Tourism orientated around food is a burgeoning sector, with many opportunities emerging. Tourism Update has been given first-hand insight from the trade on food and accommodation pairings on offer in Southern Africa and how to ensure travellers get the best of both.

To ensure that tourists receive quality accommodation combined with exceptional food when visiting Southern and East Africa, Catherine Entwistle, Owner of Val du Charron Wine & Leisure Estate (VDC) in the Western Cape, 10 minutes’ drive from Wellington, advises establishments to be graded and urges travellers to read reviews on TripAdvisor and social media.

All-inclusive offerings give guests the chance to experience five-star luxury along with exceptional food offerings. “The Last Word Long Beach (Kommetjie, Cape Town) offers a variety of healthy breakfast options along with luxury dinners overlooking the pristine sands of Long Beach, all included in our rates,” says Nicky Coenen, Marketing Manager of The Last Word Intimate Hotels.

aha Hotels & Lodges ensures it offers high-quality food, following a strict food safety programme, with the trucks checked on delivery, and the temperature monitored and maintained.

“Our chefs ensure that they individually check the deliveries to ensure that the quality of food they receive is exceptional. We order in small quantities to ensure the deliveries are fresh on a daily basis as opposed to buying in bulk,” says Renzo Bico, aha Hotels & Lodges Group Executive Chef.

“Another important aspect is that we listen to our guests and take their feedback seriously. We also take into consideration the diversity of our guests, so we are very aware that taste profiles are not the same and we try our best to accommodate and innovate on our food and the preparation methods thereof,” adds Bico.

According to Coenen, visitors to South Africa, and Cape Town particularly, look for authentic flavours that complement the surrounding environment of their accommodation. The Last Word Long Beach is located directly on the beach, giving guests uninterrupted access to the beach. “We use this intimate relationship with the ocean as the inspiration for our hotel menu and continue to use local flavours and local seafood to highlight the beauty that surrounds the hotel.”

aha Hotels & Lodges has a range of unique properties within its portfolio. Bico says the two that stand out when it comes to food and accommodation pairings are aha Lesedi in South Africa’s North West province, and aha Shakaland in KwaZulu Natal.

“These properties focus more on serving authentic, local and traditional foods from different South African backgrounds. For example, we serve pap (porridge) from the Zulu culture, samp (crushed corn kernels) from the Xhosa culture, and boerewors (sausage) from our Afrikaans heritage. The cooking of stews and potjies (slow-cooked stews) comes from a range of different cultural backgrounds,” says Bico

As for lodge offerings, aha incorporates South African braai (barbecue) elements with boma evenings under the African sky, surrounded by nature. “This method of cooking takes guests back to experience the journey of how cooking was done in former years on an open fire, the crackling of the firewood and the smells and flavours being distributed by the smoke from the braai to experience an authentic bushfire experience,” says Bico.“Our lodges tend to serve a variety of different game meat, from eland, zebra, kudu, impala and warthog, along with slow-braised oxtail cooked on the fire in a potjie pot. We also like to bring the simplicity of the ingredients out in our food where we are not over complicating dishes but trying to focus on the value and quality of the ingredients as opposed to adding too many ingredients.”

When it comes to city-based hotels, accommodation and food pairing differ at aha properties, as it is a lot more corporate based. Bico says aha tends to stick to a more contemporary set-up without veering too much from the normal corporate traveller expectations.

“We still prepare our steaks, normal pasta dishes and typical salads. However, what we also try and incorporate is bringing back our old-fashioned techniques. Our steaks, for example, are pan-seared with butter as opposed to being cooked on a grill. We bring through an individual taste with every meal, so food is not mass produced,” says Bico.

At aha’s holiday hotels and resorts, the focus is more on the fun element of the food, offering different dining experiences inside and outside the restaurant, value-for-money options and locally based specials such as aha Alpine Heath Resort, known for its trout; and aha The Rex Hotel in Knysna for its oysters. At aha The David Livingstone Safari Lodge in Zambia, crocodile meat is served, ensuring a variety that can be enjoyed by the entire family and offer different food experiences.

Val du Charron Wine & Leisure Estate in the Western Cape Winelands, South Africa, only a 10-minute drive from the town of Wellington and under two hours from Cape Town, offers four- and five-star accommodation, an onsite spa and two restaurants – The Grillroom and Piza e Vino. The farm is 42 hectares and comprises 21 hectares of vineyards, four-and-a-half hectares of olives, and a cellar.

The estate also offers tastings as well as cellar tours. Entwistle describes The Grillroom as “simply nirvana for carnivores”, with grain- and grass-fed beef, dry- or wet-aged between 22 and 55 days – plus there is steak tartare, oxtail, brisket, marrow bones, biltong and beef burgers. Venison, pork and chicken feature prominently along with salmon, prawns and calamari at The Grillroom, and there are also vegetarian options. “This is a little bit of heaven with views to match,” she adds.

Airy understated European elegance epitomises the restaurant’s interior, which is glass fronted to showcase the panoramic views of the vineyards and olive orchards to the blue-hued mountains that encircle Wellington. On a sunny day, guests can choose a table on the deck, sitting side-by-side to enjoy the natural theatre.

Piza e Vino, on the other hand, is all about old Cape charm as it is based in the historic cellar on the estate. It has a large terrace surrounded by mountains, vineyards and olive groves. “There cannot be a more beautiful setting to enjoy simple, fresh food cooked in the traditional Italian way using authentic methods with a twist,” adds Entwistle.

The Last Word Intimate Hotels in the Western Cape offers a variety of in-house dining options for guests that are inspired by healthy lifestyles and the flavours of the local cuisine. In particular, The Last Word Long Beach celebrates seaside living with a fresh seafood menu that incorporates sustainably sourced seafood and local flavours.

“We would suggest that travellers celebrate their surroundings and become acquainted with local flavours and Cape Town’s unique cooking styles. The Last Word Long Beach is where guests to South Africa can experience a life of luxury directly on one of Cape Town’s top beaches whilst enjoying a variety of delicious seafood dishes that are all included in our rates,” concludes Coenen.

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