Today it’s time to explore more of the Elgin Valley. So we’re heading to Fresh for lunch. It’s a restaurant on the Paul Cluver wine estate that offers country-style cooking. There’s a large and abundant vegetable garden on site which is a major source of inspiration for the chef who cooks with seasonal ingredients. Sounds good to me.
On summer days the tables are laid out under the trees on the lawn which sounds lovely. The day we visited it was raining – I never complain about life-giving rain, you just make another plan. So we had to eat inside. Which turned out to be lovely. There isn’t much seating and tables are communal (a chance to make new friends, perhaps) and the place has a relaxed, warm feel to it which the welcome accentuates.
The enthusiasm of the owner Niki Hall-Jones (her husband’s the chef) as she describes the dishes soon has your mouth watering. And today she was waxing lyrical about the myriad tomatoes growing in the garden. Great news for me, I seriously love tomatoes. So I didn’t have to think hard about ordering the Caprese salad – a selection of their Heirloom tomatoes served with Buffalo Ridge Mozzarella (also produced down the road) and garden basil.
I love Caprese salad and have tasted it in restaurants all over the world (well, quite a few anyway) and this was seriously up there. One of my absolute favourite dishes, as long as each of the three ingredients is top, top quality – and today they were.
And then time for more tomatoes – oven roasted and made into soup with basil pesto. It’s hard to imagine a better tomato soup, bursting with flavour and health.
On to mains. The confit duck came with char-grilled aubergines and tomatoes, wilted garden greens and a glaze of tomato chilli jam. It was also aubergine season so the veg flavours were amazing and the duck perfectly crispy while also being moist. And tomato chilli jam is a wonderful thing. Note to self – make some tomato chilli jam – and soon.
And then time for some pie. Elgin free-range chicken, leek and mushroom topped with a perfectly puffy, glossy, golden pastry. A good pie is never to be under valued and this one was polished off with relish.
While we were enjoying our lunch, Niki came over and said as we clearly loved tomatoes so much she would like to give us a bag from their garden. I simply couldn’t refuse. Here’s the cornucopia of the little treasures in their different shapes, sizes and colours. Yum!
This restaurant is so aptly named – there’s no doubt that ingredients are the freshest of the fresh. And they’re all beautifully cooked too, what a perfect combo.
Oh and Paul Cluver’s wine is also wonderful. We enjoyed a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc with our lunch, having had a sneaky tasting beforehand and left with…you’ve guessed it…another case to enjoy at home. So loving those wine tasting (and buying) lunches. We will miss them.
Fresh is just off the N2 on the Paul Cluver Wine Estate in Elgin.