Ardmore ceramics

Ardmore Ceramics – where dreams come true

Ardmore ceramics are distinctive, unique and colourful – rather like their creators and the country they come from. They embody colour, joy and Africa and celebrate excellence, beauty and creativity.

The brainchild of Fée Halsted, who also individually designs each piece, Ardmore was started in 1985. As South Africa celebrates its coming of age, celebrating 21 years since democratic elections were held and a quarter of a century since Nelson Mandela walked free out of prison, Ardmore is celebrating 3 decades. A remarkable achievement.

Quality is a defining hallmark of any Ardmore piece and it is thanks to the partnership and high standards that the owners have with regards seeing the Ardmore range represented internationally at Christies and locally in South Africa through Greig jewellers.

The name Ardmore derives from the Gaelic for ‘high place’ and is Latin for zealous and ardent.

Located in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Ardmore was originally the result of an artistic partnership which grew between Fée Halsted who had moved to Ardmore Farm in the Drakensberg Mountains and Bonnie Ntshalintshali who was the daughter of the housekeeper and whose polio meant she was unable to work in the fields.  Fée who had a degree in Fine Arts offered to train young women in the area to come and train at Ardmore. After various moves the Ardmore Studio and Bonnie Ntshalintshali Museum named for her friend who died tragically from AIDS in 1999 moved to Caversham.

At the opening of the recent anniversary celebration and new exhibition at the Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia I had the opportunity to meet and chat to two of the Ardmore artists. Given the strong botanical theme of the most recent exhibition, it was fitting that the launch took place at the Cellars-Hohenort known for the magnificent gardens created by the late hotelier Liz McGrath.

Ardmore Ceramics are highly prized collector’s items and they don’t come cheap.  I spotted a Hoopoe Espresso cup for R1800, an owl butter dish for R7000 and a Giraffe tea pot for R8000. These are not items you would use but rather display and enjoy for their craftsmanship and artistic aesthetic.

Mandla Ngwenya (whose last name means crocodile) hails from Zimbabwe and has been at Ardmore for 4 years. For him it ‘has been a dream come true’ to be able to make a good living from his artistic ability. Ardmore employs 60 people, the majority being female. Each artist works in pairs on an individual piece which can take up to a month or more to complete. A sculptor is paired up with a painter. In addition to being paid employees, on the sale of the piece each artist receives 15% commission. Large pieces sell for 10s of 1000s of rand so in addition to having the status of being an Ardmore artist, the artists make a respectable living. Ardmore also has an active programme to expose their artists to international trends and so recently Alex ‘Rider man’ Sibanda (whose name means lion) was invited to Russia to do a demonstration. Known as ‘Rider man’ because of the figures he sculpts shown riding hippos and all kinds of exotic beasts, Alex who is a sculptor hails from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe and has been with Ardmore for more than 5 years.

Fée recently received an Honorary Degree from the University of Pietermaritzburg for her contribution to the area and upliftment through her artistic endeavours in job creation.

What is evident is the theme of Ubuntu which means that ‘we are because of other people’. It is obvious that Fée is held in high esteem and much loved by those who have been nurtured and by her commitment to Ardmore. At the launch she reiterated that ‘growing the artists means everything to me’ and it is evident that Ardmore is growing from strength to strength.

Ardmore has recently branched out of ceramics into fabric known as Halsted Design with a vision to transfer African Art into Global Design. They offer bespoke homeware such as colourful table cloths and cushions.  See www.halsteddesign.com

Halsted Design

Halsted Design fabrics feature vivid African designs

Company's Gardens

Returning to Cape Town’s Food Garden Roots

Whether it is a tart granadilla or peppery rocket leaves, there are few things more satisfying than picking home-grown produce from one’s own garden and eating it minutes later. I recently visited the newly established Vegetable Garden in the Company Garden’s in Cape Town where an abundant array of magazine –perfect produce is growing slap bang in the middle of Cape Town. Thanks to the innovative Manager of the Company Gardens, Rory Phelan, and his team of 4 gardeners, the move to restore at least part of the Company Gardens to its original Dutch roots has taken seed.

