Beautifully tasty lunch at Terroir at Kleine Zalze

Welcome to Terroir, Kleine Zalze

What is your favourite restaurant? A question I regularly get asked and one I find extremely difficult to answer. I don’t know how people make their judgements for all those “Best restaurants in the world” lists, it’s  a tricky business. Having said that, today we are having lunch at a restaurant that I would certainly put up there at the top of my list.

Terroir opened in October 2004 and I’ve been at least once every year since then when I visit Cape Town. It’s almost like an annual pilgrimage that I have to make. The restaurant is set on the Kleine Zalze wine estate near Stellenbosch and on a balmy summer day you sit under the shades overlooking the De Zalze Golf Course and the terraces of vineyards. Simply walking down those steps to Terroir gives me a sense of contentment – and of course anticipation for the food to come.

You’re know you’re going to eat beautifully presented plates of seasonal, modern South African cuisine and drink wonderful wine. The menu is chalked up on the board and as the waitress talks you through the dishes on offer freshly baked bread is served. And a bowl of their wonderfully smoky olives. Today we had a choice of four dishes per course.

Bread at Terroir

Freshly baked bread and wonderful smoked olives

Sweet and sour salmon with a difference

It was one of those days when the choice was made easy for me with two dishes I couldn’t wait to try. For my starter I chose this stunning seared salmon dish served with bacon, watermelon, sweet and sour sauce and kewpie mayo. An unusual mix of ingredients but one that worked beautifully. The salmon melted in my mouth, the sauce had a lovely sweet/sour balance with its crunchy watermelon and crispy bacon. Kewpie mayo is Japanese mayonnaise and considered by many to be the king of mayo – it was rich and creamy. And what beautiful colours!

Terroir salmon

The spectacularly sweet and tangy salmon

The perfect prawn risotto

The prawn risotto with Americaine sauce is Terroir’s signature dish – and has been on the menu as far back as I can remember – the only dish that remains on the ever-changing menu. I think there would be such an outcry if it was ever removed that they don’t dare to! I have friends who don’t even look at the menu but simply order prawn risotto every time. They can serve it in starter or main course portions. And yes, it does taste as good as it looks. This version of sauce Americaine (a classic French sauce) is truly spectacular, makes me want to lick the bowl clean.

Terroir prawn risotto

The ever-fabulous signature prawn risotto

Beef tartare to dream about

This is one of my favourite dishes and I’ve eaten it in many, many restaurants around the world. Terroir’s version is served with a soft quail’s egg, basil pesto, charred aubergine puree and asparagus ribbons. And a silken sauce to pour over. Such a pretty and indulgent plate of richness.

Terroir steak tartare

Compact and rich steak tartare

The flakiness of Kingklip

Today’s fresh line fish was kingklip, one of my favourite fish with it’s great firm texture and sweet flavour, It was served on a bed of spinach with chorizo, crispy pieces of squid and mild red pepper.

Terroir kingklip

Flaky, juicy kingklip with squid

Bring on the pork belly

The quest to eat pork belly in every corner of the Western Cape continues. The confit pork belly was served on a luscious pea veloute, with crushed potatoes, delicate sprout leaves and pickled onions.

Terroir pork belly

Sweet and tender pork belly

As I ordered two starters (one instead of a main, not as well as) I decided to treat myself to a truly indulgent side – truffled mac. Bubbling in this beautiful little pot, the rich earthy flavours and creaminess were wonderful.

Terroir truffled mac

Richly earthy truffled mac

Don’t try to resist the pudding

Desserts are equally beautiful like this amazingly dedication mille-feuille of apple with fennel, rose and vanilla ice cream.

Delicately delicious dessert

Terror does a good cheese board selection which several of us opted for. A lovely range beautifully presented with a basketful of crisp breads.

Cheese at Terroir

Tasty local cheese beautifully displayed

Biscuits at Terroir

Crunchy homemade biscuits

Menu at Terroir

Terroir’s blackboard of choices and the view beyond

Another great lunch at Terroir – as these stunning pictures prove that. I love that you can always depend on that. I can see I’ll be back again next year because it’s just too good to resist.

Today’s price point

Terroir is one of the more pricey restaurants in the region – but still great value, especially with the quality of the cooking.

