I have never lived in Noordhoek. I spend a lot of time there visiting friends, through work and through social events but I have never stayed there. I recently had the privilege to look after a friend’s home and stayed in Noordhoek for a week – to discover so much more than as a regular visitor.
For those who don’t know – Noordhoek (which means Northern Corner) is tucked onto the southern slopes of Chapman’s Peak Drive –one of the most scenic coastal drives on the planet. Chappies as it is fondly known became “my” road during my week in Noordhoek – I went for a gorgeous sunset run along the southern slopes with a view over the extensive white expanse of Noordhoek Beach and golden sandstone rocks on the mountain side. I felt quite smug as I trotted along this majestic curved road – knowing this was my back garden for a week, whilst others have travelled across the globe to traverse it just once in a lifetime.
Chappies is also a quick and easy route to the city – the entire journey takes just 30 minutes with none of the peak hour traffic which has become more prominent in Cape Town in recent years. I also got the opportunity to chat to the Shark Spotters and the amazing work they do watching for sharks with a system to warn surfers, if a shark is in the waters below.
My first full day in Noordhoek happened to be a Saturday and as it was near the end of the picnic season, I gathered a few friends and WALKED to the Cape Point Vineyards picnic area just off Silvermine Road. This has to be one of the best kept secrets in Cape Town- although sadly it is only a summer occasion! An expansive lawn and picturesque dam with views right out the Atlantic Ocean – one feels you could almost see Brazil! The set-up is wonderful – we bought a meat and cheese platter, ordered a bottle of Splattered Toad and a bottle of the award winning Cape Point Vineyards sauvignon blanc and settled down under the big trees to sip, chat, eat and drink- the kids climbed on the jungle gym, ran around the dam and onto the jetty to “fish” and look at the ducks, leaving the adults to “kuier” (a great Afrikaans word meaning to visit!). Picnic’s are open from 12 – 3pm and for sundowners from 5-8pm in summer.
Sunday dawned just slightly overcast so I headed to Silvermine Nature Reserve for a hike – there is a gentle circuit which many people were doing with their children around the dam. We headed along the Silvermine Loop up to Noordhoek Peak which has glorious views over the fishing village of Hout Bay. Fresh mountain air, the smell of fynbos & an ocean breeze was enough to make us starving so we headed back down for a quick shower and wandered over to Cafe Roux at Noordhoek Farm Village for lunch.
Cafe Roux is a Sunday institution. It is a gathering of the locals and their friends- the place gets very full, kids play merrily and it would be very hard to identify the parents of a specific child – but each adult seems to collectively watch all the children. Tables seem to share drinks, food and conversations with consummate ease. Every Sunday live acoustic music starts around 2pm and each group of diners merges into a single unit – frequently with a bit of Sunday evening dancing.
The week in Noordhoek was magical – there is something to be said for waking up and looking out at a vast expanse of sea and sky from your bed!!! I would head over to Noordhoek Farm Village most mornings for coffee from the Foodbarn Deli – okay yes I did get a croissant too! I also cleverly arranged a couple of meetings in Noordhoek – ordinarily I would have been at Cafe Roux over the lunch time slot, but as De Noordhoek Hotel has just started offering sushi at their restaurant, I was swayed to the sushi , which was delicious, very reasonably priced and a quiet haven for having an excellent meeting.
I woke up frightfully early one morning and headed down to the beach for a stroll. In other neighbourhoods dog owners gather at the local park and nod at each other. In Noordhoek the dog walkers greet each other and have conversations, and what’s more there are couples, solo contemplative sorts, surfers and horse riders – all on the beach on an average weekday –simply doing what Noordhoekers do – feeding the soul!!!
Horses are very common in Noordhoek and the suburb is well known for its’ beach horse riding, which can be booked through Cape Point Route. Walking or driving around Noordhoek you will see horses grazing in paddocks and riders walking down the leafy lanes. I am still surprised that horses don’t have a right of way sign in Noordhoek. Noordhoek Common is a busy open space used by all locals in a similar way to the beach (just the surfers are missing!) Horses and neighbours share the streets – I am not aware of any other Cape Town suburb where the children play on the streets and friends walk to each other’s homes. As a new Noordhoeker – I was surprised and delighted by the friendly waves of the neighbours who seemed to know that I was there and making me feel welcome.
Evenings in Noordhoek were a diverse array of entertainment. Tuesdays are “Quiz night” so I popped down to the Toad in the Village to check out the brains of Noordhoek (and surrounds). It’s a highly competitive event with pride at stake…but amidst the grey matter ticking, there was delightful banter, chirping the quiz master and all in all a lot of fun. The regular teams greeted newcomers with a genuine handshake, smile and introduction to show they’d really like to know thy neighbour (and beat them at the game!) And to top it off I actually branched out to try the Thai Chicken Curry instead of the usual Camembert Chicken Pizza that I order. It was delicious and is a huge incentive to go back to the Toad on a Monday evening which is Curry Night!
On Wednesday I was fortunate enough to be in Noordhoek for the first of the Foodbarn Cooking Demonstrations of the winter season. Franck Dangereux – the master chef behind the delectable dishes at the restaurant offers a free cooking demonstration every Wednesday evening in winter and it’s free with your dinner booking. What a wonderful experience! Franck whipped up caramelised onion tarts with calamari for starters, Rack of lamb with risotto for main and panacotta for dessert. He managed to make it look so easy but the delight was the open, interactive tone of the evening. Franck is so accessible to answer questions, he was entertaining, funny and very real. He really does demystify the art of cooking.
Feeling inspired by Franck’s cooking I invited friends around for dinner on Thursday. I am not a natural hostess so prefer easy preparation! Stopping at Longbeach Mall to pick up some basics was quick, easy and stress free – such a change from the chaos of my local mall in the city! I confess that I cheated on the dessert – the Foodbarn Deli won the best bakery in the Western Cape award so it was a no-brainer to pick up an apple pie for my guests. (the hardest part was choosing which tart!). My guests arrived in time for the glowing sky of a Noordhoek sunset – so I was off to a good start in impressing them!
Friday is normally Braai night in Noordhoek – either at home or at Cafe Roux in summer. I was very disappointed as “Braai Season” at Cafe Roux had officially ended – although it didn’t stop the locals gathering in Noordhoek Farm Village for a drink after work, meandering from the bar at Cafe Roux to the Toad – which has that friendly pub feel. I do get the sense of being in a small country village in England with the country pub on the village green as the village meeting spot! I actually wanted to test out the Tapas however so meandered into the Foodbarn Deli which turns into a Tapas Restaurant in the evenings. I was sitting at the big table with some new faces. Tapas is generally smaller dishes that can be shared and I love how the concept brings people together over conversations and ideas and a good bottle of wine off the shelf certainly helps!
Saturday was my last day in Noordhoek so I had pre booked a full body massage at Caroline’s Health and Beauty Spa in the Village before departing. In my relaxed, dazed state I realised I had forgotten a gift for a friend’s birthday party that afternoon so I nipped into the shops and found a lovely Carrol Boyes item to solve the problem! I headed back to my Noordhoek home and packed my bags with a reluctant slowness, knowing that my idyllic week of friendliness, open space, fine quality products and a lifestyle that belongs to dreams was coming to an end. I know that I will have many more days in Noordhoek and I will be visiting regularly but there is something to be said for living in a community that embraces the goodness in life.
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