Abingdon Wine Estate in the Midlands is trailblazing in all sorts of ways. It is an award-winning winery in, perhaps surprisingly, KZN and recently its restaurant was named Best-Kept Secret in the American Express Dining Awards 2020. To say we had high expectations when we arrived was a bit of an understatement.
It’s surprising how much like a Cape wine farm Abingdon feels. Nestled among the vines, the unassuming building is surrounded by dining tables under the oaks – ideal for balmy KZN days – and boasts a cosy dining and wine tasting room inside. We opted for an indoor spot near a roaring fire (a novelty for us Durbanites).
We decided to eat first and wine taste afterwards. We took our time selecting from the menu which features harvest boards and tapas-style meals prepared by owner Jane Smorthwaite.
We chose a cheese board to start and it arrived laden with mature cheddar, cumin gouda, charcoal brie, creamy blue, marinated olives, onion marmalade, pesto, chutney and freshly baked homemade bread – all delicious.
Next up were herbed salmon trout fishcakes with salad greens and toasted almonds, a pork belly bowl with crispy crackling and fresh apple sauce and a deboned oxtail bowl served with either dipping ciabatta or a puff pastry lid. We opted for the ciabatta as we reasoned it would be easier to share. Each one of these dishes was outstanding. The fishcakes were fresh, with just a touch of zestiness that made them very moreish, and the oxtail contrasted beautifully with its rich, savoury flavour and just melted in our mouths. I love a good bit of pork belly and this one was simply exceptional. It’s one of those dishes you tell friends about and make plans to go back for.
Desserts were excellent, too, with a boozy Van der Hum creme brulee that my hubby Brett polished off, scraping the bowl for every last morsel, and a truly fabulous warm chocolate brownie made magical by the orange liqueur ice cream and salted caramel sauce served with it.
All this indulgence was followed by a tasting of some of their excellent wines and chats with the lovely owners. There are a few things that make Abingdon a winner – the food is obviously marvellous but serving it tapas-style is genius. You get to taste a variety of dishes and sharing the deliciousness amplifies the enjoyment. The roaring fires and homely atmosphere make for a relaxed atmosphere in which you can take your time savouring the food.
There is no doubt that our expectations were met and that the Best-Kept Secret award is well deserved – but now that the word is out, Abingdon won’t be a secret for long. Visit while you can still be the one to shout about it.