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Weekend relaxation, the Wellington way

A few weeks into the work year, there's nothing more revitalising than a quick night away. That's just what we did when we were invited back to Wellington's Val du Charron near the end of January. And the food at their new on-site restaurant, Piza e Vino? My goodness, the food!

It was the middle of winter the last time we stayed at Val du Charron, when we were happily ensconced in the five-star Coachhouse with its own private pool and fireplace.

Now, in the middle of the Cape summer heat we stayed in a four-star luxury room in the main hotel, all done up in soothing natural stones, greens and whites and filled with blissful aircon, along with the most inviting double-door onto our own private patio. That patio table-and-chair set is just the spot to sit and sip a cup of Terbodore coffee brewed in-room while munching on complimentary a Mantelli's biscuit. All that greenery and the grey-gold of the Hawequa mountains, as well as the surrounding vineyards and olive groves quickly reset our eyes and minds back into stress-free screensaver mode.

Soon the warm breeze roused me into realising we were just walking distance from an oh-so inviting, surprisingly empty pool surrounded by white benches and green-striped loungers, with the only sounds to break our reverie some cheerful birdsong and a rooster crowing in the distance. So after a brief explore of the grounds – it’s a wine and olive estate after all, so there’s lots to see and a few grapes on the vines to sneakily sample, ahem – off to the pool we went. We spent so much time napping beside the lapping water and floating about in that softly bubbling delight – we're Aquarians, so immersing ourselves in water is our idea of ‘ultimate relaxation’ – we needed to get back to our room fast to dry down and freshen up for dinner in the Val du Charron's latest culinary gem, the Piza e Vino.

Warm nights, Italian dinner delights

New to the Val du Charron grounds, Piza e Vino is situated in the old cellar with its beautiful stained-glass window. As the weather was absolutely enchanting we sat outside on the open terrace instead, where soft serenade-y, finger-tapping music like Voltare and Mambo Italiano melted into the magic hour sunset.

Browsing the menu is no easy task but my husband was soon quenching his thirst with Piza e Vino’s classic mojito, just right with muddled mint and lemon slices. On hearing there were no fresh cherries in stock for the chocolate-cherry shake I changed my order to the biscotti milkshake – a fortuitous event as this was hands-down my best milkshake, quite the compliment from a serial weekend milkshaker like me. It's a thick classic vanilla shake with swirls of white chocolate, ginger flavour and crunchy biscuit crumbs adding texture without blocking the straw.

We'd skipped lunch in the day so went 'big' with our food order – first up was starters of the Sesame Street chicken salad, which comprises sesame-crusted chicken breast strips in a bowl of baby spinach leaves, bursting with feta-stuffed peppadews and toasted almond flakes in a citrus dressing, as well as the zucchini bites – baby marrow slices freshly crusted in Parmesan flour and served with a honey-mustard aioli in a dipping bowl that ran out long before we were done with it. Both so good we switched halfway.

Slices so nice, savoury and sweet

For mains you're spoilt for choice but I couldn't not order pizza at a pizza place. Luckily there's a half-and-half option so I could try two options without doing too much damage to my appetite. I went for the ‘frango tandoori’, which is tandoori-marinated chicken with spicy peppadews, a minty yoghurt dressing and springs of coriander and the Porky the Pig: salami, pepperoni, bacon, caramelised onion and feta. The two sides worked well together, especially as the pizza comes with a relatively thin base served on a long-handled pizza board.

My husband changed things up a little by ordering the fettuccini di mare, a delicious seafood pasta topped with prawns, calamari, mussels and Italian parsley, as well as lemon zest, garlic, tomato, white wine and an extra splash of cream to keep things saucy. The bowl was deceptively large and he swirled in forkful after forkful, until he was, for want of a better description, “fork full”.

For dessert, we flipped a coin over sharing the dark chocolate torte or the Eton mess. Ending up on the torte on Jody’s recommendation it was just what I'd hoped for – a dark wedge of warm fudge-y tart, with fondant-style crisp topping and side dish of vanilla ice cream. Just delicious. Assisted by Jody and Ketso, who had served us at the Local Grill during our winter visit, the meal was absolutely faultless despite the restaurant being full beyond capacity on the night.

Wake up, sleepy heads!

All that was left on the agenda? A good night’s sleep and a filling breakfast. The bed was a cloud of crisp comfort and breakfast in the Local Grill the next morning was just the thing to prepare us for the road trip back home.

Filter coffee, teas and a selection of fruit juices comes complimentary for Val du Charron’s overnight guests, but you can also order specialty coffees and hot chocolates if that’s more your ‘cup of tea’. To eat, there’s a cold dishes featuring muesli, yoghurt and fruit salad and croissants – these work well as a two-course option so I stuck with them – or hot meals from the kitchen. Having sampled the fluffy omelette last time, my husband braved the full-house fry up featuring eggs any way you like ‘em, bacon, mushrooms, tomato and lots of toast. You can also order individual items to create your own custom breakfast. Service was again super speedy and efficient, par for the course at Val du Charron, ensuring we left with smiles on our faces and happy bellies all round.

You can’t go wrong with Val du Charron. It truly offers every convenience, including classy conferencing options if you’re there for business, not pleasure. The only thing missing during our stay? Fluffy white bath gowns, as experienced during our recent stay in their five-star Coachhouse. But that’s a minor detail, and makes sense when you consider most of the four-star guest house’s bathrooms feature a shower instead of a bath. Click here for my review of Val du Charron’s wine tasting, a stay in their Coachhouse and dinner at the Local Grill.

*Leigh Andrews was a guest of Val du Charron and Piza e Vino. Situated in the heart of the Bovlei Valley on the banks of the Kromme River. Val Du Charron is just ten minutes from the town of Wellington and less than an hour's drive from Cape Town. Contact them on www.vdcwines.com for rates and availability for your stay at the five-star Coach House or four-star Guesthouse, click here for current specials and here for more on Piza e Vino.

About Leigh Andrews

Leigh Andrews AKA the #MilkshakeQueen, is former Editor-in-Chief: Marketing & Media at Bizcommunity.com, with a passion for issues of diversity, inclusion and equality, and of course, gourmet food and drinks! She can be reached on Twitter at @Leigh_Andrews.

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