Small Town Joy, Tulbagh II: Dining like Royalty at Rijk’s

Continuing with my amblings in and ramblings on the lovely Tulbagh, after our trip at the beginning of the month, kind favour of Tulbagh Tourism. I left off after lunch at Waverley Hills. Stuffed to the gills with the most divine food, watered with delicious wines and eye-treated with the beautiful views of the valley, it was time for that necessity – the Saturday afternoon nap – in the cool room at Manley Wine Lodge with a view across the vineyards. And then to Rijk’s, with this vista:

Western Cape tourists (and locals) are often of the opinion that, for fine dining, there are the standard staples in Cape Town and a couple more in Franschhoek. It’s a misconception, I am here to tell you. Tulbagh is right up there amongst the culinary stars. On Saturday night, we were treated to the four-course fine dining dinner at The Governor’s Restaurant at Rijk’s Country House. Chef, Tracy Young creates different menus using seasonal ingredients and transforming them into the culinary version of magic.

Rijk’s, itself, is pretty magical too. On arrival, we were welcomed with bubbles and canapés on the veranda which has holiday-brochure-like views across the vine-covered valley to the mountains on the other side. The Weatherman was being particularly fabulous that evening and treated us to some emotive clouds letting golden sunlight through as the mountains turned from blue to deep purple to black. The canapés were bloody delicious too.

The manager popped over to welcome us and waxed lyrical about Rijk’s signature cocktail, fondly referred to as the Gin o’Clock. Obviously we had to investigate. With a glass the size of a goldfish bowl, the barman fixed gin and tonic and a splendiferous mixture of berries, mint and ice. It was almost too beautiful to drink. Its deliciousness, however, meant not drinking it was not an option. We sipped as we perused the menu, a delight-filled thing indeed.

The food, as it was served with accompanying recommended Rijk’s wines, mirrored the Gin o’Clock … unbelievably beautiful and perfectly delicious. We started with French parsnip and apple soup with just the right amount of appley sweetness, topped with crispy parsnip slivers. Duck-filled wontons was next on the cards, with a mesmerising citrus-soy-honey sauce decorated with gorgeous frilly pea tendrils: my favourite.

Had I not read the menu before, I might’ve thought that the pineapple sorbet brought at this point as a palate cleanser, was pudding. And I would’ve been perfectly fine with that. Fresh, zesty, sweetness.

I’m always a little wary of venison, as I find it is often tough (as one would expect from an animal living it up in the rough neighbourhoods of the bush). The kudu loin threw my wariness out of the window. It was as tender as can be, perfectly complimented by the blueberry jus.

Dessert. It may be hard to believe I had space, but I come from a family that has a completely separate pudding tummy. It’s very lucky that I do, because the dessert was a trio of strawberries … tart, sorbet, and the real deal, dipped in chocolate. Pure strawberry bliss. Accompanying it, was a miniature glass of liqueur, whose name I can’t remember now (too much delicious food and wine!). The perfect end to a perfect dinner.

Thank you, Rijk’s, you’re damn fine!

Wheelchair Accessibility

While Rijk’s is positioned on a gentle slope, there is a ramp down to the main lodge on the left of the parking lot. From here on everything in the main lodge and restaurant is completely flat.

I do remember somebody saying that one of their rooms (possibly more) is accessible, but you’d need to check with Rijk’s Country House. It is a beautiful space if you’re looking for gorgeous views and top-notch service a little way (a couple of kilometres) out of Tulbagh.


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