Bodyboard down the Olifants, sleep in a bedouin tent, hike a pristine trail
Festa Restaurant on Kleinevalleij Estate
Experience a taste of home at this Wellington gem
Driving along Bainskloof Road towards Festa restaurant, we gaze out at the Hawequas Mountains rising up to greet us. The negative spaces between the central peaks align to create, like a superhero’s emblem, the ‘W’ of Wellington – or so the locals fancy. The scenery is spectacular: rolling green vineyards puddle gracefully around the imposing mountains, and the air is clear and sharp.
The Wellington wine region is easy to navigate, and soon we arrive at the eatery’s home, Kleinevalleij Estate. Veering to the right, we wander up a garden path towards the restaurant. Crossing a small bridge, we spy toilet bowls reimagined as flower pots outside the wide barn door entrance — just a small hint of the quirky décor that lies ahead.
The converted outbuilding, with original stone floors, is a riot of colour. Stepping inside is like bursting into childhood favourite Who Framed Roger Rabbit? where the animated world collides with the real one. In a word, it’s fun. Straight ahead, a grand piano hangs from the ceiling. Antiques meet modern finishings and bold paintwork, yet the exposed joinery and the corrugated roof add an historic touch. It’s light and bright and oh-so festive.
Festa recently re-opened, after having closed its doors to evaluate the offering. The result is a menu that’s more homey and less fine dining. “People can come and eat ‘grandma’s bobotie’,” explains owner Anelma Basson. All the traditional favourites are on offer.
Chef Tina Maritz styles the food as “boerekos with a twist”. We’re all seated outside on the stoep sipping on icy glasses of Chardonnay as the sky flushes pink. Celebrating the region is important to this team; and as such, the wine list only offers local Wellington wines, but if beer’s your thing, there’s craft brew on tap too.
The restaurant is family-run, and as if to emphasise this point, we’re introduced to Anelma’s aunt, who’s sitting at a nearby table. As we’re chatting, her mother arrives. “Everybody’s always here,” Anelma says laughing. Her mother, we find out, is largely responsible for a lot of the décor; she loves nothing more than a whimsical find.
Directly in front of the stoep, there’s a rectangle of green lawn, and beyond that, a sea of green trellised vines. Interestingly, a line of white chairs are positioned on the border looking out. Anelma says this seating is for the local gazers who come to “kick off their shoes and lean back with a glass of wine to enjoy the view”.
It certainly is a place that encourages relaxation. “Everybody’s welcome here,” she says. The pretty blonde was inspired to create the restaurant by a festival in Italy of the same name—of which the only purpose was to have fun. This resonated with her vision of a home-style environment perfect for people who want to get together and simply have a good time. “We don’t need any reason; we just want to celebrate life!” enthuses Hannes.
What kind of Huis Kombuis (home kitchen) would it be if everything wasn’t made from scratch? This is where the chef, Tina, comes in. Fresh sourdough bread is baked daily and seasonal fruit and veg are pickled and preserved; she’s a whizz at cakes too (we’re told the carrot cake as well as the red velvet fly off the shelves).
Loved homemade onion marmalade on your pizza? Then before you head home, pop into the little makeshift shop inside the restaurant. Fondly referred to as Festa Se Goeters (Festa’s Things), the boutique is where Tina’s seasonal preserves are bottled and sold. There are local art pieces too, as well as dainty ceramics, flowers folded intricately out of maps and clothes for babies.
Our table’s solar-powered jar lights up as night falls; it makes an interesting change from the usual candlelight dinner. Festa is famed locally for its wood-fired pizzas, and I see why when I bite into a slice of Stinkbekkie: a delicious, bubbly thin-crust base layered with homemade fig preserve, Parma ham and blue cheese.
My partner’s burger comes to the table on a tin plate with a posy of white flowers. Packed full of comfort food, the varied menu also offers dishes such as oxtail braised in red wine, tapas platters and sourdough sandwiches—not to mention the home-style desserts. Anelma says the bread and butter pudding made with croissants is a firm favourite. Guests can also enjoy the early morning mountain air with the array of farm-style breakfasts (the restaurant even has a breakfast pizza).
We leave Festa feeling as if we’ve just had an adventure—and that’s just what the Wellington experience is about: alongside its dramatic natural beauty (to be enjoyed with a host of outdoor activities), wines that speak of the pristine terroir and culinary finds like Festa, the region boasts warm hospitality and boerkos as you’ve never quite had it before.
Tip: Every first Sunday of every month is the Festa Alibi Market. Come and meet the Wellington locals to the tune of beer and wine on tap, farm-fresh produce, arts and crafts and live music.
The bill: Good-value prices that get you generous portions. Pizzas start at R55 and mains at R80.
Wondering what else you can do in Wellington? Why not pay a visit to the stunning Bosman Family Vineyards?
Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle and check out our Pinterest boards for updates. Not to mention, subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with what's hip and happening in our pretty city.