To say that birthdays are a big deal in my family would be an understatement. As tradition goes, the birthday gal gets woken up at the crack of dawn before work, to the Happy Birthday song croaked out by the rest of the barely-awake family. Treats (cupcakes, banana bread) illuminated by an obligatory flaming candle are handed to the birthday gal and she is then made to rip open her presents in front of everyone. There’s always a gift from the pets, and always grumbles from the peanut gallery to hurry the hell up. We’ll talk about our plans for the day, maybe have some coffee, before everyone disappears in a rush to get ready for work.
But, more than anything else, we love to celebrate each other’s birthdays with foodie family outings. Since I celebrated my 24th one this month, the choice was mine: Babylonstoren.
Let’s just take it back a step and get real, though – you don’t need the excuse of a special occasion to visit a place as special as this. Babylonstoren itself is a celebration of nature of the highest order. Best of all, the produce that’s grown here features on your lunch plate almost exactly as it does in this garden of eden.
Speaking of which, found in Simondium (an hour’s drive out of the city), Babylonstoren’s 3,5 hectares worth of garden is the real draw card of this working fruit and wine farm. Made up of various different fruit and vegetable patches, woven together like a super organic puzzle, it’s the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. And, because the beauty of nature is that it’s ever evolving, each visit is an opportunity to discover something new within them. Point in case: when I visited Babylonstoren last year, I found the resident tortoise at the top of the garden. This time I found him along the stream, almost hidden by the clivias that line it. Anyway.
At a pace only slightly more brisk than that of my tortoise friend over there, we took a leisurely stroll through the gardens because “leisurely” is really the only way to do it. With no particular plan in mind, my family and I wandered amidst cacti and pens of ducks and lemon trees. I stopped to admire a ripening raspberry and a snap a pic of a bee on a lily pad. We arrived at the Greenhouse restaurant at the top of the garden just as the autumn sunshine and crispy fresh air were getting to our heads.
That brings us to the main event and one of my favourite foodie topics of discussion besides for brunch: LUNCH. This little refreshment stop represents everything that I love in a restaurant. Sat in the shade of an old oak tree and next to the Greenhouse itself, we sipped on Babylonstoren Rosé and I munched on a satsuma I’d just nabbed while pretending to peruse the menu. I already knew I wanted the panini again.
Lunch is served picnic style (albeit a very aesthetic one), out of wooden crates, glass jars and blue-and-white paper. True to the restaurant’s “pick, clean, serve” philosophy, the greens within the salads and paninis and pot pies are plucked straight from the garden and arrive on your plate with little process or fuss in-between. The bread is baked fresh on site, using a wood-fired oven, before it’s packed with veggies and other artisan produce sourced from local farmers. Because I’m still loving living my best #FlexitarianLife, they even replaced the ham for me with tomatoes that were most likely picked just that morning.
I just love that what’s on your plate changes according to the season, so no two experiences are quite alike. That’s some kinda garden magic right there.
If you’re planning a visit this weekend, remember that there’s a charge of R20 per person to enter the gardens (your money goes to the Babylonstoren Trust which helps to educate local children), and that you’ll have to leave the doggos behind for this nature adventure.
Hope you enjoyed this post!