It is a huge pleasure to come across the neatly laid out colourful patchwork of artichokes, quinces, spinach, brinjals, mielies, not to mention numerous fruit trees, hanepoort grapes and berries which the public is free to enjoy and which are thriving in the Company Garden’s – the original site of the Dutch vegetable garden. Over the past 350 years the nature of the Garden has changed. Originally it was established to supply food to the ships sailing around the Cape en route to the East. It then changed to a botanical garden enjoyed by the citizens of Cape Town and during the Victorian era became a pleasure garden. Started as a World Design Project in 2014 and given initial funding by Woolworths, the dream to reclaim hard surface and green the garden is being realised.

Vegetable Garden at Company's Garden

The newly established vegetable garden in the Company’s Garden

Through meticulous research based on etchings and paintings of the time, every detail from the ‘lei water’ system to the sand and pebbles surrounding the gardens has remained true to their Dutch period. There is also an endangered medicinal herb section, a reminder of the local knowledge on the ground which the original Khoi and San inhabitants of the Cape would have shared with the new arrivals. According to Rory, the three main driving forces behind the project were to re-green those parts of the garden which had been turned into parking, provide a snapshot of the roots of the garden and establish an avenue of food security. The spectacular gardens at Babylonstoren are of course based on the Company Gardens and a lovely collaboration project exists between the two. Collaboration is the name of the game and what a fruitful partnership it has been. With the excess produce plans are afoot to have a fresh farmer’s market.

The recently revamped Company’s Garden restaurant is currently supplied with garnishes, herbs and salad greens harvested within a stone’s throw of their kitchen. They are planning a more substantial salad bar in which case the Garden will aim to grow produce according to their requirements. Do yourself a favour and go for lunch in this historic oasis and green lung of the city. Help is at hand for those of us who want to have more food security and become ‘locavores’ whilst reducing food miles. Sign up for one of the Eduplant sponsored morning workshops which will take place on 15 April and 24 June where, in addition to having the theory explained you, you will get practical training and go home with a planted up container all fired up to farm your own veggie patch!

The newly revamped Company's Garden Restaurant

The revamped Company’s Garden Restaurant uses fresh produce from the adjacent vegetable garden

Article first appeared in Food 24

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Art Galleries in the Winelands

 

I was recently invited to the opening of an artist friend’s exhibition in Franschhoek. To make a day of it, I asked a girlfriend to join me on the journey – not only to enjoy the Cape Winelands’ fabulous wine and food offerings but also the visual feast on offer through magnificent South African art located at some spectacular galleries in the Winelands. It turned out to be a wonderful excursion.

First up was Cavalli in Stellenbosch located on the R44 coming from Somerset West. Cavalli is the Italian name for horse and the theme is evident throughout the estate. Owned by the Smith family, Cavalli started as a stud farm, housing what must be the most aesthetically pleasing and luxurious stables in the world! As a destination winery it is hard to beat.

The Equus Art Gallery on the estate ‘aims to encourage the local arts through its platforms of public sculpture spaces and a public art gallery.’ From the entrance to the restaurant, once can see Table Mountain in the distance. Enter through the restaurant and across the water is a huge Dylan Lewis sculpture. Down the stairs and carved into the hillside below is the wine tasting room and then an astonishingly large 600 square meter gallery showcasing rotating exhibitions of visiting curators, alongside a permanent exhibition of other notable works from the Cavalli Estate Private Collection. When we visited, the Equus exhibition with a horse theme was coming to an end but we managed to view Janko de Beer’s astonishing Sea Weed horses. The Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm gallery@cavalliestate.com or call 021 855 3218. There is no entrance fee.

Janko De Beer Seaweed horses

Janko De Beer Seaweed horses

Our next stop was the Rupert Museum at the entrance to Stellenbosch on Dorp Street. Housed in a custom built space, the Rupert Museum showcases the unique private art collection of billionaires Anton and Huberte Rupert. The walls are literally dripping with the most spectacular South African art – showcasing talents such as Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern, Alexis Preller, Walter Battiss, Jean Welz, and JH Pierneef. In fact the one gallery is dedicated to the original Johannesburg station panels painted by Pierneef in the 1950s and is in itself worth the visit. In addition, there are also major European works by leading sculptors such as Auguste Rodin.

