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.

 

Creamy baked eggs with garlic and chilli

Baked eggs are an old favourite of my childhood. Popped into the oven topped with cheese, a simple dish that makes such a comforting breakfast. Of course there are many ways to bake an egg and this indulgent creamy recipe makes for a fabulous light lunch – or even a starter for dinner.

This easy recipe with few ingredients tastes absolutely stupendous. I added one chilli for a bit of bite but if you’re a fan of hot food experimenting with your chilli-ness.

I cooked this in Spain where I bought these beautiful little dishes in the local ceramico for €1.30. I’m sure they made the eggs taste even better!

CREAMY BAKED EGGS WITH GARLIC AND CHILLI

Serves 4

eggs

A bowl of delicious creaminess

20g butter

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

150g mushrooms, chopped

1 dried red chilli, crushed

100g ham, chopped

200ml double cream

Ground black pepper

4 eggs

150g mature cheddar, grated

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the garlic, mushrooms, and chilli over a medium heat for 10 mins.

Add the ham and fry for another 5 mins.

Remove from the heat and stir in the double cream. Season with black pepper.

Divide the mix between four ramekins and leave to stand for about 10 mins to let the flavours develop.

Make a hollow in the middle of the mixture and carefully break in an egg.

Bake in the oven for 20 mins until the egg whites have set.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle the grated cheddar on top and bake for another 5 mins.

Serve immediately.

Three-eggs-Picture-C

 

We treated ourselves to Dinner by Heston

Well, having been totally unimpressed by the fact that I had only been to three of the restaurants voted in the San Pellegrino Acqua Panna Top-100 in the world, I decided I simply had to do something about it. The easiest solution – go to lunch at Dinner by Heston. It’s in Knightsbridge in London which is close to home.

As luck would have it, Sarah, one of my travelling companions from Italy last year, and I had planned to meet for lunch and she jumped at the suggestion…and I managed to get a table. Dinner is ranked seventh in the world.

One of the many great things about London is that a lot of the top restaurants do amazing lunch deals. Dinner is one of them – and you can have a three-course lunch for £36. So, not such an indulgence really.(Sorry if this Dinner/Lunch thing is getting confusing – to clarify, the restaurant’s called Dinner and we went for lunch.)

I walked in to be greeted by smiling, welcoming faces, a beautiful view across  Hyde Park and the news that we’d been given a table by the window. Great start…which got me all excited and led to me ordering a glass of pink champagne without looking at the wine list, oh well, caution to the wind and all that.

Heston’s menu is based on serious historical research on food through the centuries in the UK. Each dish has the approximate year it was around and there are cross references to where you can find out more about them. Clever concept.

After mouthwatering descriptions of the array of amazing dishes on offer we were a bit confused. So we decided that we’d go for the set menu (which offers a choice of two dishes for each course) and order both options and share. So I got to taste six dishes…fantastic.

Of course having fended off the more expensive food options we then, somehow, without too much hesitation decided to go big with the wine and have the sommelier’s recommendations with each course (by the glass, obviously). It’s such an amazing way to eat but obviously busts the budget.

Sarah and I are perfect dining companions because we both love food and eating out so much. When our food arrived, we literally ate half of our plateful and swapped. Probably not the most refined way of doing things and it did confuse the waitress, but it’s a great way to really get a feel for the food and taste as much as possible.

The amazing mackerel starter that was almost like mackerel sashimi and served with the thinnest slivers of fennel ever on amazing preserved lemon. The textures and flavours were simply fabulous.

Grilled Hay Smoked Mackerel with lemon salad, fennel and pea shoots

Grilled Hay Smoked Mackerel with lemon salad, fennel and pea shoots

The dressed snails arrived in a garden. Well, that’s what it looked like, a garden on a plate. Smoked beetroot was very smokey and the salty fingers were very salty, a seriously flavoursome garden.

Dressed snails with parsley, beetroot, salty fingers and red wine

Dressed snails with parsley, beetroot, salty fingers and red wine

The quail was quite substantial and so tasty, it just felt like a dish that a lot of time and effort had been put into creating. And Sarah even loved the cabbage, though she doesn’t like cabbage – what can I say?

Roast quail with cabbage, onion and smoked chestnut

Roast quail with cabbage, onion and smoked chestnut

The amazing seared salmon was so delicate and the musselly broth delicious. A real melt-in-the-mouth kind of dish.

Cured salmon with monks beard, peas, caper and mussel broth

Cured salmon with monks beard, peas, caper and mussel broth

And then desserts. As you will know if you read this blog regularly, I’m not much of a dessert person. Well, take my word for it – if you’re in a Heston Blumenthal restaurant you simply have to order dessert. Seriously, don’t even think twice.

The orange loaf was the best dessert I’ve ever eaten – I think mainly because it had that lovely, slightly bitter marmaladey flavour. And mandarin and thyme sorbet, really, sorbet doesn’t get better than this!

Orange Buttered Loaf with mandarin and thyme sorbet

Orange Buttered Loaf with mandarin and thyme sorbet

The chocolately option was layers of textures and flavours. Totally yummy too and, again, not horribly sweet like I often find with dessert.

