very own spa. A beautiful open space that allows for the flow of light courtesy of their sky light. With two single therapy rooms and a room for couples’ treatments, the spa offers a range of holistic facial and body treatments, unfortunately they were fully booked during our stay.

Makaron restaurant was closed so dinner was served in the cosy MLounge amongst the bookshelves of French novels where we dined on oysters and bubbles, a wagyu beef burger and calamari. We retired to our room early to watch the FIFA world cup from our insanely large and comfortable hotel bed.

I woke up on next morning a year older and a whole lot happier, the loviest of staff at Majeka House had baked me my very own birthday cake. A sort of carrot cake topped with a blue berry compote, fresh mint and layered in cream cheese frosting – yes please!

Breakfast was served out on the garden terrace amongst the mosaic tiles and Moroccan inspired cacti. If there’s one thing Majeka House do better than most hotels it has got to be their breakfast. A selection of freshly baked pastries from classic croissants to mouth watering madeleines and french caramels and a selection of freshly baked breads. Bubbles and fruit jars adorn the buffet table with too many delicious dishes to choose from the hot menu. I was torn between the warm whiskey oats and the smoked salmon rösti. I vow to return to Majeka House just to eat every pastry on their breakfast table. It’s sublime.

Majeka House lived up to all my expectations and more. Such warm and welcoming service throughout our stay and I seriously hope to return one day soon.

All packed up we bid our farewells to Majeka House and took the scenic route to Franschhoek via Helshoogte pass for our next foodie stop – Haute Cabrière.

I’ve always been a fan of Haute Cabrière’s wines, particularly their Chardonnay Pinot Noir which pairs perfectly with sushi during those hot summer days, however on this particular chilly winter’s afternoon I was craving a big glass of their Reserve Pinot Noir – a fruity wine with hints of tobacco and spice.

Lunch was served inside, an elegant setting nestled inside a stone cellar beside a majestic fireplace. We opted for a two course meal from their a la carte menu, they also offer a 6 course tasting menu which offers an explosion of flavours such as pan fried sweet bread and venison ragout. The food philosophy of Haute Cabrière is courtesy of chefs Nic van Wyk and Westley Muller who inspire bold flavours while making use of classic techniques.

Haute Cabrière’s winter prices are seriously reasonable with a full 6 course tasting menu costing R450 p.p for both food and wine. (Valid till 31 August) As mentioned earlier we just opted for the two course menu which costs R290 for a starter and a main.

Starters
Pea and chorizo soup. Fresh peas, crispy chorizo, pork puff and pea velouote
Steak tartare. Hand cut sirloin with a quail egg (Is that not the prettiest steak tartare you’ve ever seen?!)

Mains
Prawns. Fresh tagliatelle, chill, garlic, parsley and parmesan
Wild mushroom risotto. Parmesan and truffle foam

See their full menu here.

Our final stop on our Cape Winelands tour was La Petite Ferme.  “A destination for all local and international guests, offering award-winning cuisine, wines and accommodation” and the most spectacular view of the whole of Franschhoek.

The story behind this establishment is truly something quite beautiful. The 40 seater restaurant burnt down in a tragic fire back in 1996, what’s truly remarkable though is that it was brought back to life over the next 6 months thanks to the local community and staff who still work in the kitchen to this day.

La Petite Ferme offers a range of luxury accommodation with large rooms that boost the best of views. We had our own private liabary suite with (once again) our own swimming pool. Pity the weather turned on us otherwise I might just have spent my whole afternoon soaking up he remaining warmth like a lizard in the sun.

With the change in weather and the restaurant closed for the evening we decided to order some cheeky room service. My meal was outstanding and definitely the most plate worthy (read insta worthy) room service I’ve ever received which has only left me wanting to return to La Petite Ferme to experience their full on dining experience.

 

Breakfast was served the following morning in their newly renovated bright and elegant restaurant while fires blazed in each corner. Their full farm breakfast still makes my mouth water whenever I think about it. Edamame beans, foraged mushrooms and smoked bacon- simple, hearty and absolutely delicious.

After breakfast we had a wine orientation guided by a very charismatic Avron Williams to learn about the history of La Petite Ferme’s wine making and the growth of their vines. Every wine orientation is followed by a seated tasting of their beautiful wines in the bar with a story of how each wine came into fruition. We tasted a total of 6 of their wines – three reds and three whites. My favourite still being their Shiraz. It’s a truly unique and interesting experience that left me wanting to sign up for a mini wine course of sorts to learn more about wine.

