A trip to Franschhoek in the beautiful Cape Winelands means some serious decision making. Most importantly – where to book for dinner.
This year it was made easier for me because there’s a new restaurant I’ve been dying to try. Foliage is set on Franschhoek’s main street and is the baby of chef Chris Erasmus who used to be at the helm of Pierneef at La Motte (and made it famous).
Chris is passionate about wild ingredients and I’m told you can often spot him cycling around the valleys foraging for something exotic. And that’s a great word to describe a visit to Foliage – it’s exotic. And exciting – from the moment you’re handed the menu you need to be adventurous, throw caution to the wind and embark on an amazing journey.
You’re not quite sure what you’re going to get, despite detailed menu descriptions. We had plenty of questions for our waiter – what a joy to discover lots of new ingredients I’d never heard of before and such an inventive style of cooking.
The slow-roasted prime rib came with egg, radish salad, parmesan and fermented chilli dressing. The tenderest of tasty rare beef surrounded by an amazing array of flavours and textures.
The confit duck and foie gras rillette came with wild fig and thistle cured cream, nastergal and lamb crackling brioche, caramelised milk skin and granadilla vinaigrette. It’s hard to imagine a prettier or more intriguing plate of food…wild figs and thistles, lamb crackling brioche…this is the type of dish to get really excited about!
The menu had put me in adventurous mood so I ordered an amazingly different starter. Vadouvan and almond spatzle, peas and fennel, poached Spier egg and pea veloute. Vadouvan is an Indian spice blend and spatzle are little German noodle-y dumplings, so that’s a pretty exotic start. The egg was crumbed and deep fried, and spilled its yolky deliciousness over the dumplings while the peas and fennel added an amazing sweetness. I’ve never had a starter anything like this and I’d order it again without hesitation. I love that food is a never ending learning experience.
And then there’s the beautiful basil, lime and chilli tuna tartar which came with spicy avocado and horseradish puree, preserved lemon yogurt and mango atjar. An enticing combination.
On to mains. I don’t remember the last time I found menu choices so difficult. There were nine options and they all sounded fabulous – even the vegetarian ones. How about pan-fried smoked cauliflower, watermelon glaze, golden beets and rooibos mascarpone – sounds wonderful to me?
I went very meaty with the brambleberry and mallow-glazed sweetbreads and smoked spare ribs, charred corn and marrog barley, river herbs and berries. Wow! A beautifully soft and tender dish with an amazing richness and depth, zesty fresh berries and smoky corn. Unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before.
Chef Chris had recently visited India for inspiration and produced this delectable smoked pork and potato curry which was served with naan bread, heirloom tomatoes and chakalaka salad – a beautiful fusion of flavours from different continents, including kashmiri chilli which added a little something extra.
Meat lovers need look no further than this boerbok and tongue en crepinette, grilled springbok, roasted bone marrow, purslane, mushroom and oyster with honeybush jus. The boerbok and tongue was made into the best sausage I’ve ever tasted. The bone marrow was rich and satisfying and the springbok packed with flavour. Love it!
By this stage we were all more than satisfied until I spotted panna cotta on the dessert menu. A pud I can’t resist, so I convinced the table that we should share one. The lavender and yogurt panna cotta came with a delectable nectarine and honey jus and plenty of berries.
Foliage is truly an adventurous night out with a cornucopia of combinations to try. And although the cooking is clearly complicated, it doesn’t seem at all fussy or overwhelming – and everything just tastes so good. Pure genius!
Foliage is at 11 Huguenot Street, Franschhoek.