Head from Joburg to Cape Town for a gastronomic weekend

Posted on 5 April 2022 By Anita Froneman

Ryan Enslin heads for the airport, intent on a dinner escapade and a weekend away, some 1 400 kilometres down the N1 national road.

This series is meant to entice you with nifty, often last-minute, weekend getaway ideas out of the City of Gold. The only criteria for a weekend trip is a three-hour timeframe to arrive at your destination. Today, I have a cracker of an option, just stay with me on the reasoning for this one.

I was recently in the Mother City, dining at an interesting restaurant named Pilcrow & Cleaver (more on that shortly). The chef-owner, Judi Fourie, told me she had noticed how increasingly Joburgers were flying down to Cape Town to enjoy a dining experience at her restaurant. So the idea was born. A weekend trip between Joburg and Cape Town, why not? And it fits, there or thereabouts, within the three-hour time criteria.

Come fly with me to Cape Town.

Travel arrangements

Flying into Cape Town is always a thrill for me, no matter how many times I have had the pleasure of the experience. And with the many airlines servicing this route, I find there is usually a cost option that fits snugly into my budgetary constraints. An hour at the airport before the flight; generally an hour and three quarters flying time; and a quick jaunt into the city should see you there within my self-imposed time limit.

Hello Gorgeous

Cape Town has a profusion of accommodation offerings that are as diverse as they are quirky. I recently spent time at the Gorgeous George Hotel, located in the old United Building Society building on St Georges Mall, which would make a great spot from which to enjoy this particular adventure. Long on my personal must-visit list, I was thrilled to finally enjoy a stay in the only hotel in Cape Town to be a member of the internationally acclaimed Design Hotels programme.

Their design-forward approach flows throughout all six floors that make up the Gorgeous George, proudly rooted in South Africa and our ever-evolving national culture.

The juxtaposition of raw, exposed concrete and steelworks makes for an intriguing backdrop to modern Victorian design elements. I often found myself staring at the roof spaces as these elements came together, intersected by the pink-hued steel pipes that make up the firefighting system.

Attention to detail is evident in all that you take in as you wander through the Gorgeous George. Giant-sized teddy bears in the lounge of the conference floor, a sculpture of a piglet joyously playing with a balloon and a book sharing a selection of Andy Warhol’s diary entries. Bliss for the soul. The artwork alone could keep you busy for some time.

Some who wander are not lost

A leisurely, early-evening walk down Longmarket Street (a mere three minutes, I timed it) will see you at Pilcrow & Cleaver. Be sure to make a booking in advance though, it’s quite the spot in Cape Town.

Chef-owner Judi Fourie has been fine-tuning the concept for the past fifteen years, one that marries the idea of no waitrons with no interior doors, windows or walls to separate you from the professionals preparing your meal. What’s more, she firmly believes in staff pay equality and accordingly follows a no-tipping practice.

Intrigued by the name as I was, chef Judi shared that it flowed from her vision for the restaurant. Pilcrow being the symbol that marks a new paragraph (it looks like this: ¶) and the cleaver being the largest knife in a chef’s arsenal. Bring them together and you’ll understand that the restaurant is a brave venture into a new world that promotes equality, encourages access to the chef and presents bold, European-inspired dishes, infused with South African flair, on its weekly-changed four-course lunch or dinner menu. A two-course lunch menu is also available.

I ate from menu 107 and was intrigued by what it must take to create a new menu, at this level, each week. With chef Judi preparing my meal right before me, she continued to share in this wonderfully relaxed, novel environment. Menu options are inspired primarily by her travels, during which she seeks out unusual flavours to combine with home-grown South African flair. ‘Cooking is an art, and the kitchen is my canvas,’ beamed Judi as she plated my grilled springbok loin rolled in Malay spices accompanied by a melange of wilted spinach and apricot puree.

My evening of indulgence also included an alluring prawn, chilli and lemon ravioli in a bouillabaisse sauce, provocatively listed as love letters on the menu, and an almond coated sea bass fillet. As a confirmed turophile, I ended my gastronomic experience with ash goats cheese, fresh figs, lemon marmalade and seeded crackers. Chef Judi expertly paired each course for me with a local wine variant, my particular favourite on the evening being The Valley Pinot Noir Rosé from the Elgin Valley.

A brisque walk back to the Gorgeous George hotel and I was ready for a nightcap on their rooftop bar.

The Gigi Rooftop at the Gorgeous George

This is where Cape Town comes to play, and is just the spot to end your adventure. Imbued with a living room aesthetic, this poolside rooftop is a lush oasis that invites you to stay for a drink, or perhaps a little longer and enjoy breakfast. With a somewhat voyeuristic view of the bustling city below, I may have stayed for more than one drink before retiring to my suite.

Breakfast is served at Gigi Rooftop and they are open throughout the day for lunch and drinks.

All-in-all a rather exciting weekend away living like a local in the heart of Cape Town and dining at one of her uber-trendy spots. Just what a Joburger needs and a most appropriate way to spend a weekend. Wouldn’t you agree?

A studio at The Gorgeous George starts from R3 500 per weeknight and includes breakfast, while meals at Pilcrow & Cleaver are priced at R500 per person for the four-course lunch or dinner option (R250 for the two-course lunch option).

Follow more of Ryan’s adventures in and around Joburg here.

Pictures: Ryan Enslin


Road trip from Gqeberha to Joburg, one padstal at a time


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