For many years, Hazendal Wine Estate lacked much of a reputation in the Cape winelands, little more than an afterthought for anyone road-tripping through the scenic Bottelary Hills.
That’s all changed though, with a major revamp weaving a subtle Russian thread through this historic Cape farm.
Hazendal traces its history back to 1699, when the German settler Christoffel Hazenwinkel was granted 60ha of land in the area. Seeking to make his mark on the landscape, and admiring the abundance of wild hares (hazen in Dutch) in the valley, he named it Hazendal. Remarkably, across three centuries of history and multiple owners, the name was unchanged when Russian entrepreneur Dr Mark Voloshin bought the farm in 1994.
After enduring a few lean years, in 2017 the gates were closed and an overhaul began. It reopened a year later and the farm is now generating a buzz for its array of restaurants melding Russian and South African culinary traditions.
Perhaps most memorable is the Russian Tea Garden, where gleaming samovars hold a blend of smoky Russian tea specially imported for the estate. On the side, expect traditional nibbles: baranki biscuits, blini with salmon trout and lemon pearls, blinchik crepes with mushroom and cream cheese. Fancy a splurge? 15g of caviar is yours for an extra R3,375 per person.
But a tea garden is just the start of the foodie adventure created by the Energizer-bunny that is executive chef Michelle Theron. Formerly at Franschhoek’s La Motte, Theron has neatly stitched together the owner’s Russian heritage with South African culinary traditions.
In her fine-dining restaurant Avant-Garde you’ll find slow-braised Karoo lamb paired with traditional barley porridge, and pelmeni dumplings stuffed with a mix of wild boar and springbok. At lunchtime the entire menu is available as small plates of tapas-style zakuski, which can also be ordered in the stylish wine lounge and enjoyed over a tasting of the Hazendal wines from winemaker Clarise Sciocatti-Langeveldt.
At the Babushka Deli the generous breakfasts and lunchtime plates could easily have come from the kitchen of a South African ouma or gogo. The best tables are outdoors, in the old threshing circle. Dating back to the 1800s, it was discovered and restored in the latest renovation.
Food aside, there’s plenty to see on the estate. Start at the Marvol Gallery, home to a curated selection of contemporary Russian artists, Fabergé eggs, and hand-painted religious icons from Voloshin’s personal collection. If the weather’s fine, wander through the harvest garden with its quirky sculptures by Strijdom van der Merwe.
Hazendal is family-friendly too, with wide lawns and wetlands to explore. There’s a mountain-bike park with a range of trails, alongside the entertaining Wonderdal Edutainment Centre. Here, a bracelet activates a personalised Amuki, an animated character that guides kids through interactive exhibitions and educational play areas.
• From the August edition of Wanted 2019.