Whilst researching, interviewing chefs and reviewing restaurants for print magazine articles and for the autumn edition of the Gourmet Guide e-mag, I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time in Franschhoek and surrounds. Let me share some of the highlights with you.
LE PETIT MANOIR
The prime spot on main road of Franschhoek, opposite the landmark church, is Le Petit Manoir. It is here that Kevin Grobler, former head chef at Restaurant JAN in Nice, is making waves. Whilst many may think that he came to give the current award-winning chefs in the valley a run for their money, he was inspired to settle here because of the standards and healthy competition that the chefs of Franschhoek are committed to. What has further inspired, and surprised him, is their unity, how they work together, share suppliers and support one another. Kevin is talented and innovative, and making the most of local produce. His describes his food as local, and clean, allowing the produce to do the talking. Simplicity is one of the greatest compliments I can award a chef, and his food is uncontrived. He embraces slow techniques and believes that using cheaper cuts show skill and take time to prepare. His dishes are impressive – I requested that Kevin design my three-course choice. I started with the goats’ cheese and zucchini roulade, with asparagus, a pea pesto and pea sponge. My main dish of lamb loin, kidney and belly with caramelized onion and aubergine oozed flavour. Whilst perusing the menu between courses I caught sight of the dessert, and secreted wished for his fennel mousse, with lemon sponge, lime meringue and buttermilk and lime sorbet. It was sublime.
If you wish to enjoy a breakfast, lunch or dinner, treat yourself to an overnight stay in one of the four beautifully appointed suites upstairs – testament to the talents of partners Brian, JP and Frank whose vision was to create a luxurious, unforgettable destination.
I was delighted that my man wanted to buy wine at Babylonstoren. I headed to their scented room for an appropriate sensory start to a weekend in the winelands, while he tasted wines and stocked up for the festive season. It is an emporium of sensual delights, from visual to tactile and taste.
Suitably calmed and ready for a light lunch, we headed to Protégé in Franschhoek where we planned to simply have a glass of wine and to share a few delectable plates, saving space for dinner. We settled outside, enjoying the casual, comfortable atmosphere and friendly service. The spectrum of dishes dreamed up by Scot Kirton and his protégé Stephen Raaff, who honed his skills at La Colombe, are enticing, and guaranteed to exceed expectations. I scoffed too many edamame beans before devouring the tuna tataki and tartare, a dish that we will return for (thank goodness we each had our own to avoid a marital dispute!). The Korean fried chicken with coriander and buttermilk was hearty and flavourful and the Asian barbecue pork belly and prawns a winner. I happened to comment to Stephen that his flavour combinations are appealing, like his mussels with chilli, lemongrass and ginger – and voila, they appeared! We left sated, impressed and determined to return to enjoy all the other dishes on the menu. It will now be my treat to write about this newbie for a Food & Home Entertaining feature story.
After a friendly welcome by Santé management we headed to the spa for an afternoon of winding down and working off lunch. Now owned by Graham and Ingrid Hindle, the Santé Wellness Spa and Retreat has been restored and re-energised. A member of the Healing Hotels of the World, this is where you come to unwind and improve your health and energy. We were there to meet chef Terrence Ford, who is embracing a new cuisine – without sugar, gluten, diary and preservatives. That evening he presented his monthly ‘Chefs Sharing Secrets’ dinners, at which a three-course dinner is prepared with diners watching him and his team at work. Either Terrance or Dr Helen Muir unveil the secrets about healthy eating, this time about healthy holidays so that instead of depriving yourself, you simply make better choices. The dinner, accompanied by Avondale wines (all wines in their cellar are organic or bio-dynamic), was delicious, clearly demonstrating that healthy does not need to be boring. Over breakfast the next morning, after a good night’s rest in one of the beautifully appointed retreat rooms, we chatted to Stephen about his philosophy and this way of cooking. Book into the day spa or treat yourself to a two-day retreat package. For more about the ‘Chefs Sharing Secrets’, be sure to visit www.gourmetguide.co.za for the Autumn issue of the Gourmet Guide e-mag in March.
GÅTE RESTAURANT AT QUOIN ROCK
It was with great anticipation that we arrived at Gåte restaurant on the Quoin Rock estate in the Knorhoek Valley of Stellenbosch for a 16-course luncheon. One is blown away by the setting from the start. No expense has been spared, and no attention to detail overlooked in this 40-seater restaurant.
A menu of fun dining, a series of surprises has been designed by mischievous Michelin-starred chef Rikku O’Donnchu to entertain and enthrall. Much of the appeal is in the service (given with aplomb) and a touch of theatre. Rather than spoiling the surprises now, know that I will reveal more in the March edition of the Gourmet Guide e-mag. This is to whet your appetite for something special, different and daring.
If you haven’t yet read or downloaded our new free seasonal Gourmet Guide online magazine, you’re missing out! The summer edition is packed with international and local travel, where to eat, what’s in season and plenty of delicious recipes. There are some haute giveaways from NOMU, Pierre Jourdan, Sexy Socks and Cherry Chouffe, so get entering. Visit www.gourmetguide.co.za to get your hands on a copy to enjoy.