Franschhoek is, undoubtedly, the country’s culinary capital, but it has not always been the “French Corner” of South Africa. In fact, before its name change, Franschhoek was known as Oliphantshoek (Dutch for “Elephant’s Corner”) in a clear reference to the herds of pachyderms that used to roam the area.
This changed soon after 1685, when the Dutch government gave land in the valley to hundreds of exiled Frenchmen that were chased out of their country for being protestants, which was outlawed in France at the time. With the arrival of these so-called Huguenots and their settlement in the area, Oliphantshoek’s elephant-evoking name changed into the more representative Franschhoek, or the “French Corner”, instead.
To learn more about the French influence on the area, you can pay a visit to the Huguenot Museum and Monument, which portrays the fate of those fleeing religious persecution and their ancestors’ tragic stories.
At the time, the new inhabitants of the Franschhoek Valley brought with them a lot more than religious beliefs: their French flair for cooking and art-de-vivre came with them too. And so, with time, Franschhoek has become a region known for its excellent cuisine and fantastic wines, the gourmet capital of South Africa.
Even with the recognizable French imprint on the area, there is a unique South African twist to food and wine in the Franschhoek Valley, which, at only 45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, is a great plan for a gourmet escapade.
Epicurean options abound: the region is home to many renowned restaurants, numerous award-winning wine estates, and culinary hidden treasures in every corner. Fresh local ingredients paired with superb local wines are the norm: be ready for a memorable meal at one of the hot spots in town, and take the time to enjoy a delicious menu at a wine farm’s restaurant, in the heart of the Franschhoek vineyards.
The gastronomic heritage of the Franschhoek Valley is the result of a rich history of nationalities and cultures intertwined. The region’s culinary legacy is made up of a combination of the African roots from the indigenous Khoi San people; Dutch inputs dating back to their colonial times; Malaysian and Indian flavors, brought by the foreign workers that came to cultivate the land; and bien sûr, the French influence from the exiled Huguenots.
A mouth-watering mix to please the most exigent of palates. An opportunity to indulge in diverse and unique flavors paired with wonderful local wines. The Franschhoek vineyards and Valley are, without a doubt, an epicurean rendez-vous not to be missed while in South Africa.
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