These aren’t one and the same, but there is a connection. After visiting Robben Island (well worth doing and there will be a post about that shortly), we stayed around the dock area to visit Panama Jacks, a restaurant Eddie had come across in his pre-trip research. It’s a fish restaurant on Cape Town’s docks and we were warned that you have to go through customs to reach it. But we weren’t warned why it is known as Cape Town’s best kept secret – because it is impossible to find.
We’d picked up a flyer in our b&b, which had a map on it, showing the customs points and a big arrow pointing to Panama Jack’s. It even had a picture of the restaurant, so you know what you are looking for. It also tells you that Panama Jack’s is Cape Town’s best kept secret. Hmm.
The customs officer very kindly gave us directions as we went through. Something about a big red boat. When we passed the big red boat, we knew we were heading in the right direction, which is some comfort when you are surrounded by roads that seem to lead nowhere and massive containers everywhere. And some seriously big lorries. But no restaurant called Panama Jack’s.
But we did find the Yacht club. They weren’t surprised that we were looking for Panama Jack’s and gave us directions that sent us back the way we’d come – to the big red boat. And a load of roads that led nowhere. But we found another checkpoint and another guard to kindly point us in the right direction. You can’t miss it, he said. But we did. But at least we spotted it, tucked down a side road, so we could screech to a halt, do a handbreak 360 turn and arrive in a squeal of tyres. Sort of.
We entered thinking this had better be worth it. And were told it was fully booked. But, we protested, it’s early and you’re empty! And some of your bookings might give up because they can’t find it! We were told we could have a table as long as they had it back by 8.30pm. (I should point out that we’d aimed to get there at about 6pm, for an early dinner and flop, exhausted into bed – after all, we had landed at the equivalent of 5am)
The meal was wonderful. And we were out at exactly 8.30, by which time Panama Jack’s was full and buzzing. We decided it was all locals enjoying the pleasure of being amongst those who knew the secret of how to find it.
Bearing in mind our pending visit to my good friend Nicky Schmidt, who lives near the Contantia wine area, we chose a bottle of Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc to go with it. It’s a nice crisp one, we were told, and that was spot on. It was a lovely crisp, fresh, sauvignon, so we decided we’d visit their vineyard.
Nicky decided to make it the first stop, which was just as well. Wine tasting has changed a bit since we were last here in 1988. Then you just wandered up to the counter and chose some wines to taste, while the proprietor told you about the wine. You could discuss it with him and then decide on which bottle to take home.
Not so in Steenberg. First you are invited to sit by the infinity pools, under a backdrop of beautiful Cape Town scenery. There are a lot of places to sit and they are all full. Then a waitress comes and offers the first taste – along with a commentary learnt by rote. This is a sparkling wine made from grapes from x area and you will find hints of this, this and that (three per taste, no more, no less) enjoy your wine goodbye. And that was it, five times over - because each tasting consists of five wines – no more no less. All very beautiful, but not exactly the personal experience we had all those years ago.
And it took a long time. Almost as long as having a meal in a restaurant. To be fair though, that could be because Nicky and I were catching up and talking matters writerly, while our husbands looked on with glazed eyes (so lovely to get one’s own back after all those tedious IT discussions he put me through). It meant there wasn’t time to visit any more, as we had a table booked at Uitsig vineyard for dinner.
Uitsig is another vineyard set in beautiful surroundings. The food is excellent and the wine list includes several 250ml caraffes, so you can mix your wines. We chose their own sauvignon blanc and their merlot, both lovely, the merlot with that vanilla smoothness you’d expect (which was lacking in the Steenberg).
To be honest, the purpose of the afternoon was to catch up with Nicky and enjoy a meal together. The wine tasting was a bonus, because Nicky, knowing we'd called this a wine tour, kindly made sure we visited some. Tomorrow, we’re off to Franschhoek, where the tasting begins in earnest.
But Steenberg will go down as Vineyard No 1. And Uitsig can be number two. Only 78 more to go!