Anton Rupert Museum Stellenbosch

Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch

Dylan Lewis @ Anton Rupert Museum

Dylan Lewis at the Rupert Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

En route to lunch in Franschhoek we stopped at the top of Helshoogte pass and another billionaire’s dream – this time the awe-inspiring Delaire-Graff estate, which describes itself as ‘South Africa’s premier art, hospitality and wine destination’. Graff is a leading diamond dealer and the boutique jewellery shop off the foyer dominated by a huge Lionel Smit canvas is well worth drooling over. We were enthusiastically shown around the art collection on the estate by an estate ambassador who made us feel very welcome. William Kentridge is well represented as are the sculptors Deborah Bell and Anton Smit and Dylan Lewis whose sculptures strategically dot the estate. We were blown away by the latest acquisition called Morpheus a 3 ton mirror-image sculpture of a Malay woman by Lionel Smit.

Lionel Smit at reception to Delaire Graff

Morpheus by Lionel Smit at Delaire Graff

A visit to the Pierneef Gallery at La Motte on the outskirts of Franschhoek is always worthwhile, but by this stage we were starving and Café Bon Bon at La Petite Dauphine wine farm in Franschhoek proved the perfect spot to linger. The setting on the terrace under the oaks, the red rooster and the timeless feel of the place .Their food is visually presented like art on a plate and was both delicious and fresh.

A visual feast @Cafe Bon Bon

A visual feast at Cafe Bon Bon

Before making our way to the Gallery at Grande Provence and my friend’s exhibition we popped in for tea at Sir Richard Branson’s Hotel, the newly revamped Mont Rochelle and discovered the best deal in town. A pot of Earl Grey tea and rusk size biscotti with a view to die for over the Franschhoek valley for R15!

We finished off our perfect day with a glass of delicious wine at The Gallery at Grande Provence with its sublime setting. Not only does the gallery exhibit local artists like Angus Taylor, Deborah Bell and Lionel Smit but also emerging artists such as Arabella Caccia as well as artists from Europe and America.

We drove back to Cape Town having experienced a feast of South African art in spectacular surroundings whilst enjoying world class wine and food. This is an outing which can be enjoyed all year around come rain or shine.

The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas

The southernmost wine farms in Africa

 

Take a trip down south and taste some excellent SA wines.

‘Die winter is verby, nou kom die wind’ – winter is over, now comes the wind, remarked an Agulhas local. This remote part of the world, known for its treacherous shipwrecking coastline is at a superficial level somewhat intimidating. Yet scratch beneath the harsh surface and you will find delicious wines and hospitable locals.

At Cape Agulhas - the tip of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

At Cape Agulhas – the tip of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

There is something distinctly romantic about tasting wine from vines grown at the southernmost point of the African continent, and not just ordinary wines but extraordinary, highly ranked wines competing with the best in the world. The Elim ward falls in what has traditionally been cattle and wheat country. Known for its biodiversity, the wine farmers established the Nuwejaars River Wetland Special Management Area dedicated to conservation of this unique part of the world where they have re- introduced hippo and buffalo. For those who take the road less travelled they will be richly rewarded.

History

Elim itself has a fascinating history as a Moravian mission station set up in 1824. Known traditionally for its thatcher’s, the name Elim is more and more associated with delicious Semillon and Sauvignon blends among the whites and full bodied reds.

Black Oystercatcher

If you approach the Elim wine route from Bredasdorp, you will come to Black Oystercatcher Wines. Here Dirkie Human has built a destination winery popular amongst locals and tourists. His fish braais are legendary and memorable coupled with his flagship White Pearl Sauvignon Semillon blend and a tranquil view across the Agulhas plains. The bulging organic vegetable garden which guests in the self-catering cottages are free to harvest is a foodie’s dream!

Dirkie Human is also the wine maker for Celestina, owned by Caroline Rillema of Caroline’s Fine Wines and her partner Ray Kilian. She has planted 1, 8 hectares in nearby Baardskeerdersbos and produced 2400 bottles in 2012. This wine displays the typical Cape Agulhas characteristics of minerality, raciness and gentle acidity and her sought after 2015 vintage is eagerly awaited.