The Cape Winelands are looking truly remarkable at this time of the year and most restaurants and hotels are running winter deals, it’s the perfect excuse to plan a weekend away with your loved one or friends. In my opinion Cape Town is actually more beautiful during the winter so why not embrace it and swap Netflix out for a lunch amounts the vineyards.


*All photos by myself and Justin Polkey.

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48 Hours in Amsterdam

August 22, 2016

Last week I was booked on a job in Amsterdam for two days and suggested to Justin that he joins me in Amsterdam afterwards for a mid-week getaway. (One of the amazing perks of being a free-lancer)

A quick 45min flight from London and you’ll find yourself in the land of bicycles, picturesque canals and legendary architecture.

Noise pollution is kept to a minimum as the city offers a village-like kind of personality. Hardly any cars fill the streets, rather thousands of bicycles, creating a sense of serenity.

So without further ado below is my 48 hour, pretty local with a touch of touristy (just the way I like it) travel guide to Amsterdam.

My Life in Pink in Amsterdam

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SLEEP

My first night in Amsterdam I was spoiled to five star treatment and stayed at the Conservatorium Hotel. Personalised notes were left around my double story apartment, a shower that had a built in sauna and let’s admit it, it’s pretty cool having the New York Times and the latest issue of VOGUE delivered to your room with breakfast the following morning.

If you looking to splurge a little and spoil yourself, this is the hotel for you.

For the rest of our stay in Amsterdam we checked into the Hoxton Hotel. Complete opposite to the Conservatorium but just as fabulous.

Cool, quirky designs throughout the hotel, beautiful art deco bathrooms with exposed rose gold piping and the comfiest bed’s you’ll ever sleep on. A paper bag filled with breakfast goodies is left outside your room in the morning for you to either enjoy in bed or (as we did) to head out and explore the streets stopping along a canal to enjoy the tasty STACH deli treats that filled our bags.

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WHAT TO SEE & DO: 

One of the best things about Amsterdam is that you don’t have to spend much money to have a great time because the best thing you can do there is to simply walk the streets. However it’s also a city that is filled with the most incredible museums and art collections and if you’ve never seen a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt in person before it’s worth a visit to a museum or two.

For a 48 hour stay in Amsterdam here are some of my recommendations:

1.) Walk or cycle around the city as much as possible. It’s such a great way to discover hidden gems and really immerse yourself into the culture. Most of the hotels offer free bikes but if they don’t there are countless places that do bike rentals.

2.) Visit a museum. I opted for the Rijksmuseum as it offered a combination of Rembrandt’s, Van Gogh and Johannes Vermeer. We also visited the Stedeliijk Museum which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design.

3.) If you have the time take a cruise down the canal. We found a really cool company called Those Dam Boat Guys where you can “bring whatever you’d like to eat, drink, and smoke (wink wink) if you feel so inclined” and enjoy a casual laid-back, improvised trip packed with quirky information. Way better then those touristy hop-on-hop-off kind of tours.

4.) If you a guy reading this post, or ladies if you man has a beard, I highly recommend heading to Haar Barbaar for a cut, trim or shave. We stumbled upon Haar Barbaar and had a little time to spare so Justin decided to get his beard re-shaped. No kidding but when I tried to walk in I was told to leave and sit on the bench outside because… no ladies allowed inside! For €15 Justin had his beard reshaped while listening to old school rock n roll and drinking free beer. A real man’s den.

5.) Take a stroll through Vodelpark or get a take-away salad from SLA and enjoy it in the sun in the park.

6.) If you feeling so inclined, visit a “coffee shop”… you are in Amsterdam after all.

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WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT:

May travels are always dominated by food. I spend hours researching where and what to eat whenever I’m traveling somewhere new. Truthfully Amsterdam didn’t knock my socks off as far as food is concerned, don’t get me wrong, the food was tasty but not mind blowing. I found it was more of a what to eat rather then a where to eat when it came to Amsterdam. Be prepared for a sugar overload!

1.) FRIES! Particularly Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx topped with oorlog sauce. OMG! Best fries I’ve ever had, no joke!

2.) The apple pie from Winkel 43.

3.) Eat all the cheese you can. There’s countless cheese stores scattered around the city. Some stores even offer a cheese tasting. Check out Kaaskamer or Reypenaer Proeflokaal.

4.) Bags and bags of stroopwafels. I love placing one over my hot cup of tea or coffee in the morning and leaving it for a few minutes to heat up and melt the sticky caramel slightly.

5.) Dutch liquorice. Be warned, It’s strong and salty and doesn’t have any added sugar.

6.) Pancakes and Poffertjies. Check out Pancakes Amsterdam or The Pancake Bakery. We had a giant dutch pancake topped with apple crumble and vanilla ice-cream… um hello Heaven.

