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.

Wonderfully exciting food at The Restaurant at Waterkloof

Today we’re heading back to the Somerset West area and climbing to the top of another hill to The Restaurant at Waterkloof. It’s rated the third best restaurant in South Africa in the 2016 Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards – behind The Test Kitchen and La Colombe in Cape Town. I had already been to both of these and had heard very mixed opinion of Waterkloof so was looking forward to making the comparison for myself.

The Restaurant is housed in a modern building with floor to ceiling glass and sensational views of False Bay and across the vines to the Hottentots Holland mountains. It’s cleverly designed with a huge glass box jutting out to make the most of these views – you need to be enclosed as the wind really howls up here. So don’t come expecting an al fresco meal.

The interior is modern and stylish with a circular fireplace central to the tasting area and the restaurant alongside. All open plan with light flooding in.

You can choose from the two or three-course a la carte menu or the tasting menu (with or without wine pairing). Bear in mind that whatever you choose you’re going to get more than you’re expecting as there are several delightful surprises along the way. We opted for two courses which in reality meant five with the extras.

Like this bread and butter extravaganza. Three rolls and five different types of butter to get you started – including smoked aioli, mustard butter, chive butter, garlic butter and plain butter. Never has this humble dish been more delicious or more beautifully presented.

Five types of butter at Waterkloof

An extravaganza of butter

The bread is delicious at Waterkloof

A selection of warm rolls

And then our next surprise – the amuse bouche. A mini Springbok tartare topped with with salmon cream, miso jelly and pickled seeds. A totally scrumptious combination of flavours and textures.

The amuse bouche at Waterkloof

A delightful mini springbok tartare

We ordered a bottle of Waterkloof’s Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc and (unusually for white) it was decanted and balanced in a bowl of crushed ice. Quite a charming touch, I thought – and doesn’t it look lovely. You can see the tasting area and the open kitchen in the background.

The wine decanter at Waterkloof

The wine nestles in a bed of ice

My starter of asparagus done several ways was served with an amazingly creamy parmesan mousse. What a beautiful plate of food and the delicate flavours blew me away. A truly wonderful dish for asparagus lovers like me.

Asparagus four ways at Waterkloof

A feast of asparagus

The plump scallop was served with an rich and earthy porcini mousse, that melted its bursting flavours into the mouth. Two outstanding starters.

The scallop starter at Waterkloof

A plump scallop and earthy porcini mousse

The attention to detail on each dish is incredible and you can see the effort going into every plate in the open kitchen.

The chefs in the kitchen at Waterkloof

Some serious kitchen concentration

The Mauritius sea bass came with confit leek, Saldanha mussels and cape gooseberries. The fish was sweet and perfectly cooked and balanced well with the sharpness of the gooseberries. And who’d have thought of doing confit leeks? A truly ingenious idea.

The sea bass at Waterkloof

Sweet sea bass with fresh fruit and veg

And how’s this for another masterpiece of plating? The Joostenberg Vlakte duck breast was served with saffron apples and glazed turnips. Beautifully flavoursome and tender duck matched well with the slight sweetness of the apples and turnips – and the saffron influence came through strongly. Seriously want to know how to make saffron apples, they were so perfectly infused with one of my favourite spices.

So that was the end of our two-course choice. And it was fabulous. Important for me to point out that portions are on the small side at Waterkloof so if you’re expecting large plates of food you’re going to be disappointed. Personally I like eating lighter and with the extras this was plenty enough for lunch for me.

In fact we decided against dessert as we were full. But then the selection of petit fours was delivered to our table – well, I think I’d describe them as pudding actually. This beautiful purple creation was delivered in a mini bell jar – the lightest of pastries filled with a blackcurrant mousse and topped with a blackcurrant macaron. Everything melted in my mouth with a zing of flavours.

Blackcurrant dessert at Waterkloof

A bell jar of deliciousness

There were also delicate chocolate toffee straws and little lollies of mint and coconut ice cream encased in white chocolate to pop into your mouth. Stunning.

So now I’ve been to South Africa’s top-three (on one list anyway) and I’d put Waterkloof first of the three of them. A thoroughly wonderful and exciting foodie experience.

Fruity little ice creams and chocolatey coffee delight

Wine tasting at Waterkloof

The contemporary fire is the focal point of the wine tasting area

The view from Waterkloof

The fabulous vineyard and mountain views

And here’s the glass box that juts out of the side of the building making the most of the sea views.

The sea views at Waterkloof

Clever design to make the most of the view

Today’s price point

Two courses from the a la carte menu cost R420 (£26 at today’s exchange rate). Of course you got all the extras included for this.