We paid R1,100 for three courses for two people without wine. That’s about £65 at today’s exchange rate.

The wine list offers a good choice, including the estate’s own wine. Their delicious Kleine Zalze Merlot sells for R150.

Terror is at the Klein Zalze Wine Estate off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

Chilled-out alfresco lunch at Avontuur

Today I’m continuing on my quest to explore the restaurants of the Winelands around Somerset West. We’re visiting beautiful Avontuur for a spontaneous light lunch. Nothing wrong with that.

Avontuur has a sweeping drive that leads up between two fields enclosed by white picket fences and home to families of horses. In fact, as well as for its wine, it’s known as a thoroughbred stud farm – and is home to about a hundred horses. We saw three mothers with their foals in the field just in front of the restaurant. A beautiful sight. The horse/wine combination seems popular – read about our visit to Cavalli by clicking here.

Avontuur has a lovely verandah/terrace area set out with tables looking out across the fields and vines towards Table Mountain. Beautiful, dappled light shades the tables and we were soon settled and perusing the menu. There’s a good choice of salads, fish and meat dishes – today we were tempted by the specials.

First up, mussels in a Thai-style sauce. Simply a match made in heaven. The mussels were amazingly succulent and sweet paired beautifully with the creamiest of Asian sauces. One of those dishes where I wanted to lick the bowl. So yummy!

Lunch at Avontuur

Plump, juicy mussels in a delightful Thai sauce

The hake was served with a crunchy crust on a coconut sauce. South African hake is delicious and the flavours and textures of this lovely tower were delightful.

Lunch at Avontuur

The freshest of hake with a tower of goodies

Lunch at Avontuur

A peaceful scene in green and white

And here’s another lovely sight – the horses and their foals happy in the field in front of the restaurant.

Avontuur exudes serenity with its welcoming service, great seasonal food and sweeping views. It seems like time spent on their terrace is good for the soul…

Lunch at Avontuur

Horses are part of the view at Avontuur

Lunch at Avontuur

The perfect alfresco dining scene

Lunch at Avontuur

Views across greens and blues towards Table Mountain

Today’s price point

Lunch for two (one course each) with a bottle of wine cost R44o (about £28 at today’s exchange rate), including a tip.

Avontuur is just off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

Another great Franschhoek restaurant: Ryan’s Kitchen

Today we’re having dinner in the beautiful Winelands town of Franschhoek. About an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the valley of Franschhoek (which means French Corner in Afrikaans) was originally settled in 1688 by 176 French Huguenot refugees. There’s a definite French feel to the town with many of the settlers naming their new farms after where they came from in France.

Which means the town has a strong wine culture which, along with the stunning scenery and architecture, make Franschhoek one of the most desirable towns in South Africa. It’s also often described as South Africa’s gourmet capital as it’s packed with so many top-quality restaurants. Tonight we chose to have dinner at Ryan’s Kitchen.

It’s a welcoming, modern space with an open kitchen that’s buzzing with activity. Our table was close enough to the action to watch the meticulous presentation skills that every chef is clearly required to have to produce the beautiful plates of food that we enjoyed here.

Ryan’s goal is to produce modern South African cuisine using local ingredient, all prepared with imagination, flair and ingenuity. And he certainly didn’t disappoint.

First up, the breadboard of the year was delivered. How we loved his fabulous beer and cocoa creation, bread has never had a more enticing aroma. The other selection was an equally delicious turmeric bread.

One of the best bread offerings ever

And then what we weren’t expecting – an amuse bouche feast. Croquettes, a pea marshmallow and tasty potatoes topped with smoked fish. Wow!

Close up on the wonderful croquettes

A spoonful of pea marshmallow, who’d have thought?

Smoky fish and delicate potato flavours

Now that got the meal off to a great start…particularly as we were feeling incredibly hungry after a day exploring on the Wine Tram. And we hadn’t even started on our starters yet.

The duck egg 63C was served with seasonal salad greens, asparagus cream, rye wafer and black garlic aioli. A wonderful mixture of flavours and textures with the perfectly (and scientifically) cooked egg. A proper fresh start.

