Classic starters and succulent steaks at the Cattle Baron

There’s been a lot of fine dining going on recently. Have you noticed? So today it’s time to step away from the gourmet and try out a new addition to the Cattle Baron franchise for some delicious, hearty, simple food. Their motto is “The finest cut meat grilled to perfection” …bring us some of that I say.

Set just off the R44 motorway between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, it’s a welcoming, light-filled bistro-style steakhouse. And there’s so much to choose from in the book of a  menu. The list of traditional starters made me smile, so many classics.

Creamy peri peri chicken livers were served on a bed of rice. A thoroughly satisfying starter (and a hearty portion) – the melt-in-the-mouth livers in their delicately creamy sauce had a delightful background of peri-peri.

chicken livers

Tender livers in a delicate creamy sauce with a chilli bite

And who can resist a crumbed and deep fried camembert? Served here with cranberry sauce.

camembert

The creamiest of cheesy starters

And yet another classic – they just keep coming. Smoked salmon trout was seved on deep fried rosti, topped with creme fraiche, capers and thinly sliced red onions.

smoked salmon

A delightful fishy plate

If you’re after the most basic of steak combos (which we were today), there’s a range of different cuts and weights. I love that you can order a 200g steak if you’re not feeling like a large portion. My sirloin came perfectly cooked to my specified medium rare with my favourite sauce – Monkey Gland. I always horrify non-Southern Africans by ordering this and have to assure them that there are no monkeys or glands involved in making this lovely tomatoey, oniony concoction. You can read the story of this sauce and find out how to make it by clicking here. I promise you’ll want to eat it again and again – it’s simply the perfect combination with steak and crispy chips.

steak

Sirloin, chips and my favourite sauce

Cattle Baron also does a Chateaubriand for one. Now isn’t that a good idea! And it comes with both Bernaise and mushroom sauce and is served here with creamy mashed potato (you have a selection of starches). A real indulgence.

chateau

Chateaubriand for one to savour

And here’s another succulent sirloin, this time with the creamiest of champignon sauces.

steak

Another 200g sirloin, this time with mushroom sauce

All mains are served with your choice of vegetables, and I simply can’t resist the classic combination of sweetly satisfying pumpkin and delicate creamed spinach.

spinach

My favourite vegetable combination

As well as the simple grilled steaks, there’s a great range of burgers, an impressive seafood section and the “Speciality steaks that made us famous” with such mouth-wateringly tempting offers as Sirloin Nevada topped with grilled bacon, avocado, camembert and toasted onions. Plus the house specialities sound amazing – I’ve got my eye on the grilled fillet served on deep fried rosti, topped with garlic sauteed mushrooms.

But I’ll also have to leave space for dessert next time – again they’re a collection of real classics including malva pudding, creme brulee and crepes suzette. Or finish off in true South African style with a Dom Pedro – a desserty drink made by mixing ice cream with your choice of liquor. Take my word for it – they’re delicious. As was everything else we consumed with delight at this lovely classic steakhouse (there’s that word again)!

Portions are substantial, prices are great value and the service is excellent, too. A welcome addition to Stellenbosch’s restaurantland.

We visited the Cattle Baron Grill and Bistro at Kleineschuur, just off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

The fabulous Food Barn, officially one of my favourites

People are always asking me what my favourite restaurants are. Okay, I do visit a fair few but strangely enough when I’m asked the question my mind usually goes completely blank. I do think that’s partly because it depends on so many variables…the weather, your mood, the type of food you feel like and your own personal taste of course, something that even the best restaurant can’t deal with if you simply don’t like that type of food.

But a recent visit to a Cape Town restaurant helped me to think more clearly on the matter. The Food Barn in the sleepy town of Noordhoek is definitely on that list. And actually I don’t think any of the above criteria particularly matter in this case.

Chef Franck Dangereux has created the perfect formula. The restaurant is situated in an old barn which gives it a charming, relaxed feel and you’re guaranteed a good helping of fine dining, too – without all that formality that often comes along with it.

On our visit today the menu had changed significantly. Now that was a bit of a shock…there are old favourites (that word again) that people order religiously on every visit. To the extent that our friend, Candy, on seeing the new menu, asked the waitress if she could check if maybe there was the chance of her having his legendary prawn starter even though it was no longer on the menu. The chef was asked the question. His answer? No, it’s time to try something different. So we did!