The bottle of Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc cost R190 (£12 at today’s exchange rate).

It’s really good value for great fine dining.

The Restaurant at Waterkloof is at Sir Lowry’s Pass Road, Somerset West.

Lunching at Idiom in the Cape Winelands

Today we’re travelling into the Winelands outside Somerset West, way off the beaten track on a long and winding road to the top of a hill. Yes it did feel like something of a voyage into the unknown. As you can probably gather from the length of that sentence.

Idiom is run by the Bottega family who take great pride in their Italian/South African heritage. As a result Italian varietals are part of the wine portfolio, bringing the spirit of Italy to South Africa. The restaurant opened in June 2016, so it’s a new addition to the ever-growing Winelands collection.

Italian/South African fusion

You won’t be surprised to hear that the menu also has a real Italian flavour to it. And a good helping of South African influences. I particularly loved my starter which was a South Africanised version of one of my all-time favourite dishes, vitello tonnato. Usually it’s a dish of cold, sliced veal that’s covered with a creamy mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavoured with tuna (normally tinned tuna). Sounds like a weird combination, but believe me it’s spectacular.

Today’s version substituted ostrich for the veal. I’m not a big fan of ostrich but was so intrigued by the creativity of the dish I had to order it. The sauce was made with tasty chunks of fresh tuna and the ostrich was some of the best I’ve ever had. It was tender, perfectly cooked and amazingly tasty. What a great start!

South African vitello tonnato in the Winelands

A classic dish with a truly South African twist

The porcini mushroom ravioli was packed with rich, earthy flavours and the home-made pasta was fresh and perfectly cooked.

Italian dishes at Idiom in the Winelands

Little ravioli parcels of mushroom delight

For mains I had beautiful little lamb cutlets, served alongside a mini bobotie (a South African dish of spiced mince meat baked with a custardy egg topping) and a lovely vegetable selection in orange and green – smooth and sweet butternut puree, cinnamon apples, crunchy sugarsnap peas, tender broccoli and pea shoots.

A delectable plate of lamb at Idiom in the Winelands

Lamb chops with a perfect vegetable selection

The pork belly came in piles of graded size – large, medium, small, with crunchy curls of crackling, buttery mash and candied apples.

Pork belly rocks in the Cape Winelands

Tender pork belly with towering crackling curls

The food at Idiom is really good – a clever mix of South Africa and Italy, packed with good flavours and combinations and beautifully presented. And the setting is truly spectacular with far-reaching views from on high across Gordon’s Bay and the sea. The Tuscan-style building and stonework also add an Italian feel to the surrounds.

Unfortunately the service leaves something to be desired. It was hard to catch anyone’s attention and people were slow to respond. Also, our plates weren’t cleared before the next course arrived and we moved them ourselves so the waitress could put our starters down. She walked off and left us sitting there holding our dirty plates until we asked her to take them. Generally the attitude was also unenthusiastic and lacklustre. A shame as it put something of a downer on the whole experience.

A taste of Italy at Idiom in the Cape Winelands

The Tuscan-style restaurant on high with sea views

The grounds at Idiom in the Winelands are an outdoor art gallery

A stunning statue and landscape

These beautiful heads welcome you at the entrance and are the masterpieces of contemporary South African artist and sculptor, Lionel Smit.

Lionel Smit in the Winelands

The stunning sculpture takes in the view

Malay Girls head by Lionel Smit in the Winelands

And here she is from the front

The beautiful setting at Idiom in the Winelands

Stone steps lead up to the restaurant

The vines include a lot of Italian varietals at Idiom

Even the view on the way out is worth a snap

Today’s price point

Our two-course lunch for two, including wine cost R640. That’s about £40 at today’s exchange rate.

Their Bianco (Pinot Grigot) is delicious and costs R100 (£6).

The red Italian varietals were on the expensive side.

A case of limited edition Nebbiolo (6 bottles) goes for R2,700 (£167).

Idiom is at Sir Lowry’s Pass, Somerset West.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in the Cape Winelands? I’d love to hear about it – I’m always looking for new places to try.

Birthday dinner on the balcony at NV80 in Sea Point

We’ve been returning to stay in Sea Point for eight years now and it’s been wonderful to see the area blossom. We now have such an array of lovely restaurants easy walking distance from us that it seems like we should be going out all the time. It would be wrong not to, really.

So tonight to celebrate Terry’s birthday we headed to our local steakhouse in the shiny new shopping centre called The Point in Sea Point’s Regent Road.