Beautiful colours and flavours bring the whole dish together

Here’s a real innovative dish – a pulled duck koeksister with sweet potato, chicory, vegetable dice and coconut broth. A koeksister (a traditional Afrikaans treat)  is usually sweet – fried dough infused with syrup or honey (loads of it).It’s derived from the Dutch word koek which generally means a wheat flour confectionary. So today’s revelation was a savoury version, full of rich and luscious pulled duck served in a creamy broth.

Koeksisters don’t get better looking than this

The Karoo lamb belly was slow cooked and served with smoked green chakalaka, sweetbreads and spiced peanuts. Chakalaka is a traditional South African relish, though it’s normally tomato-based, Ryan has taken it to a different place – love what he’s doing with the local favourites.

A vibrant plate of lamb delight

The grass-fed beef sirloin steak was served with lime and lemongrass, coconut creamed spinach and heirloom carrots. More Asian flavours being introduced here with delicious results.

A delicate tower of steak with an Asian touch

Another great South African ingredient – springbok – was served with runner bean relish, pressed potato, fried eggplant and broccoli puree. Perfectly rare with crispy accompaniments.

Tasty springbok with a touch of green

Phew, that was all quite something. There’s a lot going on in Ryan’s dishes – though I’m pleased to say we all thought everything worked really well together.

The portions are certainly substantial and with the unexpected addition of fabulous bread and amuse bouche we were all feeling rather replete.

But that didn’t stop us from ordering dessert – and thank goodness for that. This is one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten, never have I experienced such a souffle spectacle. The smoked plum souffle was cooked with curry leaf and served with buffalo yogurt ice-cream. It was fluffy, pink and melt-in-the-mouth, like clouds of heaven delivered to our table. As well as adding that perfect pinkness,  the plum gave a lovely tart flavour.

The queen of all the souffles

A dessert so good I had to show it from two angles

We also shared the vanilla custard which came with mango, mango sorbet, candied pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed ice-cream.

Delicate beauty on a plate

Now that was quite a feast. It’s definitely hearty fare at Ryan’s Kitchen so I’d advise working up an appetite before you tuck into his inspired dishes.

Thanks to my friend Candy and her great photography skills for the pictures of the duck koeksister and springbok steak – my efforts were blurred…yes, it does happen, especially when you’ve spent the afternoon wine tramming around the stunning Franschhoek valley.

Ryan’s Kitchen is at 1 Place Vendome, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. You see it’s very French in Franschhoek.

Coming soon!

Find out all about our adventure on the fabulous Franschhoek Wine Tram.

You’re gonna want to climb onboard, believe me.

 

Tasty tapas at Spek & Bone in Stellenbosch

Today we’re in the beautiful university town of Stellenbosch. Majestic tree-lined streets, quirky shops and bars and a happy buzz, this university town offers many dining opportunities. One of the newest ones is chef Bertus Basson’s (of the famed Overture) latest venture, Spek & Bone.

The restaurant is named after his pet pig Spek (it means bacon in Afrikaans, poor Spek) and his boxer dog, Bone – who are best friends! There are plenty of pictures of the two of them scattered around the restaurant which is set back from busy Dorp Street down through a narrow passage to a welcoming courtyard shaded by an enormous tree.

Welcome to the road to Spek & Bone

Despite being a new opening there’s already a lot of history here. The wall on the left as you come in used to be the original market of Stellenbosch. And the huge tree you’re sitting under is the oldest fruit-producing vine in Stellenbosch. So take in your surroundings before settling down to peruse the menu which is a range of tapas-style dishes.

We started with this amazing dish of pork crackling topped with maple bacon. The lightest of crackling with great crunch combined perfectly with the slightly sticky sweetness of the bacon.

The amazing potato dish was cooked in camembert and topped with crispy bacon and thinly sliced spring onions.

Next up, fish tacos. Fresh tuna with a mix of avocado, cabbage, red onions and peppery radishes. Love a fish taco and these were beautiful with the crunchy vegetables and zesty flavours.

The Chalmar sirloin was served with a Monkey Gland baste, mushrooms, spinach puree and croquettes. Perfectly cooked medium-rare steak and a wonderful marriage of ingredients. Loved the depth of flavour of the spinach which somehow lifted the whole dish.