Millionaire Tart with crystallised chocolate and vanilla ice cream

Millionaire Tart with crystallised chocolate and vanilla ice cream

By this stage we’d sampled several amazing wines from Spain, France and Italy. With our espresso we were presented with an after dessert! A stunning chocolate mousse served with caraway shortbread. I love caraway seeds which made it the absolutely perfect ending to what was one of those always-to-be-remembered lunches.

Liquid chocolate in a glass with perfect espresso

Liquid chocolate in a glass with perfect espresso

And if all that’s not just perfect anyway, we had this lovely view over Hyde Park.

And was our view!

This was our view!

We left Dinner on such a high! Okay, our credit cards had taken a serious bashing –  our lunch didn’t cost us anywhere near £36 (what can I say, fine wine costs money!). But hey, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, right?? One I hope to be repeating later in the summer.

Oh and I’ve now been to two of the top-10 restaurants in the world! Better – but it’s still only four out of the top-100 so I really do need to keep focused!

Dinner by Heston is in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, just opposite Harvey Nichols.

A Tavola: an Italian favourite

Before we made the move across the mountain we simply had to visit one of our favourite restaurants in the Southern Suburbs for an Italian feast, so we headed for A Tavola.

The food is always excellent and the menu offers a wide choice of salads, pastas, meat and fish dishes. Frankly, the choice is so wide it’s difficult to decide, especially with my menu indecision issues. Here’s a taste of the dishes you’ll find at this fantastic neighbourhood Italian.

The classic combo of Mozzarella, tomato and basil wins every time.

caprese

Insalta di Mozzarella with tomatoes and fresh basil

Caesar salad with its creamy dressing, salty parmesan and pancetta, silky anchovies and sweet lettuce, topped with garlic bruschetta. Yum!

caesar

Classic Caesar salad with grilled pancetta, white anchovies and garlic bruschetta

An amazing, tomatoey, parika seafood broth packed with fish. Guess who ordered this? I think my husband is still on a quest to try every soup in Cape Town.

seafood broth

Amazing seafood broth

The prettiest pasta dish on offer with beautiful bows and creamy sauce.

pasta

Farfalle Proscuitto e Puselli – fresh bowtie basta with ham, mushrooms, cream, peas and parmesan

An amazing veal escalope dish served with fresh pasta.

veal

Marinated veal escalopes with wild mushrooms

A gigantic t-bone even had my brother beaten…and he has a proper appetite. Good news, as I got to taste it, too…amazing flavours, t-bones are still one of the tastiest cuts of beef I think.

tbone

The plumpest and most flavoursome of t-bones

Steak tartare is a classic dish that I try whenever I see it on the menu. This one didn’t disappoint, I loved the way all the condiments came on the side, ready to be mixed into the beef which was amazingly tasty and surprisingly light.

tartare

Steak tartare – raw minced beef fillet served with egg yolk, condiments, mixed baby leaves and bruschetta

The Tuscan veal stew with rosemary appears on the specials menu and is my husband’s favourite. Last time it wasn’t on, so you can imagine how his eyes lit up when he saw it there this time. Veal that melts in the mouth in a luxuriant sauce.

veal stew

Tuscan veal stew with Rosemary

So lovely to have a restaurant that delivers every time. And also, I’m coming to realise that it really doesn’t matter what you order as everything on the menu is wonderful…so that takes the stress out of decision making a little bit anyway. Oh and their pasta is simply fabulous.

A Tavola is at Library Square, Wilderness Road, Claremont.

Tamarind ribs

I absolutely love ribs. There’s the way the meat falls away from the bone (if they are properly cooked), the flavour of the marinade and that immense satisfaction that comes from eating with your hands and making something of a mess!

It also reminds me of my childhood when we used to drive up to Harare (the big city) from the farm where I grew up and after all the business was done, as a special treat we’d go out for lunch or dinner to a Greek restaurant called The Acropolis. I don’t ever remember seeing a menu (though surely they must have had one). All I remember is tucking into piles of ribs and leaving full and happy, with clothes covered with rib sauce! Oh and that their chips were really good, too.

Since then I’ve tasted ribs in many different places (including the three Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy). And I’ve cooked them lots of different ways, too – they are so versatile they lend themselves to a myriad of flavours and cooking styles.

This is my latest recipe, using Sainsbury’s tamarind paste as the main flavour. The key here is to cook the ribs really slowly on a low temperature. The meat should just fall away when you pull at it.

I served the ribs with new potatoes and spinach, nice simple flavours to go with the tangy tamarind, and zesty ginger and lemongrass.

A juicy half rack of ribs begging to be eaten

Serves 2

1 rack of pork ribs

3tsp Sainsbury’s chopped lemongrass

2tsp Sainsbury’s chopped ginger

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3tbsp ketchup manis (Indonesian soy sauce)

200ml white wine

2tsp Sainsbury’s tamarind paste

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the ribs into a roasting tray. Make sure they get a good covering. Cover and marinate overnight.

Heat the oven to 120C. Place the roasting tray in the oven, covered tightly with foil, for about 2 hrs. Check and baste the ribs every 20 minutes or so.

Serve with new potatoes and spinach.

The whole rack of ribs marinading

The indgredients

The magic ingredients