I’m not a huge fan of restaurants in shopping centres. But NV80 has been done so well that as soon as you walk in, you no longer feel like you’re in one. Plus it has a lovely wide balcony, just perfect for the balmy February night we were there. Always love a bit of alfresco dining.

Oyster heaven

I love oysters and at NV80 you can have them three different ways. Plain, with Bloody Mary jelly or Vietnamese dressing. Beautifully fresh with amazing toppings, the Vietnamese ones are my favourite oysters ever. I do love the flavours of Vietnam.

Tasty oysters at NV80 in Sea Point

Tasty oysters to dream about

The Trinchado is pan-fried cubes of lean fillet of beef saved with a tangy lightly spiced sauce. The tenderest of fillet that melted in the mouth and a lovely zingy sauce. And not a small portion of it either – seriously, it’s almost main course size.

Tender trinchado at NV80 in Sea Point

Tender trinchado in a silken sauce

As well as their steak specialities, NV80 also has a good selection of fish and seafood. The salmon teriyaki was grilled and marinated in teriyaki and served with mash and drizzled with sweet soya and sesame dressing. A beautifully presented dish with great flavour and textures.

Succulent salmon at NV80 in Sea Point

Succulent salmon nestles on creamy mash

NV80’s steaks are fabulous and the king of them all (in my opinion) is the sirloin steak on the bone. I always have a bit of a debate in my head before ordering it – because it is HUGE – 600g. Way more than I can eat in one sitting! But the good news is that the restaurant has a doggy bag at the ready and I joyfully took home my leftovers. And as a result I could make a lovely Vietnamese salad (I know, we’re back in Vietnam!) for dinner. So three meals in one really. Recipe coming soon.

It’s a legendary steak this one, mouth-wateringly flavoursome. I probably shouldn’t bother looking at the menu and debating choices, I know it’s the way I’m going to go ultimately.

Giant sirloin at NV80 in Sea Point

My super-big sirloin on the bone

Also love a bit of creamed spinach and it goes especially well with steak.

Creamed spinach at NV80 in Sea Point

Luscious creamed spinach to accompany

As well as the lovely food, there’s such a great buzz about NV80 with its background of animated chatter and laughter. And the service is wonderfully welcoming, friendly and informed. When we left it seemed like half the restaurant thanked us for coming and hoped we’d had a good evening. We really had. Can’t beat that wonderful Sea Point hospitality.

Today’s price point

We paid R626 for our food tonight. That’s about £38 at today’s exchange rate.

NV80 is on the first floor of The Point at 76 Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town.

What is your favourite restaurant in Sea Point? Do get in touch and let me know.

 

 

A fabulous lunch in the Winelands at Clos Malverne

There are few better ways to spend a Saturday than dining in the Cape Winelands (well, for me anyway). Long, lazy afternoons with beautiful sunny views and amazing food and wine. Like at Clos Malvern which is set deep in the Devon Valley near Stellenbosch.

The restaurant has a wrap-around balcony with fabulous views across vines and mountains. Get a table outside and settle in for the delights of their four-course tasting menu. You can go a la carte but believe me, the tasting menu is the way to go. Great choices and even better value for money, today we got four courses for R398 (about £24 at today’s exchange rate). For that, as well as the food, you get a welcome glass of their delicious bubbly and a glass of wine with each course. Plus if you buy a case of wine to take home (and who can resist doing so?) you get R200 off your bill.

The vineyard is owned and run by the Pritchard family and the restaurant serves seasonal, contemporary dishes that are the masterpieces of Executive Chef Nadia Louw Smith.

There are several choices for each course, making for some serious decision making. Quite a few of Nadia’s dishes have a bit of Eastern inspiration, like my fabulous starter – spicy, creamy seafood pot with chilli, coriander, ginger, prawns, calamari and mussels. I could have eaten a whole vat of it! The most delicately flavoured creaminess and the freshest, perfectly cooked seafood to compliment it. I’ll be dreaming of this dish for a while.

The delicately creamy and spicy seafood pot

The smoked sea bass was served with sweet pea aioli, pea shoots, lime dressing, salmon eggs, crispy capers and a red pepper coulis. The flavours and colours of summer.

Sea bass that’s pretty as a picture

The chilled asparagus vichyssoise came with spring onion and lemon creme fraiche, marinated asparagus, a parmesan crisp and a hint of truffle. Rich and velvety with that delicious truffly undertone, a real bowl of luxury.

The wonderful mix of asparagus and truffles

Second course – what a treat to have a course between the starter and the main – and I went meaty. The oak-smoked carpaccio was served with mushroom dust and topped with shimiji mushrooms, humus, sundries tomato strips, dried olives, gran padano and vinaigrette. Who knew dust could taste so good!