Bredasdorp Square

Bredasdorp Square

Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strandveld Vineyards

A few kilometres south and only 9kms from the sea you will find, Strandveld Vineyards which claims the title of the southernmost cellar on the African continent. Their First Sightings range refers to the original sighting of the South African coastline by the Portuguese explorers in 1488. One of their flagship wines holds the name Strandveld Pofadderbos referring to the deadly poisonous puff adders to be found in that particular vineyard. The bouquet is full of white asparagus, nettle and green pepper aromas and it tastes sublime. Tasting fee is R40 which is refundable with purchase.

Strandveld Vineyards

Strandveld Vineyards

Zoetendal

Changes are afoot at Zoetendal named for the Dutch shipwreck of 1673 and which will reopen to the public at the end of 2015 under the auspices of David Nieuwoudt of the Cederberg, as the new home of Ghost Corner wines. Staying with cattle and sheep the new owners from Upington recognise the quality of the soil and are happy to lease and cooperate with leaders in the industry such as Dave Hidden and Charles Bak to harness the terroir and coax delicious and memorable wines out of this somewhat harsh climate.

(Note – The Elim Fruit and Wine Festival will be held in October.)

First appeared on Food.24

For more information on food and travel tips, visit Melissa Sutherland’s Facebook page.

Orchard Farm Stall

Fabulous Farm Stalls in the Overberg

 

The school holidays are around the corner and nothing shouts start of the holidays more than the ritual of stopping at a farm stall en route to one’s holiday destinations.

An hour outside of Cape Town – once over Sir Lowry’s pass, are a couple of options.

Orchard Farm Stall

Orchard Farm Stall on the left has a special place in my heart as it was where my boyfriend (now husband of 20 years) stopped when he was wooing me. It has subsequently gone through a couple of ups and downs and new management took over this year, but in addition to being able to pick up fresh fruit and bread, it is a good pit stop to use the loos and give the dog a run around.

Peregrine Farm Stall

Coming through Elgin one sees Peregrine Farm Stall on the right. You know you are in Apple country with their range of freshly squeezed apple juices. Their bakery stocks mosbolletjies (sweet brioche-like buns made with fermented grape juice), rusks and biltong. Elgin is also the home of cool climate wine, so you can stock up on some of the local wines!

Delicious local goodies on offer at the Peregrine Farm Stall

Delicious local goodies on offer at the Peregrine Farm Stall

The Peregrine Cafe

The Peregrine Cafe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Houw Hoek Farm Stall

At the top of the pass, Houw Hoek Farm Stall has always been a favourite for fresh farm pies. They offer a range at R20 of chicken and mushroom, curry steak, steak and kidney. You can pick up kudu droewors and home baked goodies. My aunt religiously stops there for their seed stuffed health bread. The well-stocked deli is full of fresh farm treats such as Green Fig Preserve and Moskonfyt. You can pick up beautiful bouquets of local fynbos and always land up spending more than you meant to – but hey, it’s the holidays! The Houw Hoek Farm Stall also has a great range of local wines, which brings me to my next suggestion.

Houw Hoek Farm Stall

Houw Hoek Farm Stall

Gabrielskloof

If you aren’t in a rush and feel like making the journey part of the holiday, then treat yourself to a delicious food and wine pairing experience at Gabrielskloof wine farm just past Botrivier on your right. The setting overlooking the Overberg wheatfields is simply gorgeous and it’s not surprising that this is such a popular venue for weddings given the beautiful courtyard and chapel.

There is a popular restaurant and at the deli you can even collect fresh farm eggs, as well as divine quiches and pies including a popular Bobotie Pie for R20. Everything is homemade and free range and the bread is all baked on the property.

Wonderful view from Gabrielskloof

Wonderful view from Gabrielskloof

Restaurant at Gabrielskloof

Restaurant at Gabrielskloof

 

 

 

 

 

Dassiesfontein

If you are prepared to drive a bit further up the N2, just past the turnoff to Villiersdorp you will see Dassiesfontein on your right. It is hard to miss. A monument to boere-chic and by that I mean you can buy all kinds of enamel kettles and pots, old kitchen utensils and seal shoes as well as biltong, bokkoms and dried fruit from the Overberg. The doorstopper sandwiches on homemade bread hit the spot if you are starving.

