The famous cliffs of Hermanus are spectacular at any time of the year but have special appeal when the whales are there. This usually happens from July to November, when the Whale Crier toots his horn to alert people to the presence of these behemoths.
The cliffs at that time have dozens of visitors searching the oceans as if they were looking for the return of some long-lost mariner. The area around here is very special too – the view right across Walker Bay, to Stanford, and further inland to Hemel en Aarde is most rewarding.
Of course you have to eat – and drink – and there are many options. One of my favourites is Fabio’s Ristorante in the centre of town, which has been recently recognised, yet again, by the Italian Chamber of Commerce as one of only 25 Italian restaurants in South Africa to be the ‘real’ thing, the only one in the Overberg, nog.
Here you will find pastas to make you sit up and tuck a napkin around your chin, and a wine list that runs the gamut from fabulous local gems – this is prime wine country after all – to some great Italian imports. The wine list is extensive and if you can’t find something to suit your palate or pocket you aren’t really trying.
To start your meal, try an Aperol Spritz – Prosecco with a splash of Aperol, very like Campari but sweeter, with a squirt of soda water, delicious. The risottos are heavenly. You can have them with prawns, tomato and plain saffron or with superb porcini mushrooms that Fabio collects in the hills around the town. If he has them, you can buy some dried ones and try to replicate the dish at home, redolent with the unique fragrance of the real thing.
And then there are pizzas – thin-based, 22 versions, all great, even one with boerewors. This is the Overberg after all. Generous portions of excellent pastas follow – almost 30 versions, my favourite the lasagne using Mama’s recipe, a knockout. Then there is meat, the best the fillet done the Italian way – in the pan with olive oil, garlic, rosemary and wine, unbeatable. The 500g rump steak done this way at R180 is irresistible to local carnivores. The lamb shanks are intensely rich, just falling off the bone.
Naturally there is seafood – whatever is running that day – as well as excellent prawns, mussels and calamari. The best way to end – although they have great tiramisu – is with a Gelato Express – two scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with espresso and accompanied with an ice cold limoncello. Oh boy.
Fabio’s Ristorante, St Peters Lane, Hermanus 028 313 0532
Words: Greg Landman