Spek & Bone is wonderful. We stopped off there on our way home from a visit to Franschhoek (more of which later) where we’d eaten rather a lot over the past 24 hours, so tapas suited us perfectly and we didn’t order that much. Having said that, I thought the portions were very generous.

I did feel somewhat conflicted eating bacon and crackling considering the name of the restaurant. But don’t worry, Spek is safe. The story on the menu assures us that he will never be eaten – “he sleeps on the couch and we love him dearly”. Thank goodness for that.

Right next-door is the legendary store – Oom Samie Se Winkel (which means Uncle Sammy’s shop), a Victorian-style shop that sells all food, gifts, souvenirs, antiques and all sorts of goodies. It’s a Stellenbosch institution since 1904 that’s set out over 10 rooms and it’s really well worth a visit.

Pop in and visit Oom Samie

Today’s price point

Lunch for three cost R540 (£32 at today’s exchange rate).

This included the dishes above, a lovely bottle of Rose and service.

Spek & Bone is at 84 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch.

Tasty local fare at The Gallery at South Hill

Today we’re heading for the wine growing region of Elgin. It’s about an hour’s drive from the centre of Cape Town over the magnificence of Sir Lowry’s Pass which is a real feat of engineering with stunning views. As roads go it’s in a league of its own. And once you reach the other side you’re in a different world…the world of Elgin. A get-away-from-it all destination with fabulous food and wine to sample – just up my street. And also an area that I didn’t know much about before, so time for a voyage of discovery. And I’m going to start by discovering a new restaurant. Why wouldn’t ya?

Turning off the motorway down a winding road past vineyards and apple orchards (Elgin is officially Apple Country and the trees are laden with them at this time of year), we headed for South Hill vineyards, set in its beautiful valley. The restaurant, The Gallery looks out over their Cabernet Sauvignon vines. It’s a light-filled, airy space with a lovely little bar and seating on the lawn. The perfect place to settle in for a little pre-lunch wine tasting and take in the tranquility that is South Hill.

South Hill’s wines are simply wonderful (more of that in later post). I can’t go wine tasting without purchasing a selection of new beverages to take home…is it just me? So the inevitable transactions took place and then it was time to eat. Lunch is served here from Wednesday to Sunday and the bistro-style menu today had a choice of six starters and mains made using local, seasonal ingredients.

First up a little something extra from the kitchen, a vibrant, tasty pea soup. Simply yum, a classic dish that I’m going to make more often myself. Love sipping soup from a mini cup.

peasoup

The beautifully sweet and creamy pea soup

Continuing on today’s pea theme, this is one of the nicest starters I’ve had this year. Goat’s cheese wrapped in cured ham and baked and served with a pea panna cotta. I say it all the time, I love a panna cotta but I’d never experienced the joy of a savoury one before. My life hadn’t been complete…the warm creaminess of the cheese, the saltiness of the ham and the sweetness of the melting pea panna cotta made for a dreamy combination.

goatscheese

A fresh summery starter

The soup of the day was tomato. It seems that Elgin tomatoes are in a class of their own, producing a beautifully sweet and flavoursome vibrantly red soup.

tomato soup

Beautifully fresh tomato soup

The Indonesian chicken came stir fried with noodles, vegetables, sesame seeds and soya.

chicken

Asian-style stir-fried noodles with chicken

The rib-eye beef burger came topped with a generous helping of sweet caramelised balsamic onions, crispy fries and salad. A good burger is hard to beat and this was right up there, obviously made from superior beef and perfectly cooked.

burgers

A meat and juicy burger

As I said Elgin is Apple Country so when you spot an apple tart on the menu you simply have to order it. Served here with bourbon vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, with a light, flaky pastry and thin slices of the lovely local fruit.

appletart

Light, flaky apple tart

And then time for a chocolate fix with the chocolate orange fondant and vanilla ice cream. A grown-up version of ice cream and chocolate sauce with the warm chocolatey centre oozing out gently over the ice cream and the delicately zesty orange flavours.

choc

Indulgent chocolate fondant and ice cream

What a good start that was to my Elgin Odyssey…and there’s plenty more to come. Watch this space.

The Gallery restaurant is at South Hill Vineyards, Valley Road, Elgin.

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.