December 2013 saw our second visit to Vergelegen in as many months. We had been invited to attend a picnic at the estate to celebrate a friend’s 70th birthday. The picnic area is just past the impressive rose garden, and the tables are well spaced out among the camphor trees in the enchanted forest.
Wine and Alcohol
The estate wine is on offer, at cellar door prices, as well as beers and ciders.
The picnic boxes contain various platters divided into breads and pâtés, pastry and salad, charcuterie, cheese and dessert. I lavished my bread roll with the farm butter as well as some very average hummus and what is described on the menu as a mushroom and biltong paté but what tasted more like an olive tapenade to me. The courgette and Parmesan tart was very tasty and the potato and lentil salad did not rock my boat at all! On the same plate was an assortment of vegetables including green beans, broccoli, carrots and courgettes. The Parma style ham was lightly cured and thankfully one person chose not to sit at our table and so we had her portion to share. The peppered roast beef was served with crunchy pickled gherkins and some really strong pickled onions, which I love. The pork pie was not a traditional pork pie and lacked in flavour – which I expect would have come from the Cape country mustard if it had been in the picnic box. We also had a piece of cold poached salmon which was quite warm by the time we opened our picnic boxes. They stood next to the tables for about 2 hours and don’t have an ice block in them to keep the contents cool. The salmon benefited from the addition of the lemon mayonnaise and a generous grinding of salt.
The cheese platter had some average Forest Hill brie, a piece of Healy’s mature cheddar which I know is good, but the heat really got to it, as well as some stunning Cremelat Gorgonzola. There were crackers, fig preserve and toasted walnuts served with the cheese platter which I did not taste. Thankfully dessert was served separately and did not suffer from the heat. It was a potted mixed berry cheese cake and I would have loved to have seen an extra layer of crumble in the middle. It was tasty as is but could have been made better with more crunch.
Having had excellent service at Camphors I expected the same for the picnic. The picnic baskets are placed at the table before the guests arrive and all the waitrons have to do is clear plates and carry out drinks orders. Plates were cleared before people were finished eating, and cutlery was not replenished. Drinks orders were slow in coming out and many were wrong. The waiter seemed most upset having to correct drinks orders and some items listed on the menu were not available. Ice was hard to come by and the waiter was not impressed when we asked for our coffee with our dessert – as advertised on the menu. The lack of good service is most upsetting when a 10% gratuity is added on to the bill for tables of 8 or more – we were 30 people!
It is absolutely fantastic to sit under the camphor trees and be totally protected from the heat and the sun. I am not sure what it would be like on a windy day, but the weather was perfect for a picnic on the day we went.
Vegetarian picnics are available on request. Kiddies baskets are available which include a treasure map, jelly beans and a juice.
Telephone Number: +27 21 847 1346 reservations essential
Open: Lunch November to April
Cost per head: R195 including coffee but no other drinks and excluding entrance to the estate
Corkage: not listed
Food type: selection of small things
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