In the Cape Winelands, whilst it is not an overstatement to say that there is practically a jungle-gym around every corner, the recent explosion of the ‘child friendly’ establishment has made it more difficult for parents to weasel out the good from the bad to the downright ugly.
To make your job a little easier, we have narrowed down our list of the best winelands restaurants that not only tick all the required child-friendly boxes but are equally places that will excite the big people and leave even the most discerning food critic licking his lips and booking the next visit. Whilst there are too many outstanding restaurants to include here, the following eateries all have an extra special wow-factor and have been particularly successful at creating a relaxed family atmosphere without negatively impacting the grown-up dining experience.
1. DeliCATessen - Tokara, Stellenbosch
Nestled at the top of Helshoogte Pass, this modern yet relaxed family restaurant consistently offers a decadent dining experience from start to finish. With sweeping views of the Simonsberg Mountain from both the glass-walled interior and the outside deck area, the restaurant is dotted with wooden crates filled with toys for young children to wrestle with during your meal. The dream catcher styled jungle gym on the lawn is in full view of the tables and all patrons are welcome to climb up the giant hanging weaver’s nest come treehouse in the garden.
2. The Lourensford Market - Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West
The Lourensford Wine Estate has so much going on that there may be many highlights during your visit here. Come Sunday from 10am in summer and the only place your family should be heading to for the day is the Market. With enough food stalls to cater to everyone’s taste buds, this weekly event has an acoustic stage that brings an additional layer of musical soul to the occasion. The best part for young families, however, is the adjacent lawn with water fountains where mums and dads can chill out, London park-style, and enjoy their gourmet picnic and chilled white wine away from the crowds, while the children dance about in the spray.
3. Bread and Wine - Moreson Winery, Franschhoek
Perhaps not the most obviously child-friendly, this gorgeous garden restaurant and tasting room is able to keep young children occupied for hours on end with very little adult intervention. The Miss Molly Charcuterie Bar serves premium charcuterie in wooden boxes, artisan breads and pastries that are baked daily on the premises and has a light and airy feel, spilling out onto the protected leafy courtyard. Outside, a bubbling brook runs across the grounds and is surrounded by beautifully landscaped flower-beds, cobbled pathways and a pedestrian bridge, providing a magical setting that is bound to stir the imagination of any child.
4. Joostenberg, Stellenbosch
An expanse of green as far as the eye can see and a gaggle of noisy geese welcome you to the two eateries on this working family farm. Sit under the vine-shaded stoep at the French-inspired Bistro, or enjoy a gourmet picnic al fresco on the rolling lawns in front of the Taproom, a craft brewery collaboration with the Stellenbosch Brewing Co. Bring a ball and it is likely that you won’t hear a peep from your children all afternoon, except when it’s time to go home!
5. Stone Kitchen - Dunstone Winery, Wellington
This hidden gem off the beaten track at the foot of Bains Kloof Pass is a treasure chest of fun for kids and yet still retains an air of peace and tranquility due to its remote location and the dreamy views of the Hawequa Mountains and leafy vineyards. Bean bags and rugs lie strategically on the lawn under large sun shades in between scattered picnic tables, almost begging guests to take a snooze after their lazy lunch. There is also a magnificent wooden jungle gym and sandpit, a lego table, boules court and trampoline to keep children entertained. If that is not enough, take a short stroll to the adjacent duck pond and pig pen.
6. Ride In Cafe, Stellenbosch
Set on the grounds of a beautiful flower farm, Ride In is a cycling centric family cafe surrounded by the breathtaking mountains of the Jonkershoek Valley. Serving generous portions of home-style dishes on chunky wooden boards and offering freshly baked pastries, the cafe is the perfect weekend family hangout that begins with a leisurely brunch and spans into the late hours of the afternoon. Family tables are situated on the large lower lawn that has a jungle gym, swings and slide, but the wow factor has got to be the mini pump track that will keep your toddlers and their push bikes occupied, while you enjoy a delicious meal made from locally sourced ingredients, washed down with arguably the best coffee in town.