Set in the vineyard covered valleys between Stellenbosch and Somerset West, you couldn’t dream of a more serene setting for a market. And the scenery is merely the beginning of a market experience like no other.
This freshly established and truly unique market goes above and beyond the highest expectations. Having been planned for two years, the Root44 market debuted in the second weekend of January this year with a charming, fresh family vibe. It was a particularly gusty Saturday afternoon on my first visit – uncommon weather for the area – yet people gathered in throngs, enjoying every element that Root44 has to offer.
Entering the first modest tent through an avenue of lush trees is to be transported into a labyrinth of textures, tints and titillation. Boasting not only home made jewellery, photo frames, clothing and carpets but also a book stall and a beanbag chill-out lounge, one could easily become lost in this tent for the day. But the food tent also calls, and patrons will find their feet leading them there as inevitably as a cartoon character floating after a visible scent trail.
Of course it is expected that every reputable market should include a fabulous food selection. Root44’s, however, is astounding; a global miscellany of tastebud satisfaction. It certainly was the favourite for me, a food lover of note. There is German food and premium ciders, beers on tap, Thai and Halaal temptations but to name a few. As well as the foreign flavours, there are plenty of South African favourites such as vetkoek, pies, biltong and Transkei tapas. I devoured a delectable lamb and rosemary pie for R 20, purchased from the smiling employee of The Gourmet Pantry and wished I had room to try more. An elevated stage with live music provides entertainment, and there are plenty of tables at which to simply sit and savour it all. Audacia Winery has set up a wine tasting stall for the enthusiasts, and the homemade cupcake stand has a charming cupcake decorating table for the creative dessert-lovers. The overall ambience could coax anyone to stay a while.
And you can stay til closing in the mid-afternoon, even if you have little ones. Funzone has collaborated with Root44 to supply the kids with a selection of activities that could keep them entertained for hours. The large kids’ tent has a garden-themed carnival ride where they can be swept away on a ladybug, as well as an inflatable shooting alley with fluffy prizes. For the more adventurous ones, outside the tent there are three trampolines fitted with safety harnesses and a colourful train that I spotted travelling around the vineyards. At R 10 a kid (or adult – no bias here!) this little choo-choo doesn’t stop running from 9am to 3pm.
I had a chance to chat with one of the managers, Kayo McGregor, about Root44’s future plans, being a relatively new market in the area. He informed me with confidence it aims to become “the Kirstenbosch of Stellenbosch”. This means catering to a wider demographic which includes the trendy 20-30somethings who want to socialise away from the usual smokey bars and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. In promotion of healthy living, the market welcomes an early morning crowd of Park Run participants who have a post-run breakfast together when the market opens at 9am. There are also plans underway to host an event on Sundays for those who enjoy mountain biking, too. There’s even a tree nursery of trees run by Trees SA – yet another external partnership of Root44. And for the more relaxed side of students and young professionals, there are regular musical performances between 12 and 3pm on the outside stage, accompanied by a cocktail bar with a wide selection of drinks and plenty of tabled seating, as well as a conveniently placed ATM.
This fabulous indoor/outdoor market is an enchanting experience. I’d suggest you arrange with family and friends to make the trip out to this gorgeous Winelands spot, and take a piece of this heavenly experience home with you.
Jacqueline Midgley visited the Root44 market on 6 July 2013. The market can be found on the R44 next to the strawberry farm. Abundant parking is provided with dedicated marshals.