With regards to restaurants these were some of my favourite spots. Researched, tried and tested:

1.) De Kas was incredible! I owe a big thanks to Emma Jane Nation for introducing me to this hidden gem just outside of the the main city. A chic glass garden conservatory serving Mediterranean dishes made from organic ingredients grown on-site. The menu changes weekly pending what fruits and vegetables are in season. Sophisticated and classy yet completely unpretentious.

2.) Calle Ocho was recomendad to me by a few locals. A fun and festive small space that serves Miami street food, think frozen margarita by the jug, tacos and ceviche. “A place where you can take your tinder-date, grandmother or your volleyball team.”

3.) SLA salad bar. In a city full of sugar and carbs a fresh and delicious salad is gratefully welcomed. Not the best seating environment but great to grab a take-away and head to Vondelpark or the canals to enjoy.

4.) For coffee try C&T Coffee and Coconuts or Screaming Beans.

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NIGHTLIFE:

1.) Tales & Spirits. I have never laughed so much in my entire life! We arrived at the bar a little too early for local standards, 9:30pm, and the bar was relatively empty. So we took a seat up front and centre and was served by a Scot with the driest, darkest sense of humour I’ve ever come across and a second barman that was so un-PC yet somewhere managed to get away with everything that came out his month. I kept ordering drinks to enjoy the free comedy show on offer. Also the drinks were incredible. From the good old classics to interesting mixes including popping candy.

2.) Our hotel had a great bar too, Lotti’s, with a relaxed and casual sort of atmosphere that attracted a lot of the locals. Scatterings of Persian carpets, mid-centruary sofa’s and armchairs and a marble counter. From Thursday to Sunday the bar plays host to local DJ talent.

3.) Lastly it’s pretty interesting and beautiful to walk around the streets at night. All the bridges have bistro lights covering them from one end to the next, the waters are calm and there’s practically no cars driving around. A beautiful silence filled only with the murmur of a passing couple or a group of friends.

We stayed away from the Red Light District but there were a few houses brightly lit up with red bulbs on our walks back from dinner, it was pretty interesting to see. Thank goodness those women have phones to keep them entertained now days. Must of been pretty boring just sitting there staring out the window 10 years ago or so.

 

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SHOPPING: 

Amsterdam surprised me with an array of really cool stores, I guess it’s their close proximity to Scandinavia. If you have a little time here’s some of my top picks suggested to me by locals and little stores I happened to stumble across:

1.) Maison Rika. Not only stocks one of my favourite magazines, RIKA, but also stocks a section of HOLIDAY magazine’s limited edition fashion collection.

2.) Number 9 is a 2 story building offering a collection of French and Scandinavian brand’s for both men and women.

3.) SKY for women. Offers brands like A.P.C, Opening Ceremony and Zadig&Voltaire.

4.) If you a stationery nut you must pop into LikeStationery.

5.) Property Of… offers a unique shopping experience. They sell an array of artisanal fine bags and leather goods in a very ‘hip’ (read hipster) environment yet offer service along the lines of top designer brands like Gucci or Louis Vuitton, “Sir, what can I offer you to drink?” “Would you you bag embossed with your initials?”. You can also find a selection of amazing city guides for €0.50!

6.) Mendo bookstore offers coffee table books that will have you buying an extra suitcase to take back home with you. Originally a graphic design agency that now also runs a smart, black-walled bookshop specialising in books in the creative realm. Think art, design, architecture, fashion and photography.

7.) Margriet Nannings for a men’s collection of fashion that consists of different brands with a clear signature. Similar to SKY but for men. Brand’s include A.P.C, Marni, COMME DES GARÇONS and Raf Simons.

*  *  *  *  *

After spending a few days in Amsterdam I can totally understand how it was rated as one of the top 25 liveable cities by Monocle.

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* All images taken by myself and Justin Polkey *

Friday Favs: Coconut & Lemon Bliss Balls

February 6, 2016

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These bliss balls are so damn refreshing and tasty, contain healthy oils and is the perfect treat to help curb those sugar cravings.

Ingredients: 
– 2 cups shredded coconut and a little bit extra for the end
– 1/2 cup almonds
– 2-3 teaspoons rice malt syrup (vegans) or honey
– 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
– zest and juice of one organic lemon. (I prefer using organic lemons when I need zest.) 

Method:
– Pop all your ingredients into a food processor and blend.
– If the mixture isn’t sticking together add a lil more coconut oil.
– Roll into balls.
– And cover with the extra shredded coconut.
– Refrigerate for until firm.

Makes about 18 balls, 130 calories per ball.

Enjoy
XXX
EJ

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