Local flavour, world-class experience – a snapshot of South Africa at Durbanville Hills

“Look out for the great food pairings.” “Wonderful delicate flavours.” “A brilliant experience.”

Visit any city in the world and ask about its signature restaurants, and you’ll get the steer from the locals. We’re only in the first three days of a family holiday, but when we mentioned Durbanville Hills winery and its Tangram restaurant to anyone we met in Cape Town in that time, we heard some of the responses above.

Our guide to a magnificent evening, Zolani, second right, with the Davitt family at The Tangram restaurant. From left, Aoife, Michelle, Ciara and (far right) Dermot

Good job then that we had booked in for an evening to see it for ourselves, which sits a short ride from the city and is probably South Africa’s most awarded restaurant. Our evening was arranged courtesy of the Distell International team (special thanks to Luke Maga and Marlize Van Lill) as part of a Davitt family stay that begins in the Western Cape and moves soon to the Eastern Cape.

Look, no hands: Zolani decants a wonderful bottle of The Tangram. Below, a rare wine moment as guests are invited to extract a glass each of Durbanville Hills Merlot direct from the barrel.

The menu? Well, it was every morsel and drop as fine as advised by the people we spoke to in advance. A tip: if you make it to these parts, don’t pass up the opportunity to try the Bobotie spring rolls, the West Coast mussel chowder, the Cape Malay spiced fish or the pork belly, if you can manage them.

Each course was beautifully paired with a wine from the Durbanville Hills Collectors Reserve range, which is a mainstay of the Distell wine range in travel retail. So too, of course, is the winery’s signature expression, The Tangram, a Bordeaux-style blend that accompanied us on our culinary journey through the evening.

But more than that, the night was about the place and its people.

Our guide to the evening was Zolani, who has worked in hospitality roles across the south of the country, from Hermanus to Cape Town, and who introduced us to the wines and terroir of Durbanville Hills and to how the winery sits within the wider region and landscape. He was also our guide to the menu, which blended classic with local and regional ingredient twists, and prompted my younger daughter Ciara to describe what she was eating as “the best meal ever”.

What we’ve discovered since being here (we arrived on Tuesday) is the diversity, wealth and quality of South African cuisine, alongside magnificent hospitality. As was the case at Durbanville Hills, we enjoyed similar the night before in another great find, Pot Luck Club in Woodstock, close to the city.

Can we come here again, Dad? Aoife, Ciara, Michelle and Dermot Davitt at The Tangram. The roaring fire in the background offers a reminder that winter has truly arrived here.

The question now is, where do we go from here after these experiences? Well, there is whale watching tomorrow and safari next week, with more promising food encounters also in the diary. I think we’ll have another story or two of this magnificent country to tell yet.

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