I’d already seen the new rock lobster starter being advertised and had firmly made my mind up that this was for me. It came warm on a bed of glass noodles and mushrooms with a light and beautifully tasty Asian-style sauce. Plump, juicy lobster and wonderful clean flavours. Okay, that one’s a winner.

rocklobster

A beautiful and exotic lobster starter

Another starter choice, the strikingly green ravioli dish. A large parcel (now there’s an usual take on ravioli) packed with a beautiful combination of peas and tarragon served with emmental and truffle cream and tender leaf shoots. The tastes of summer on a plate with a wonderful truffle undertone.

ravioli

The luscious, plump ravioli parcel with its amazingly light and creamy sauce

Summery comfort food at its best, the home-smoked salmon came with steamed courgette ribbons, gratinated with artichoke and white truffle cream. A picture in pink and green with the soft smokiness of the salmon perfectly complimenting the slightly crunchy courgettes and the lovely gratin flavours.

salmon

A superior kind of salmon bake to savour

All Franck’s dishes take inspiration from flavours all over the world. Another reason why everyone’s taste is catered for at this establishment. The lamb rack had a decidedly Moroccan touch – roasted with crumbs and spiced honeyed apple and served with a nut and turmeric tatin, cumin and mild chilli jus and coriander yogurt.

The lamb was oh-so flavoursome and tender and all the other components with their exotic flavours and different textures made for a wonderful dish. I could have done with less jus – clearly I need to start asking for the sauce on the side. Fussy or what?

lamb

Lamb that’s soft and tender with great Moroccan flavours

The fish of the day was cooked more in a European style (with a definite Frenchness about it) with a saffron and garlic potato mousseline, petite fennel salad and a creamed fond de roche sauce. The earthy aromas of saffron welcomed the dish to the table in all its vibrant colours.

fish

A pretty and tasty fish dish

The steak dish also had some European touches served with a raclette and potato croquette (cheesy!), a shallot and syrah sauce, tarragon cream drops and wilted baby spinach. The steak was perfectly done and bursting with flavour – I’d highly recommend you go for the sirloin rather than the fillet.

steak

Sirloin steak with a wine sauce and the cheesiest of croquettes

Portions are generous at The Food Barn but you still really do have to order a portion of vegetables which they say serves two, but it’s big enough for four with your meals. The yummiest combo of carrots, courgettes and cabbage with a light, creamy sauce and plenty of herbs. You won’t regret ordering it.

veges

One of the nicest vegetable side dishes you can imagine

So now we were perfectly replete. But I’ve learnt a lesson about top-quality restaurants. Don’t ignore the desserts! We shared two between three of us and they were top-class. And light, too – we had no problem polishing them off.

This one is called Squashed Hibiscus Marshmallow. Now how can you not order that? It’s served with stone fruits, spring berries, condensed milk sorbet and lime pannacotta. Who’d have though condensed milk sorbet could be such a revelation, very clever.

marshmallow

A pudding that tastes as delicious as it looks pretty

The lime posset was served with raspberry consome, soft meringue and a raspberry tuille. Again, light, fresh tasting and beautifully constructed.

limeposset

Another dessert to wonder at

Okay, I’ve gone pretty big on my praise here, all I’m saying is it’s well justified. This lovely food is combined with great, friendly service – we asked our waitress Nicola for a bit of a break between starters and main and she organised it with a smile. There’s also a comprehensive wine list with some unusual choices that we hadn’t heard of before and it’s not going to break the bank. Hate it when restaurants overload the prices on their wine – which they often do.

Oh and if you’re lucky enough to be coming from the centre of Cape Town make sure to take a leisurely drive over Chapman’s Peak to get there. This amazing pass is built on top of a layer of granite, cut into the softer rocks above. It’s hard to find imagine a drive that’s more stunning.

ChapmansPeakDrive_View

One of many stunning views from Chapmans Peak Drive

The Food Barn is at Noordhoek Farm Village, Corner Village Lane and Noordhoek Main Road, Noordhoek.

The joy of a Sunday lunch at La Mouette

As you can imagine, one of the questions I’m most frequently asked is: “What’s your favourite restaurant?”. My usual response: “That’s an impossible question to answer…it depends on your mood, the weather, what you ate the day before…a whole menu of reasons that prevent me from sticking my neck out and naming one particular eatery. Having said that, my reasons are totally justified and it does depend…on a whole bunch of things. But today I’m going to get off my restaurant fence and say it: La Mouette is my favourite restaurant in Cape Town!