Dassiesfontein

Dassiesfontein

First appeared on Food24

For more information on food and travel tips, visit Melissa Sutherland’s Facebook page.

Buitenverwachting

Where to eat on the Constantia Wine Route

 

Whether you approach it from the bottom of the valley at Steenberg Golf Estate or coming over Constantia Nek at the top, Capetonians are spoilt for choice as to the dining options available along the Constantia Valley Wine Route.

A lot has been happening with regards restaurants opening,  closing or in some cases relocating. Spring has heralded a new crop of ideas and dining options. Here is a round-up on what you can expect:

The wine bar at the ultra-modern Bistro Sixteen82 on Steenberg Estate is the place to start. Whilst previous chef Brad Ball has recently left to open a new restaurant at Peddlers on the Bend, a new chef is in the process of being appointed but patrons can expect the same delicious contemporary European fare.

Bistro Sixteen82

The ultra modern Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg

Stylish Catharina’s is nestled in the werf of the old farmhouse precinct and 5 star hotel. Breakfast is served from 7 am each day. Lunch choices are from a blackboard menu which changes with the seasons. For fine dining, the candlelit dinner is a romantic treat. On Sundays, Family Feasts accompanied by live music are served from 12 – 3 pm from May – l October and feature a choice of starters, platters of roast meats and vegetables and dessert for R280/adult, half price for kids under 12. The Summer Feast is a buffet at R300/person

Catharina's Restaurant

Inside the stylish Catharina’s Restaurant

When Constantia Uitsig recently changed hands many people wanted to know what would happen to their restaurants.The River Café is set to open again under a new name and the new management of Neil Grant later this year although no firm date has been set. La Colombe has moved to a new location in Silvermist estate at the top of Constantia Nek and construction is under way. See website for details www.lacolombe.com

The restaurant at Buitenverwachting has long been a destination for a treat meal. The Austrian chef’s roots are clearly evident in his cooking style. Buitenverwachting’s popular summer picnics start from 20 November 2013 – 31st March 2014. The Coffee Bloc is a new popular addition to the farm and valley with yummy Austrian pastries.

Buitenverwachting Restaurant

View across the vineyards from Buitenverwachting Restaurant

Buitenverwachting picnic

The popular Buitenverwachting picnics

Coffee Bloc

The new Coffee Bloc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Groot Constantia reminds me of my favourite granny and is an old and established favourite in the valley. Jonkershuis is ever popular for breakfast under the oaks in front of the Manor House or for their Estate Tasting plate featuring a medley of Malay curries. Simon’s is family-friendly and great for a casual lunch or dinner.

The relaxed setting at Jonkershuis at Groot Constantia

Dining under the oaks at Jonkershuis

Simon's Restaurant

Simon’s Restaurant is ideal for relaxed outside dining

 

 

 

 

 

Ascending the valley, Constantia Glen’s wine bar has a restricted offering of charcuterie and cheese platters to accompany their delicious wines. With breath-taking views this is proving to be very popular as a lunchtime spot.Constantia Glen is open daily from 10h00 till 17h00 on weekdays, from 10h00 till 16h00 on Saturdays and Sundays.

Constantia Glen wine bar

Constantia Glen wine bar

Beau Constantia’s location has the wow factor. One could be in a James Bond movie sitting in the glass tasting room suspended over the valley. Lunchtimes on Friday, Saturday or Sunday enjoy a small changing menu of burger, pizza or fish and chips @R90. There is also a tasting platter. Plans are at an advanced stage to open a wine bar downstairs which will also serve Craft Beer and tapas style dishes. Gourmet picnics will soon be on offer in the amphitheatre. Check website for details www.beauconstantia.com

The modern Beau Constantia Tasting Room with breathtaking views

Breathtaking views from the Beau Constantia tasting room

Article first appeared on Food24.

For more information on Cape Town travel tips, visit Melissa Sutherland’s Facebook page.