The historic Alphen Hotel has been part of the fabric of the Constantia Valley for centuries. Long the home of the Cloete family, in recent times it has belonged to the prestigious Kove Collection, well known on the Atlantic seaboard. The Manor House, which dates back to the mid-18th Century, houses the elegant Five Rooms Restaurant, but if you are looking for something casually charming with delicious food and patisserie, you need go no further than to head to La Belle, their other restaurant.
Sitting under the venerable trees overlooking the lawns of the estate while wondering who is driving that flashy red Ferrari parked in front of one is a pleasure only Constantia can provide. The interior is cosy when things get a bit inclement but outside is numero uno.
Starters for lunch could be heavenly rich chicken livers with bacon and mushrooms in a red wine sauce served with garlic toast (R75) or fresh black mussels with plenty of garlic, cream, and white wine with crunchy bread to mop up the juices (R85). Go on to the quirkily deconstructed chicken pie with mushrooms, leeks and creamy mash (R95), a favourite in these parts, or go the whole hog and try the pork belly with sweet corn fritters (R120) or excellent fillet steak with chips and béarnaise sauce (R170.) There are the freshest salads, sandwiches aplenty, raw juices like beetroot, carrot, celery and cucumber, iced teas with lemon and apple, and no less than sixteen other teas and infusions to keep you going.
While very popular with the ladies of Constantia for superb pastries in the French manner (try the macarons) La Belle serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
The wine list is well priced and extensive, the service is snappy, and the ambience is nicely relaxed. Well worth the trip for non Constantians, this is one thing I find most appealing—a gem that is not hidden.
La Belle at the Alphen Hotel, Constantia
Words: Greg Landman