Situated just around the corner from where we’re staying in Sea Point, this fabulous local eatery opened in 2010 and we visit several times every year. It has a lovely courtyard, friendly welcoming service and a chef called Henry Vigar who is totally genius. This year it was named in the top-20 restaurants in South Africa in the Eat Out awards which is quite some achievement – it’s a country abounding in fabulous places to eat.

I always get a feeling of excitement and anticipation leading up to a La Mouette visit. Today we went for lunch for the first time (it’s only open for Sunday lunch) and it was beautiful to sit under huge umbrellas on a perfect, sunny Sea Point day. The menu was full of intriguing choices…and once we’d ordered (which took serious concentration and consideration) we were presented with a beautiful plate from the chef. This salmon gravalax with mango and fennel was wonderfully light and refreshing, the perfect start to a summer lunch. We all really loved the plates and wanted to take them home!

gravalax

A beautiful gift from the chef to get us started

I’d been desperate to taste this take on vichyssoise since seeing it posted on facebook. Such a clever idea – smoked leeks, leek ash, crispy potatoes and a leek and potato panna cotta. Served in a plump glass, the softly creamy panna cotta was perfectly complemented by the delightfully crispy strips of potato.

vicchysoise

Vicchyssoise like you’ve never tasted before

When I go out with a group of people I always seem to award a prize (in my head) for the best order of the day – not that I’m saying eating out is any sort of competition! It’s more a way of me mentally filing the dishes to order on my return. So here it is, the winning starter – the amazing roast pork dinner starter with triple cooked potatoes, mustard, pickled turnips, apple and fennel. The tenderest of pork packed with flavour with beautiful morsels of crackling. My mouth is watering just writing about it.

pork

A roast pork dinner starter – totally inspired

And then there’s the tuna. Grilled with a tamarind glaze, raisin puree, crispy cauliflower and a carrot and cauliflower emulsion. A fabulous combo of textures and flavours with wonderfully rare fresh tuna.

tuna

The most amazing of tuna starters

La Mouette’s truffle and cheese croquettes are legendary. Impossible to resist, so when no one ordered these little balls of delight I had to push the boat out and order a portion for the table. The dish has been adapted recently and now comes with mushroom pesto, grilled asparagus, truffle dressing and shaved parmesan. Wow! The most amazing of dishes is now even better. If you go to La Mouette you have to order them, treat yourself to an extra dish…you won’t regret it.

croquettes

The legendary truffle and cheese croquettes

This cornucopia of lamb from Namibia was stupendous. Loin, croquette and sweetbreads were served with chickpea puree, pistacchio crumble, shanklish, apricot and saffron.

lamb

A plateful of lamb delights to enjoy

The Franschhoek trout was a picture of pink and green and served with pea mousseline, beetroot, horseradish foam, smoked potatoes and goats cheese croquettes.

trout

Gotta love the flavours and colours of summer

Today I think I won the (virtual) prize for best main course. The beef ribeye came with the sweetest of onion chutney, amazing crushed, herby potatoes, parmesan crumble, truffle emulsion, a black pepper crust and tomato foam. The beautifully tender beef, pepper crust and the wonderfully truffly sauce was a match made in heaven. One that I devoured with gusto. Despite a range of tempting dishes on the menu I would totally order this again on my next visit!

beef

An amazingly indulgent dish with melt-in-the-mouth beef

What can I say? La Mouette’s food seems to get better and better, the presentation is amazing as you can see from these show-stopping pictures and (which does put it in a fine dining league of its own), it is fabulously good value. The six-course tasting menu is £295 (about £17), starters are R65-R70 (about £4) and mains R155-R185 (about £9-£11). I can’t imagine you’ll get better value anywhere – so much so one of our table thought the prices on the menu had to be a mistake. There’s no mistaking this is one fine restaurant…and now it’s officially my favourite in the Mother City…for now anyway (sorry I just can’t get completely off that fence).

What is your favourite restaurant in Cape Town? Or anywhere else in the world? I’d love to hear all about it from you.

La Mouette is at 78 Regent Street, Sea Point, Cape Town.