When you’re choosing a restaurant for dinner in Franschhoek, it’s not an easy task. Known as the food and wine capital of South Africa, this little town is home to some of the best restaurants in the country. It also has the highest concentration of top-quality restaurants in the whole of Africa. So it’s a challenge – but a pleasant one that I was happy to take on.
In the end it was because of a review I read in the local paper that I chose Grande Provence which is on a vineyard just on the outskirts of town. The vineyard has 300 years of history and the chef Darren Badenhorst promises fine French dining with an Asian twist.
You turn off the main road and wind your way down through a twist of vines until you get to what feels like the foot of the mountains. It was such a beautiful night we opted to sit outside in the warm summer air in their beautiful garden. A fire burned in the built-in brick braai in the distance sending out a welcoming glow and the scent of jasmine from giant pots wafted through the air. The interior is stylish and chic, with a mood of chilled sophistication. Just perfect.
The menu offers a choice of four starters and five mains (good, less decision making) and suggests that the whole experience has been designed around having a three-course meal which is the price you are quoted for. Well, who am I to argue? As it happens, it was really a six-course meal as also included were an amuse bouche, palate-cleansing sorbet and a pre-dessert! All making the evening feel even more indulgent. I mean, a pre-dessert, how luxurious is that?
I chose the ruby salmon gravadlax with smoked beetroot and avocado oil mayonnaise, walnut crumble and lemon sorbet. The most beautifully tender salmon presented as a true work of art with flowers and leaves and herbs. So amazing. When I think about it, lemon sorbet and gravadlax is bound to be the perfect combination – I’d just never thought about it before. And it was. An idea I’m going to steal next time I have friends around for dinner.
Terry opted for the ginger and corn dim sum – Asian porcini broth, king scallop and wine barrel smoke. A truly exotic looking and tasting smoky dish.
For mains I couldn’t resist the roasted quail with truffled gnocchi, fig and hazelnut jus. The quail was perfectly cooked with great depths of flavour and the truffled gnocchi totally heavenly.
Terry’s delightful plate was the buchu and balsamic braised lamb neck with tomato ragout, pistachio butter and sage pomme croquette.
And then on to the pre-dessert – a chocolate mousse with berry coulis served in a beautiful glass. I had to photograph it from on high.
Dessert choice was the beautifully named Textures of chocolate with vanilla creme anglaise and raspberry granita.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so was delighted to find a cheese option and ordered the goat’s cheese. It was proper ‘roof of the mouth’ cheese with depth of flavours and a great texture. Cheese of the year for me so far!
We also enjoyed a bottle of their lovely Cabernet Sauvignon, the perfect compliment to the meal.
The estate also regularly hosts exhibitions of contemporary South African art, you can do wine tastings and there are even rooms where you can stay overnight. I must admit to be also picturing a long lunch in the beautiful garden, so that definitely has to be on the agenda for the future. Mind you, there’s so much to choose from in this restaurant heaven will I be able to return to the same place twice? Watch this space.
You can find out more at www.grandprovence.co.za