Vergelegen has added another reason to visit this historic estate in the Cape winelands, with the new Nguni Café pop-up restaurant offering locals an affordable bite and the chance to commune with the herd of eye-catching Nguni cattle.
The pop-up is pitched on the edge of Vergelegen’s lush pastures; a steel and glass marquee with a spacious terrace overlooking the fields. Here the estate’s large herd of Ngunis wander about the fields; chewing the cud, lowing balefully and generally doing what cows do. Occasionally a frisky one will attempt an escape over the fence, which sees the herdsmen chasing after them. Think of it as a meal and a show.
Straw is scattered about for an authentic farmyard feel, while the views scamper across the fields to the distant Hottentots Holland Mountains. On a crisp blue winter’s day you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more pleasant spot in the Cape.
“Most people come to a wine farm for the beauty of the place, and this new venue really allows people to enjoy this spectacular location,” says Wayne Coetzer, Vergelegen’s MD. Coetzer ran The Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga for nearly 20 years, so knows a thing or two about attracting locals with a well-priced bite.
And the pop-up is both affordable and approachable.
“We wanted the concept to be really simple,” explains Vergelegen’s executive chef, Michael Cooke. “The menu is really just a hot dog with three different types of toppings, three flavours.”
The “German” comes topped with sauerkraut, pickles and mustard; the “Asian” is packed with kewpie mayo, nori and Asian pesto; while the “French” is all Dijon mustard, truffle aioli and shavings of Comté cheese. Triple-cooked fried are an optional extra. But you really should.
The standard sausage is a chunky pork knapwurst. There’s a vegetarian option available, and a beef option too, but yours is a cold unfeeling heart if you can tuck into a beef sausage while coo’ing over the cute Nguni calves.
Both the enriched rolls and bespoke sausages are made locally, with Cooke collaborating with the proverbial butchers and bakers nearby.
“They have the equipment to deal with the volumes we need — every order with the butcher is for 1,000 sausages — and we wanted this project to support local business wherever possible,” says Cooke.
To drink? A glass of Cap classique, or the two house wines rebranded for the pop-up; an Nguni Red of cabernet-merlot, and the Nguni White sauvignon blanc. Dessert is worth waiting for too, a generous éclair piped with milk tart filling.
But the Nguni Café pop-up is more than just a quirky outing for a fine winter’s day. It’s a bellwether of new energy on the estate under Coetzer’s watch. The Nguni Café will run for the month of August before the marquee moves to the banks of the Lourensford River.
“It’ll be a different concept altogether; a bit more sophisticated,” enthuses Coetzer.
“We’ll serve salmon and crème fraîche. Oysters. Prawn rolls. We’ll also be pouring our new rosé, which is launching in September.”
And that’s just the start. On the cards are Peter Rabbit-themed birthday parties for children in the estate’s vegetable gardens. Spring will see a bespoke ice cream stall positioned amid a field of lupins and daisies, and a new outdoor performance space under the oak trees. There are plans afoot for a gardening and gift shop drawing inspiration from Petersham Nurseries in London.
“It’s about creating a bit of entertainment, a bit of theatre. Otherwise you just become a museum wine farm,” explains Coetzer. “We certainly don’t want to be flippant, but these are just more layers that people can enjoy. Vergelegen has always been seen as a very serious brand, and we’re trying to change that a little. At the end of the day it’s a farm, and we need to open it up and let people enjoy it.”
The Nguni Pop-up Café is open Wednesday-Sunday, from 10am-5pm. No reservations. vergelegen.co.za.