A Long Weekend in Stanford
“It is only in the country that we can get to know a person or a book” – Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave, 1945
Described as the place that time forgot, Stanford village in the Overberg, is only one and a half hours from Cape Town, yet is worlds away. Its dusty roads and weathered historical cottages seen from the high road on the way to some place else, are only a misleading facade, for this quaint village evokes the poet in every weary man’s heart and stills the roaming.
Floating slowly down the river on a summers afternoon, you’ll realise why the languishing country bug is so catchy, that most weekend visitors to the small town end up leaving owning a piece of real estate.
In Stanford, afternoon teas are a treasured daily meditation and books are still favoured to television, walking is a daily activity and bicyles are the favoured means of transportation. With beautiful scenes around every corner, Stanford is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing towns in the Western Cape region and world class country restaurants and antique stores draw people from Cape Town through to the interior.
Marianas Deli has won many awards, including ‘Best Country Restaurant,’ where the establishments namesake, Mariana Esterhuizen, not only spends most of her time producing fresh ingredients and deli items for the restaurant from her herb and vegetable garden, but also finds time to contribute monthly to Woolworth’s ‘Taste’ magazine. Marianas husband, Pieter, is the front-of-house personality who will explain the sumptuous delights on offer for the day while you’re entranced by the aroma of roast lamb shanks wafting through from the kitchen.
The Klein Rivier Cafe at the Stanford Courtyard on the main road, is the newest kid on the block, attracting a steady stream of patrons since its opening day. A tranquil atmosphere is created in this alfresco setting, shaded by the leaves of a gigantic weeping willow, with jazz tunes and a water feature bubbling over in the european style courtyard. Offering deli style breakfasts and lunches, the venue is also surrounded by quaint shops including Reche, which specialises in selling antiques that have been restored with specialist paint techniques. Klein Rivier Cafe makes the transition indoors gracefully in the winter, with an open fire and vintage setting creating an inviting place to be in the colder months.
Madre’s Kitchen is possibly the best family friendly deli style restaurant in the Western Cape, set on a farm just outside of the town, surrounded by vineyards, dams and greenery and owned by the young and talented entrepreneur, Madre. The menu is rich with delightful offerings of nouveau country cooking and fresh breakfast and lunch options. Seating arrangements are inside and outside, on the banks of a natural pool, and kids can tire themselves out on the jungle gym and sunken trampoline while you enjoy a cappuccino and the morning paper, or a browse through the vintage inspired gift shop.
Havercrofts is also just outside the main town near Madre’s Kitchen and is a rustic old farmhouse overlooking a horse farm with stunning views of the mountains. Owned by husband and wife team, Innes and Brydon Havercroft, this restaurant offers legendary Sunday lunches, which include their famous Yorkshire pudding!
Raka Wines, Klein Rivier Dairy and Birkenhead Micro Brewery, are three of the most popular attractions in the area, prompting visitors to Stanford to compare it to the renowned gastronomic town of Franschhoek, for its fine wines, international award winning cheeses and upmarket restaurants. Typical of Stanford, the unassuming gem, Oom Steyn’s Wine Shop located next to the Stanford Hotel, has a plentful selection of estate wine and French Champagne imported from a private family estate in France.
The New Junk Shop, Stanford Trading Store and Sir Robert Stanford Antique Shop are three must see antique shops and the Art Cafe square offers a vintage and book shop, coffee shop and art gallery for the cultural explorer.
A renowned bird sanctuary, the river is home to more species of birds than any other place in the southern region of South Africa, attracting bird watchers from all over the world. Platanna, African Queen and the River Rat are guided boat tours which take you down the Klein Rivier. Platanna specialises in birding river trips for all ages, with picnics on request at Klein Rivier Cafe.
Whether you want a want a break from city life to recharge your batteries, an active weekend spent on the river, or a dose of culture, food and wine comparable to the best in the country, Stanford will enchant the most weary traveller and will undoubtedly have you coming back eagerly for a second helping.
- Find: Things to Do in Stanford
- Marianas Deli & Bistro: Open Fri, Sat & Sun ~ Booking essential +27 (0)28 341 0272
- Klein Rivier Café & Oom Steyn’s Wine Shop: +27 (0)28 341 0900
- Madre’s Kitchen: +27 (0)28 341 0647
- Klein River Dairy: +27 (0)28 341 0693
- Birkenhead Microbrewery: +27 (0)28 341 0183
- Raka Wine Farm: +27 (0)28 341 0676
- New Junk Shop: +27 (0)28 341 0797
- Stanford Galleries & Art Café: +27 (0)28 341 0591
- African Queen Boat Cruises: +27 (0)82 732 1284
- Platanna River Cruises: +27 (0)84 583 5389
- River Rat Boat Cruise & Kayak/Canoe Hire: +27 (0)83 310 0952