FOODSTUFF: Wholesome, fun family eating at Eight

dsc_0080.jpg I’ve often assumed that weekend crowds make Spier in Stellenbosch a bit of a tourist trap, but I’ve had to rethink that after having a superb wining and dining experience at Eight. Invited to try out the offerings recently, three adults and a trio of energetic under fives had a very enjoyable day out. Cheetahs, owls and birds of prey aside, the food experience at Eight lives up to its sustainably sourced, creative reputation. And the spacious grounds provide plenty of spots to slip away and relax so it never feels crowded.

The most recent edible development is Eight to Go, a deli area selling picnic-style items, drinks and coffees. But I’m a big fan of consultant chef Judy Badenhorst so eating in the restaurant appealed instead. Starters on the Eight chalkboard menu focus on creative salads in the R70 price range (most are substantial as a meal) with crunchy veggies grown at Spier’s adjacent farm – sprouted quinoa and veg, a tasty local trout and poached free-range egg version… dsc_0057.jpg Most main courses are under R100, and include the signature chicken and mushroom pie – like the eggs, beef and lamb at Spier, the chicken is pasture-reared and free-range. Sirloin is served with a thick strip of fat, delicious with handcut chips. Ethical and sustainable sourcing seems to be a theme at Eight. Stylish recycled wine and water glasses are handmade in Botswana (our waiter said none were available in SA where they’d prefer to source everything).

Interestingly, the vegetarian option won hands down as our favourite main course, showing a typical Badenhorst touch. The fluffily light courgette soufflé topped with goat’s cheese, was surrounded by a rich and deliciously cream-based tomato sauce. Yum. The wine list features Spier labels and scores points for having no mark ups on cellar door prices (I never understand why winery restaurants feel entitled to do that), and we sipped happily on Spier 21 Gables Chenin and Pinotage. Two portions of dessert split three ways - poached nectarines with salted caramel and homemade toffee ice-cream - hit the sweet spot. dsc_0060.jpg

Young children are taken care of on the menu and in the play area – the latter includes miniature tables and chairs, and a designer playground that allows kids to get muddy while their parents tuck in nearby. Savoury kids items are priced around R40 to R45, from a sticky cheeseburger to delicious battered fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce. dsc_0061.jpg A dish of sesame chicken strips with carrot sticks served in a watering can was an instant hit with a picky two-year-old. The “tooty fruity” fresh fruit dessert skewers afterwards appealed too with meringue-spiked homemade ice-cream.

In summary: Eight offers delicious seasonal food that is locally grown on the farm, or sourced. A casual vibe under the trees provides an unstructured setting to suit families or groups of adult friends. Every reason to go back really.

The stylish new Spier wine tasting centre is worth a look, with a non-refundable tasting fee even for customers who buy wine. Local art on the walls provides visual entertainment while you sip.

EIGHT, Spier wine estate, Stellenbosch, Tel 021 809 1188 Eight. Open from Tues to Sun. Children’s menu.