Babylonstoren is a culinary tourists dream where passionate management and staff showcase a celebration of farm to fork to glass feasting. The team are setting new standards for the industry and are a fine example of innovation meets perfection. My family spent an entire morning and afternoon on the property during our two day stay in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the heart of South Africa’s wine country. On a brief aside, our visit to the property will never be forgotten as it was that morning when Obama won his second term as President!
Babylonstoren is one of the best preserved wefs (farm yards) in the Cape Dutch tradition. Not only the manor house from 1777, but pioneer structures all the way back to the founding of the farm in 1690. An ornate fowl house, pigeon loft, leaning bell tower and historic gates embellish a traditional courtyard surrounded by a low, whitewashed wall.
As soon as we arrived we walked over to reception which offers a fantastic little gift shop featuring the chef’s famous cook book (which I of course had to buy) home made chutneys, jams, jellies and fresh produce from the garden.
We were soon introduced to the farms horticulturalist who gave us an informative walking tour of the properties impressive gardens, fruit tree’s, fishing ponds and duck and chicken coops. This was the most comprehensive and holistic restaurant growing concept I had ever experienced. The team includes horticulture and farming experts that produce a plethora of heirloom fruits and vegetables (at one point I think I spotted over 10 variety of raspberry alone!) The farm features 200 hectares of plush horticulture heaven. Everything here is grown with a purpose, for example, massive sage plants are grown alongside the chicken coops to provide shade for hens and ward off pests. Monoculture is not a word we utter here because this my friends is utopia.
We transitioned from one tour to another. Next stop was a vino adventure with the resident wine maker. He took us through their state of the art wine production facility as well as to the belly of their cellar with redolence of sweet French oak. The tour finished with a contemporary short film montage which cast itself across the basement brick wall as we all hushed in silence. From the farm to the bottle, it was clear that the inspirational minds behind Babylonstoren were interpreting food and drink as an artform. An elevated feasting philosophy.
Our next stop was the tasting room where guests can sample wines and also pick up artisanal breads from the on site bakery and fine cheese and charcuterie in cool open concept fridges. I can’t really express in words how inspiring my first few hours here truly were. With my hand on my heart I collected all of these experiences and whisked myself into a sunlight filled glass building which houses the little restaurant called Babel.
Lunch at Babel would arguably be the best on our trip. Moments after sitting down I knew the following meal would be somewhat epic, like my pilgrimage to Chez Panisse in California. I tried to pay attention to everything around me so I would be able to recount the experience hundreds of times with attention to every detail.
The restaurant celebrates the farm to fork connection by serving only the freshest ingredients sourced from the property that day. Bread is baked daily in the tasting room and wine poured from nearby barrels. Everything at the table is connected.
We started with slices of freshly baked butternut squash loaf paired with cold butter, herb infused oil and sour cream. The restaurant is famous for its Fresh From Our Garden menu which always features three dishes sourced entirely from the properties farm named Green, Red and Yellow. I of course ordered all three so that we could ooh and ahh over the colourful plates that celebrated not just fresh fruit and vegetables but grouped them along the colour wheel. Desserts are listed as bitter, sour, savoury or sweet depending on what your palate is craving.
The food at Babel is beyond delicious and well complimented by their fine wines. Highlights included warm pumpkin fritters, fillet of beef, the restaurants signature fries with squeeze of lime and a tea cup of lemon meringue. The whispers and odours shared across the table at Babel that afternoon will never be forgotten. One comes here to wander about, enjoy a few sips and nibble on whats fresh. What you don’t necessarily expect is to end up leaving with an entirely new outlook on food and the passion and purpose behind the notion of a good feast.
warm spinach pie with winter salad greens, pear julienne and sesame ginger dressing
spicy beetroot tom yum soup with poached guava
warm pumpkin fritters served with fresh yellow vegetable and fruit carpaccio with a cinnamon sugar and lavender vinaigrette
Smoked Franschhoek Trout
guava paste, drizzled burnt sage butter, wilted garden greens
Fillet of Beef
creamy white wine and mushroom sauce, flash fried babylonstoren exotic mushrooms
marinated harissa and buttermilk served with lebanese oregano and wild mountain rosemary
Steamed Cauliflower “Sandwich”
gorgonzola cheese, guava, roasted macadamia pesto, vanilla oil
baked chocolate fondant, olive salt, espresso sabayon
baked lemon custard pudding, citrus marmalade, sago and golden meringue