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Back to the Root in the heart of the Winelands



Back to the Root in the heart of the Winelands

Neon signage above the new Root44 bar. (Photo: Supplied)

The Root44 market between Somerset West and Stellenbosch has finally reopened following an 18-month revamp and expansion. In the first outing of her new series, Louzel Lombard Steyn describes the scene and the food.

Organisers, traders and market-loving Bolanders have held their collective breath in anticipation of the return of the Root44 market and can now, finally, start to appreciate the space.

The lead-up to the current, soft relaunch had been a mess, complete with red tape and political vilification. A big sigh of relief came with the go-ahead in December 2021 and the market has since – quite anxiously – welcomed its first influx of visitors. Here’s what to expect. 

The Grub

Left: Louis Steyn enjoys a picnic on the lush lawns. (Photo: Louzel Lombard Steyn) Right: Bowls from Dashi Poké with skinny fries and BBQ chicken wings from Vlerk. (Photo: Supplied)

The allure of a market is experiencing a smörgåsbord of flavours and cuisine under one roof, and Root44 does well to represent all corners of the globe. Lekker local options include South African meatballs from Frikkadeli or the well-loved craft chicken wings from the popular market icon, Vlerk.

A few other familiar faces from the Cape Town inner city market scene feature at the new Root44. Ubon Authentic Thai is there with their generous “flamewok” noodles, alongside Dashi Poké and Tao’s Yum Dim Sum & Crazy Wok, to name a few.

From the local Winelands surrounds, Holy Dough pizza creates wood-fired fantasies from their food truck, parked right inside on the far left corner. A few other refreshing and local additions include The Lamb Man with his perfectly cooked roasts, Legendairy Creamery with their flying ice creams (yikes!) and the old Root44 darling, The Pancake Emporium.

Left: The spunky Root44 Sunrise wine trail. (Photo: Supplied) Right: Sepp’s famous Eisbein burger with crackling. (Photo: Supplied)

A firm favourite remains Sepp’s German Stall with their scrumptious Eisbein burgers – slow-cooked, prize pork knuckle that’s pulled from the bone and served in a tender bun with sweet fried onions, crispy crackling and a smudge of bitter mustard. Founder-owner of this Root44-exclusive stall Sepp Krompass was born and bred – and trained as a chef – in Munich, before coming South in the early 1970s. He now lives in Gordon’s Bay and has been serving at Root44 since before the revamp. His favourite on the menu? “My special Apfelstrudel,” of course!

Sepp says the new space has great potential, but there are still some crucial hiccups. “For us traders, the revamp has made the space cooler and more hygienic. But without a full liquor licence, it won’t be big business as you need a cold beer with our German fare.”

Left: The Lamb Man’s most prized roast on display. (Photo: Supplied) Right: Fun neon lights are suspended above the Wine Bar at Root44. (Photo: Supplied) 

The impressive new bars at Root44 are currently limited to selling only wine, due to issues with permits. It’s not an ideal situation and marketgoers are making their dissatisfaction known. However, says market organiser Tarryn Barnard, they are working tirelessly on getting the craft beer station as well as a craft gin station up and running soonest, along with a few other crucial elements.

“We do not intend to be a food and wine destination only. The arts and craft vendor application has begun to bring back our retail traders, but we do not have the timeline on when that might come through. Further applications also include permission to sell all types of alcoholic beverages – including craft beers – and open the kids play area.”

The Scene

The inner circle of the new Root44 structure with ample seating and glorious views. (Photo: Louzel Lombard Steyn)

The setting could not be more idyllic; situated in one of the world’s best-loved wine producing regions with stellar views of the vineyards to one end and the Helderberg mountains to the other, the new structure poses confidently as a gigantic black box from where to soak it all in.

Inside, on the ground floor, two massive bars create central hubs while a string of tables set up outside, along the north face of the entire inner bend of the building, provide shelter from the sun. Further out, the lush lawns are great for casual picnics in a shady spot.

Come prepared if you want to spend the entire day; pack your largest sun hat and a picnic blanket and pay that deposit for the wine cooler – it’s worth it. The plans for Root44’s future are grand.

Left: A laid back afternoon at Root44. (Photo: Supplied) Right: Swiss pastries from Yummilicious. (Photo: Supplied)

“The idea is that the entire ground floor will host the vendors and be open over the weekends. On the first floor, we are planning a handful of sit-down restaurants and a dedicated wine shop and tasting room, which will be open seven days a week. For the permanent restaurants, we are looking at local eateries, absolutely no franchises. The process has begun, however, there is no timeline on when it may be completed at this point,” Barnard says.

For now, the temporary lack of outside entertainment and facilities, for both kids and adults, does subtract a little from what is otherwise a stunning concept – one that lends itself so naturally to enjoying the surroundings. According to the organisers, red tape still hinders the full enjoyment of the space and although there are still a few empty trading cubbies, they emphasise that the current state of affairs is temporary.

Market fare: Chilli noodles from Ubon Authentic Thai (bottom left); bitterballen with mustard (top) and assorted spring rolls from Tao’s Yum Dum Sum & Crazy wok (right). (Photo: Louzel Lombard Steyn)

If all works out, this market is set to be one of the Winelands’ finest offerings in the seasons to come. DM/TGIFood

Root44Market Dogs are allowed and welcomed. There’s even a doggie bar for pooches. 

Wine purchases work with a deposit for glasses and an ice bucket. Cash works best for easy returns.

Follow Louzel on Instagram @louzellombard


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