Carpaccio piled with little delights

The roast chicken croquette was served with sweet and sour cabbage, thyme and lemon sour cream, caramelised onion puree and a brown onion jus.

A rich and earthy chicken croquette

My South African pork belly tasting odyssey continues (yes, it’s become an odyssey) with this amazing slow roasted dish with confit baby onions, apple jelly, shimiji mushrooms, butternut puree, five spice jus and black garlic mash. What a lovely and exotic combination.

Luscious pork belly and crunchy crackling

The tender, rare springbok loin was bobotie spiced and plated up with creamy butternut and feta risotto, whole grain mustard pickled baby onions (love what she does with her onions) and a red wine jus.

Perfectly rare springbok and creamy risotto

There’s usually a curry on the menu – and it’s always beautifully spiced. Today several of our party tucked into the Badami lamb korma – a traditional Indian curry with almonds, chillis, saffron and cardamom served with savoury rice, sourdough bread and raita.

Lamb korma and all the accompaniments

As an occasional dessert eater, I was thrilled to see my absolute favourite of puddings as an option – panna cotta. Flavoured with saffron, it was served with frozen grapes, strawberries, vanilla meringue, mango coulis and a spearmint shortbread. Beautifully creamy it went perfectly with the fruity spread – and I loved the frozen grapes.

A delightfully colourful dessert plate

The lemon tart came with lime and coconut liqueur ice cream, chilli caramel and a sesame brittle. As it was Trevor’s birthday the next day I organised with the kitchen to make his a birthday dessert plate – happy birthday Trevor. The classic lemon tart went beautifully with the tropical flavours of the ice cream.

Lemon tart and birthday greetings

And here’s the view, just heavenly.

Stunning views across vines to the mountains

Inevitably we left clutching our case of Clos Malverne’s wonderful wines (too much of a bargain to resist that R200 off). I particularly love their bubbles, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet/Merlot blend. Now every time I sip on one of them I’ll be mentally transported back to the glorious Devon Valley.

Clos Malverne is at Devon Valley Road, Stellenbosch

The taste of Venice in chic St James

Today we’re eating in London’s West End in swanky St James. The area was developed in the 17th century as a residential location for the British aristocracy. Now it’s home to fine clothing stores, chic art galleries, gentlemen’s clubs and beautiful terraces. And of course its share of top restaurants. It certainly exudes class and you can feel a general poshness in the air.

Veneta is the latest in the fantastic Salt Yard stable which includes one of my favourites – its sister in Soho – Ember Yard. The elegant eatery is in the shiny new St James Place area and its menu is inspired by classic Venetian dishes. It has a real feel of glamour and plushness, the kind of restaurant that lifts your spirits as you walk in the door. You can just feel good things happen here!

We started off with heavenly focaccia, topped with a dusting of crunchy salt and rosemary sprigs.

img_4456

Warmly soft and flavoursome focaccia

I’m a bit of an anchovy addict and these were tastily luscious, served simply with paper thin toast and butter. The perfect way to get the gastric juices going.

img_4454

An anchovy snack to delight

Autumn brings beetroot to many menus and this colourful seasonal salad was packed with flavour. Slivers of salt-baked carrots and beef were served with sheep’s ricotta, date puree and oregano.

img_4459

A colourful autumn display

From the small plates section we chose this kid goat ragu with fresh pappardelle. Seems like goat is popping up on menus all around London Town and I must say I’m loving it. This ragu was in a class of its own, beautifully rich and silken, coating the wonderful fresh pasta.

img_4460

Goat seems to be all the rage in London

A bowl of polenta with parmesan cream and topped with earthy girolles from the vegetable section made the perfect accompaniment to the richness of the pork.

img_4469

Creamy polenta and earthy mushrooms

Our meaty choice was the charcoal grilled pork ribeye. The tastiest piece of pork I’ve had in a while, with that irresistible charred flavour and courgettes on the side.

img_4464

Pork chop perfectly charred

And then it was dessert time. I’m not much of a one for pudding but Italian sweets are not for resisting. Their mini tiramisu tower was exquisite, I especially loved the coffee cream on the side.

img_4474

Finishing the traditional Italian way

Today’s price point

Our lunch came to £50 for two people.

We opted to eat tapas-style mainly from their small plate section. There are also large plates on offer.

Veneta is at 3 Norris Street, St James W1.

It’s open from 7am Monday to Friday and 9am Saturday and Sunday for all-day dining (including breakfast).