Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia

Tapas for 2 at Chef’s Warehouse, Beau Constantia 

I’m back! Finally! Apologies for deserting Eating Covent Garden for so long – I have been travelling the world, like really travelling the world! Since my last post in December I have spent time on four continents (two for the first time) and I have so much to share with you all. So watch this space.

I’m starting with my latest restaurant discovery in the stunning Constantia winelands in Cape Town. Yes, I’m back in Cape Town, hooray, and straight into one of the country’s top restaurants.

Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia opened a couple of years back and was voted the fourth best restaurant in South Africa in the Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards 2017. There are myriad great restaurants in this foodie country so that’s quite an accolade for such a youngster.

It sits at the top of the Constantia Valley with views over vines and forests towards the ocean. This makes the parking lot seem a little perilous, particularly for the vertiginous – make sure you’re steady on those heels if you’re thinking of wearing them. The restaurant is a modern, glass-sided construction which certainly makes the most of the views.

What’s on the menu

As soon as we were seated with a glass of their lovely Pas De Nom MCC bubbles (the perfect way to start any lunch), my dreaded menu indecision loomed large! Until I spotted the magic words Tapas for 2. No choices to be made here, it’s eight dishes to share. Makes life easy.

Dishes arrive in groups of two or three in three batches – I guess you could call it three courses. We started with a triple-plate sensation. The coal-seared tuna came with warm black bean and walnut salsa and a fresh apple and ginger relish, on a plate with a visually confusing foam design. There is no foam with this dish – it’s the plate!

Beau Constantia: tuna

Coal-seared tuna served with crunchy black bean and walnut salsa

My favourite of the first trio was the line fish sashimi. A beautiful curry-based concoction with the freshest of yellowtail, Cape Malay pickle, bbq garlic emulsion and fried batter. Seems like the perfect mix of flavours and textures.

Beau Constantia: sashimi

Fresh line fish sashimi with spicy flavours

The Vietnamese BBQ beef came with herbs, toasted rice and a zesty Vietnamese dressing. Love those fresh, clean flavours and the herby crunch.

Beau Constantia: Vietnamese beef

Rare, herby Vietnamese-style beef

After a short break the next duo was delivered. Described as Beau tomato bruschetta, smoked, pickled and grilled, a bowl of tomatoes done three different ways was topped with garlicky, thin slices of toasted bruschetta. I love a tomato – pretty much any tomato – and these were in a league of their own.

Beau Constantia: tomato

A tomato extravaganza in a cup

And then the ultimately indulgent dish. Parmesan and smoked butter risotto with red onion bordelais and fried Swiss chard, all topped with a delicately creamy, cleverly crafted gouda flower. I love the creaminess and softness of a good risotto but always balk at eating a full portion – it’s just a bit rich and filling for me. What joy to share a small portion of this deliciousness between two. And never has gouda tasted so good. Needless to say we both wished for a bigger portion once we’d cleaned the pan. Probably the nicest risotto I’ve ever tasted.

Beau Constantia: risotto

Luscious parmesan and smoked butter risotto

The final tasty trio

So how could it get any better? Well, there were still another trio of masterpieces to come. The slow roasted pork belly was served with  an apricot and miso tart, cashew nut milk and garlic and thyme oil. The tastiest of pork that fell apart at the touch of a fork and was topped with the crispiest of crackling matched wonderfully with the creamy cashew nut milk (there’s a first for me). And the light and crumbly miso tart, topped with firm, tart cooked apricots was the ideal accompaniment.

Beau Constantia: Pork belly

Delightful pork belly with flavours of apricots, miso and cashew

Firm, flaky hake came with a delicate yet intense parmesan and anchovy puree and was topped with paprika and lemon cream. The dainty fried polenta cubes, salty capers and crunchy spring onion completed another masterful dish.

Beau Constantia: Hake

Lemony hake teamed with parmesan, polenta, paprika and anchovy puree

And finally it was time for some lovely lamb. The adobo rubbed, slow-cooked rib came with red onion, heirloom tomato pickle, burnt butter and mixed pepper jus. Tender richness to savour.

Beau Constantia: lamb

Adobo rubbed slow-cooked lamb rib

I’ve fallen in love with Beau Constantia. How can you not with a view like this? And all that great food – light, fresh and cleverly balanced – and all looking so beautiful – like the greens and blues of the outlook across the valley.

Today’s price point

Tapas for 2 comes in at R700 (about £41 at today’s exchange rate).

That’s for both of you, not each.

A bottle of their delicious Rose was R180 (just over £10 at today’s exchange rate).

Find out more at beauconstantia.com

A sunny Sunday at Cape Point Vineyards

So today we’re heading over Ou Kaapse Weg to the beautiful little seaside town of Noordhoek not far from the centre of Cape Town. Known for its laid-back attitude and beautiful beach it’s also home to a couple of excellent restaurants. The restaurant at Cape Point Vineyards (CPV) is a fairly recent addition and there’s also the picnic grounds all with fabulous mountain and sparkling sea views.

On a shiny Cape Town day it’s a wonderful venue with the deck laid out with tables looking out towards the Atlantic. The menu boasts an emphasis on local ingredients like tuna, calamari, kingklip, biltong, springbok and ostrich.

The tuna starter was amazing. Fresh, just seared and very pink (hate tuna that’s overcooked) it was served on a bed of the tastiest of grilled vegetables, with red onion and garden leaves and the clever addition of savoury olive tapenade and crispy capers. The garlic and lemon aioli dressing pulled all the flavours together perfectly.

