Some of Cape Town’s many attractions are instantly obvious: the mountain, the beaches, trendy bars. But a few don’t reveal themselves right away – and from the point of view of those who like to get away from the madding crowds of summer visitors, that’s a good thing. While the Constantia Winelands are hardly a big secret, there are a few places on this cooler, more forested side of the city where it’s very possible to find some genuine peace and quiet. Combine that feeling of calm with an exquisite garden, elegant interiors and bistro-style cuisine, and you’ve just described The Conservatory restaurant.
The Conservatory is situated at the five-star Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel, which has long been part of Liz McGrath’s The Collection group. The hotel was a private farm property for hundreds of years and is situated within a lush garden that has been carefully tended for over 300 years (it includes a remarkable grove of camphor trees that were granted Champion Tree status in 2015).
Looking out onto this gorgeously verdant garden via huge floor-to-ceiling windows, it feels as if The Conservatory is situated in the middle of a secret forest. The decor is elegant, yet comfortable – much like the service – and the cuisine is similarly classic in its ethos. Executive chef Peter Tempelhoff and head chef Paul Nash have created a menu of contemporary bistro favourites for The Conservatory that also features several of Liz McGrath’s own favourite dishes and recipes.
The superbly light cheese soufflé starter is one of these, and was easily the most delicious dish we sampled on a recent Saturday evening. There are also lighter starter options, of course, including a Caesar salad and excellent tuna sashimi.
Main-course highlights include a 300g ribeye with forest mushrooms and perfectly cooked linefish and tuna – with more bistro classics, such as a free-range burger and roast chicken, rounding out the menu. And the decadent dessert option of choice is the McGrath-inspired chocolate plate: a dark chocolate fondant served with white chocolate ice cream and passion fruit.
The wine list focuses on vintages from the surrounding Constantia Valley area, so there’s plenty of hyper-local excellence to discover on that front (the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon options are especially good). In true bistro style, there’s a wide selection of wines to enjoy by the glass, too.
For more information and details of how to reserve a table at The Conservatory, click here.