Winelands market vibes
Escape the busy city life and wind down in the Helderberg at the Lourensford Market. With exciting vibes happening every Sunday, they brag with an impressive 70 permanent stalls (mostly food, but also some arts & crafts). Bring the kids, the grandparents, the uncles and aunts, even Fido – there’s loads of seating in the shade, funky live music, and a dedicated entertainment area for the little ones. Come in your PJ’s, come in your trunks or sloffies, it doesn’t matter because nobody cares…but this is where it’s at. This is where Mom gets the afternoon off (and an ice-cold glass of wine in hand), whilst the family entertains themselves.
Three course meal…
I have a certain affinity for the Helderberg. I always have this nostalgic longing for the mountains and the vineyards. The Helderberg region reminds me of lazy summer days and ice cold glasses of wine, careless conversations with loved ones and food. Always food. But I also I got married here. I have friends and family who live here. My mom grew up here. But maybe, most of all, it’s because it’s wine-country. Yeah, now that I think about it…. that’s probably it! I should say I have a certain affinity for wine, rather!
A little while back we had to pop out to Somerset West for family business, and we decided to indulge in a Sunday afternoon treat, before heading back to reality. When I suggested this to Karl, we both looked at each other and simultaneously uttered the sacred words in hushed unison: “Lourensford Food Market.” Done deal. We’ve been a few times with friends, and every time it’s such an experience, come rain or shine. It deserves a worthy review on TLH, even though it’s several mountains away from home.
The market is located on the historic Lourensford Estate. It sells itself as being “trendy,” “vibrant” and “delectable” – what a spot-on description! It has about 70 permanent stalls, carefully hand selected to give you the biggest variety of food stuff, including a vast range of drinks, desserts, home-made artisanal produce and crafts to keep every taste and whim happy. They also throw in a handful of “pop up” stalls that change every now and again to keep the mix as refreshing and satisfying as their granadilla slushies.
The market is an eclectic mix of modern, clean lines and rustic, wooden, chunky charm with a mix-and-match dining area inside a very sophisticated and contemporary structure. It’s full of light, but offers plenty of shady places to sit and talk, eat, cool down and socialise. There is unplugged live music that doesn’t fight for attention over the chatter of the crowd, but rather gently enhances the atmosphere of togetherness. Here you share tables with strangers and food with loved ones. The dogs are welcome and the kiddies are entertained. It ticks all the boxes, even for those like me who don’t like crowds. Here you are part of a crowd, but nobody is worried about what you do, or what you’re eating, or eavesdropping on your conversations. Everyone is so absorbed in the atmosphere and gorgeous food that you feel part of “something good” without feeling anxious about the number of people.
We opted for our all-time favourite: dim sum from Tao’s kitchen. If you’ve missed it, I’ve raved about Tao’s dim sum in my Bay Harbour Market review, too! I also couldn’t resist a handful of gourmet samosa’s and icy granadilla slushies. I was tempted by a good bottle of Lourensford wine to top it all off (they are served in the cutest PVC wine cooler bags to keep your tipple extra chilled), but decided to show some restraint. The samosas were 3 for R20, and they were delicious: I had 3 veggie ones: red lentils, spinach and feta and cheese and leek. Karl had the meaty ones: boerewors, Thai chicken (out of this world) and another one I can’t remember off the top of my head. We shared a dim sum platter which came to about R90 and the slushies were R30 each. We settled at the end of a long table with our feast and for the next half hour or so, it felt as if time stood still. We all have our happy places, and this is one of mine.
Usually I despise markets, because of the pushing and loud voices and the general “sardines in a tin” state of affairs, but at Lourensford, it’s different. It doesn’t feel like your typical food market. It’s essentially fine dining, al-fresco style, without the bad hustle and bustle. You become acutely aware of the good in life; the sunshine, the festive local music, the general happy buzz around you, the superb freshly prepared food and the frosty drinks. Life is a special occasion, and this is where you come to celebrate. It’s a very addictive feeling, and when you reluctantly leave at the end of your Lourensford experience, you are already planning your return for the next fix of feel-good.
Most of the stalls offer SnapScan as a payment method, and on the odd occasion when it doesn’t work (just my luck) there is an ATM located very conveniently around the corner. The stall owners are friendly and chatty; they are confident in their produce and want you to share in the joy of their crafts. I found myself briefly wondering: maybe it’s all a bit artificial (because we all know life is not just about cupcakes and Chenin Blanc), and maybe this type of indulgence becomes a bit of a lavish escape, but then again, who doesn’t need a little breakaway from reality every now and again? The thought quickly passed as my senses overloaded on the smell of fresh coffee and fudge.
Venture a bit further outside of the market and you can take a lovely relaxed stroll through beautifully manicured gardens, swing by the coffee roastery for delicious iced coffees, try some lovely craft beers at the brewery or do a wine tasting (or wine pairing) under the huge old trees by the wine cellar. You can also order a picnic basket and park with the kiddies on the grassy slopes for an afternoon of outdoor fun. Just remember to book your basket in advance.
All in all, if you have a Sunday to relax and want to do something fun and revitalising, for not so much money, have a drive out to Lourensford and grab brunch/lunch at the market. Make a day of it; there is just so much to do on the estate. Drag the kids away from the dreaded Xboxes and Playstations and iPads and let them run free in Mother Nature (as it was intended). Mommy has the day off cooking Sunday lunch, daddy has beer, wine and coffee to keep him busy and the kiddies are getting rid of all that pent-up energy at the dedicated kiddies’ entertainment area. Everyone’s happy.