Indulgence Awaits: The Charm of Le Petite Ferme

This Franschoek retreat is the perfect place to dine and unwind

By Ingrid Wood

I last visited La Petite Ferme in Franschhoek about 10 years ago, popping in on a Friday afternoon to enjoy music on the lawn and watch the sunset with old friends. It was one of those warm, memorable afternoons – the setting, the vibe and the sunset over the magnificent Franschhoek Valley remain with me today.

When I found myself back at the property recently, I was pleased to see that despite many renovations and updates, it has maintained its charm and, best of all, the new additions still take full advantage of those absorbing views.

La Petite Ferme (meaning “little farm”) started as a small country restaurant and vineyard 40 years ago. Founded in the 1980s by the Dendy Young family, the vision was to create a warm, welcoming environment where guests could enjoy fresh, locally sourced food paired with good wines. The terroir of Franschhoek, with its unique microclimate and soil composition, provided an excellent foundation for growing a variety of grape cultivars and La Petite Ferme has since cemented its reputation as a premier wine producer, with the cellar now under the management of winemaker Wikus Pretorius. Over the years, the restaurant too has gained a reputation for its homely charm and excellent cuisine, becoming a favourite among locals and tourists alike. The menu is adapted seasonally, inspired by local produce and drawing on its South African roots and this winter the “look good/taste good” menu features six new dishes.

Although a small menu, it requires a couple of visits to do justice unless you are dining with a group that is happy to share. Starters include smoor vis dim sum, fig and ricotta cigar with walnut thyme crumb, and fried bobotie balls with cilantro mint yoghurt sauce, among others. On the mains menu, the Cape Malay butter chicken curry is delicious, while the rolled Karoo lamb shoulder with chimichurri and labneh is one of the finest lamb meals I have tasted. The seafood chowder is a must-try as is the buchu-infused pork belly. If sweets are your treats, the traditional almond cake, sponge cake, Hertzoggie and chocolate fondant are each given a delicious new spin.

The setting of La Petite Ferme is arguably one of its most enchanting features. The views of the surrounding mountains and vineyards create a serene backdrop for a leisurely meal or a relaxing glass of wine. The estate’s gardens, with their vibrant flowers and manicured lawns, add to the overall ambience of tranquillity and each room has been carefully positioned to make the most of the setting. The all-new Winery Suites – what was once the old wine cellar (read more here) – all have a private balcony, while the Cape Vernacular-style Vineyard Suites also have a private terrace and plunge pool, and of course, that view.

The five-suite Manor House recently underwent a thorough overhaul. “The suites were basically gutted as part of the renovations, providing a blank canvas for the new look. Among the many changes made, we installed modern, crisp white ceilings, traditional window frames and doors were replaced with more modern aluminium and the flooring was redone,” says Riaan Kruger, managing partner of The Nest Collection of which La Petite Ferme is a member. The exterior was also redone, from the verandas to the pool. “The aim has been to further concentrate the allure that comes with airy, outdoor luxury of international standard, in a setting characterised by majestic mountains and vineyards,” says Riaan.

The suites encourage taking full advantage of the weather – whether warm or cool – from the shaded terrace and pool to the enormous bed, heated towel rails and underfloor heating, coffee station and mini bar, and enormous bath and spacious shower. While the suites can be booked individually, the Manor House is ideal for groups or families for a bespoke experience. I love the personal touch that keeps that family influence alive: each suite has been named by the current owner after people who have inspired him – John and Carol, former owners of La Petite Ferme who hailed from Zimbabwe; Foufi, the nickname for his father, born in Lebanon; Helene, his Swiss-born mother; Andre, a friend who loves the South of France; and Sryani from Sri Lanka.

The little farm’s evolution has been marked by thoughtful growth and a commitment to quality, which makes this so much more than a scenic retreat.

The winter menu is priced at R750 per person for two courses and R850 per person for three courses. To reserve a table, email reception@lapetiteferme.co.za or call 021 876 3016. For accommodation enquiries and reservations: accommodation@lapetiteferme.co.za

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