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A summery and savoury tuna starter

The starter selection was so good that I had to have two (one as main not as well as a main, that would be a little excessive). This biltong salad was made up of sweet caramelised pears, blue cheese, shaved beef biltong, tasted walnuts, butter lettuce and a blue cheese dressing. The sweetness of the pears, saltiness of the cheese and dressing and meatiness of the biltong make a combination to remember. I’ll be recreating this at home…soon.

biltong

Biltong, pear and blue cheese salad

The day’s special starter was chicken liver parfait. Rich, creamy and melt-in-the-mouth.

chickenliverparfait

Beautifully indulgent chicken liver parfait

The beef carpaccio came with wild rocket, shaved Parmesan and a rocket pesto mayonnaise. A lovely light summer dish that could have been a larger portion, or maybe we wanted more just because it tasted to so good!

carpacckl

The dream combo of carpaccio, rocket, parmesan and pesto

On to the mains. Mixing chicken and prawns in a curry is typically South African and this dish served with fragrant rice, preserved lemon and cucumber mint raita was nicely spicy and light with sweet, juicy prawns.

curry

Add spiciness with a delicious curry

In a nation of carnivores there’s always a steak dish on the menu. One that’s frequently ordered, too. Today it was grilled beef fillet with truffled mushroom sauce, fries and a garden salad. Deliciously cooked medium rare with a light and tasty sauce.

steak

Steak and chips is always a good option

I love the setting at CPV and the food’s really good, too. We did go in the middle of the silly season, just after Christmas and service was a little patchy – the place was heaving. As it happened, that made no difference as it gave us the excuse to linger longer over lunch, absorbing the peace and the views surrounding us.

view

The stunning view from our table across to Noordhoek beach

You can also picnic at CPV and the baskets sound tasty – you need to order at least 24 hours in advance. And there’s a market day on Thursdays from 4.30 to 8.30pm with market stalls offering the produce of the Cape. Simply bag your space and choose from the array of foodie delights. What a great way to spend a Thursday evening.

There’s no doubt this is the perfect place to watch the sun set with a glass of wine in hand. The CPV Sauvignon Blanc is particularly lovely. Anyone for a Thursday evening picnic?

Cape Point Vineyards is at Silvermine Road, Noordhoek

A piece of wine heaven in England

So last week I was invited on a day of wine tasting and dining in a vineyard – an English vineyard. English wine is highly regarded these days, and I was intrigued to find out more so I headed into Surrey on the train to Denbies in Dorking.

I love travelling by train, it’s relaxing and comfortable and gives you plenty of time to work, read or simply ponder as you watch the countryside go by. Dorking is a short journey from London and as you emerge from the tunnel just before the station, it feels like you’ve magically arrived in a different world (or country at least). There are vines growing both sides of the track and hilly, lush green countryside surrounds you. Good start!

Set just minutes from Dorking Station, Denbies is the largest vineyard in the UK, grows 19 grape varieties and produces 400,000 bottles a year. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful. There are walking paths through the estate that are open to the public, so there are quite a lot of people walking their dogs, which I’m always happy to see.

Denbies  vineyard full shot

The beautiful vineyard nestles in a valley

denbies3

Grapes abound in September, it’s nearly harvest time

There’s plenty to do at Denbies. You can take the train tour up to the highest point of the vineyard where you won’t be able to help yourself gasping at the view. You can also enjoy a Vine & Dine experience where you are taught about grape picking (and pick grapes), have a wine tasting and lunch. Or on bad-weather days there are even indoor wine tours in their unique circular (and slightly bewildering) cinema with surround vision.

And then there’s the restaurants. The Conservatory is a spacious atrium which is open for lunch and tea. The Gallery (which is where I had lunch) is upstairs and is a beautifully light-filled room with panoramic views across the vines. It’s open every day for lunch and Thursday, Friday and Saturday for dinner.

The food is truly lovely (as the pictures clearly show), made using local ingredients where possible. To start, their signature duo of soups which is a healthy and hearty combination of Heirloom tomato and butterbean served in the same bowl, but separate – novel!

soup

Start with a tasty two-in-one soup

I enjoyed the most perfectly cooked piece of salmon (I’m quite a fussy salmon eater and if it’s even slightly overdone I can’t eat it…sorry), served on bed of creamy pesto mash with lovely roast tomatoes and peppers. It looks as lovely as it tasted.

salmon

The perfect dish for a sunny day in a vineyard

pork belly

Tender pork belly with perfect crackling, served with mash

wellington

The vegetarian option: mushroom, brie, hazelnut and cranberry wellington…stunning

And to finish off, a fabulous cheese platter with grapes, naturally. All local cheeses, the middle one was garlic and herb and incredibly moreish.

cheese

There’s also a lovely farm shop (how I love a farm shop) and a modern wine tasting area. And the wine is excellent, too, I loved their Juniper Hill white which I had with lunch.

Find out more at www.denbies.co.uk

A balmy night at Grande Provence, Franschhoek

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?

The amuse bouche was a silky smoked salmon veloute

The amuse bouche was a silky smoked salmon veloute

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.

The most amazing salmon gravadlax

The most amazing salmon gravadlax

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.

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Delicious dim sum with a difference

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.

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Flavoursome quail with the most amazing truffled gnocchi

Terry’s delightful plate was the buchu and balsamic braised lamb neck with tomato ragout, pistachio butter  and sage pomme croquette.

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Melt in the mouth lamb and beautiful soft 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.

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Today I tucked into pre-dessert for the first time!

Dessert choice was the beautifully named Textures of chocolate with vanilla creme anglaise and raspberry granita.

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Pudding that’s heaven for chocaholics

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!

Amazing goats cheese, the best I've had all year

Amazing goats cheese, the best I’ve had all year

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