Looking for a great place to spend the day in the Western Cape? We recommend Babylonstoren. Restaurants, vast gardens, a spa, wine tasting, fruit picking & more!
It's fair to say that this past Saturday was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I have explored many different places throughout South Africa and overseas, but nothing compared to this.
I spent the day at Babylonstoren in Franschhoek in the Western Cape. It honestly felt as if I had entered a different, perfect world.
On the way to Babylonstoren, our drive consisted of vast green lands, rustic villages and rolling mountains. This was just a warm-up to the beauty that awaited us...
A Brief History Of Babylonstoren
Dating back to 1692, Babylonstoren farm was granted to a man names Pieter van der Byl by the then Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. Pieter van der Byl planted the first vineyards on the farm and altered the water courses to provide irrigation. Some of the structures from that time remain on the farm today making Babylonstoren one of the best preserved farms in the Western Cape.
The buildings stand proud and tall, boasting their authentic Cape Dutch architectural style. The gardens at Babylonstoren got their inspiration from the Company's Garden in Cape Town which supplied passing ships to the Cape with food in the 1600s. All of the more than 300 varieties of plants in the garden are edible or have medicinal value, supplying the farm’s two restaurants: Babel and the Greenhouse.
Our day began at Babel restaurant, which is housed in what used to be a cow shed. The architecture remains Cape Dutch style with a modern twist of glass windows and unique decor. They have a farm-to-fork philosophy, which means that they serve seasonal food according to what is available in their gardens.
Because we were a group of 13, our meals followed a set menu. I had such an amazing time enjoying the food and company that I did not manage to take photographs of everything, but I've included everything I did manage to take.
Upon arrival, we were served freshly baked bread from their traditional wood-fired oven, accompanied with a delicious garden herb oil.
Our starters consisted of 3 exquisite salad platters, fresh from their gardens. Each platter held an array of different combinations and colours (red, yellow and green), each paired with a unique dressing.
I still can't get over the freshness, sweetness and absolute yumminess of these salads.
Red Fruit Platter
Green Fruit Platter
For the main course, we were served a platter of fresh Salmon followed by a platter of lamb, roasted with wild mountain rosemary and a wholegrain mustard and caper sauce. The lamb was so tender, juicy and tasty that I could not stop myself from just taking one more piece, and one more piece, and one more piece!
At this point, I was in a blissful state of satiety. But wait, there was more.
Along with the main course, we were served two fresh seasonal vegetable dishes and herbed potatoes on the side. One of the vegetable dishes was the sweetest slices of butternut I have ever encountered and the other dish was lovely broccoli covered in cheese sauce.
By now, I was pretty sure I could fit nothing more into my stomach. Luckily I was blessed with a second stomach designed specifically for dessert.
Dessert subscribed to 4 flavours, namely salty, bitter, sweet and sour. My favourites were the warm Malva Pudding and the Chilli Chocolate Ice Cream. The servings were rather small which I was a bit disappointed about but it was nonetheless scrumptious. Unfortunately I did not get the pleasure of trying out the Creme Brulee (which happens to be one of my first-choice desserts) due to the fact that it must have been so good that somebody decided to eat the entire dish without sharing :(
Dried grapefruit & honeycomb
After our meal, we decided to take a walk through Babylonstoren's gardens which covers 8 acres of land of cultivated fruit and vegetables. While walking through the various gardens, it honestly felt like the gardens were never-ending. Just as you thought you had got to the end, it only continued. Each direction you turn you are amazed at the different varieties of plants, not to mention the backdrops that went along with it.
Breath-taking landscapes and backdrops
Stunning garden with stunning mountainous background
Silhouette of a Cycad with amazing backdrop of mountains
One of the first things that amazed me in the gardens was the size of the 'Baby' Marrows. They looked like elongated watermelons! To add to my amazement, there was a Marrow tunnel in which the giant marrows were growing and hanging from the trellis.
If you had to ask me, my favourite garden would be the Prickly Pear Maze. The maze consists of rows of giant Prickly Pears, the biggest I had ever seen! The photos don't do any justice to their size. It literally felt like I was walking through a land of giant plants.
The Prickly Pears were literally towering over me!
Prickly Pear maze
Prickly Pear maze
By the time we finished walking through the garden (we didn't even get to see all of it!), the sun was setting. The sky was painted with hues of pink, orange and red as they sky began to darken. On our way back, we passed the chickens getting ready for bed.
It was a rather cute sight to see them perched on elevated wooden poles, mimicking their natural habit of sleeping in trees at night.
The picture below does not show the entire inside of the building, but there were HUGE chickens behind the wall. I was quite surprised to see such big chickens.
Chickens getting ready for sleep time
At the end of the day I was feeling so ecstatic and energised. I felt like I was on Cloud 9. The mouth-watering food, the gorgeous landscapes and the ravishing plants were so cleansing and replenishing for my soul.
If you're in Cape Town, Babylonstoren is about 1 hours drive from the city centre, situated in the wine valley of Franshhoek. This traditionally French town is the food and wine capital of the country, with many unique art and antique shops to explore, as well as various top-class restaurants and coffee shops lining the main road.
If you're looking for a great place to spend the day in the Western Cape, Babylonstoren would be a high recommendation. Have breakfast or lunch at one of the restaurants, go wine tasting, explore the gardens, pamper yourself at their spa, visit their farm shop or book a stay in their cottages or hotel.
Written by Saskia Carelse
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