So today we’re heading out of Cape Town to the Durbanville wine region. It’s a short drive from the centre of town, ultimately up a winding road to De Grendel and their amazing restaurant. Set up on a hill you look back at majestic Table Mountain and across the sapphire blue sea.
The light-filled restaurant is decorated in shades of blue and pale wood with plenty of glass to ensure you can drink in that view. And their cellar offers great wine to imbibe, too. De Grendel Rose is one of our very favourite wines in the world, so the first thing to be done is order a bottle while settling down to peruse the menu. The good news is all wine is sold at cellar door prices in the restaurant, so your summery Rose costs R55 (about £2.40 at today’s exchange rate).
Head Chef Ian Bergh opened the restaurant in 2012, which is when I discovered it, and we make sure to return at least once a year while we’re on our Cape Town sojourn. Ordering is quite difficult because it’s tricky to picture exactly what you’re going to get from the menu descriptions. And even if you do manage, the likelihood is that it won’t be what you are expecting. It’ll be better. Seriously, Ian is a genius with his flavour and texture combinations and every plate of food is a work of art, too. It’s the sort of restaurant where whatever you order it’s going to be wonderful. Trust me.
Two of the starters were a mix of some of my very favourite ingredients so I simply had to have both of them. I often have two starters rather than a starter and a main and find it a very satisfying way to eat. Particularly today.
The squid, prawn and chorizo dish made everyone on the table moan with delight when it arrived. A stunning plate of food, it actually tasted better than it looked, and that is really saying something. Perfectly cooked prawns, crispy baby squid and tender fried squid, salty, juicy chorizo all served up with a mix of baby leaves and tomato panna cotta, and even some grapefruit slices to add an extra zest.
The rest of the table shared this amazing fish dish. Cured salmon, creme fraiche, sumac, beetroot, radish, baby leaf, liquorice and fennel. The liquorice cured salmon had a great texture and delicate aniseed flavour running through it – the balance was just right which is tricky – that aniseed can become quite overpowering. Combined with the beetroot and creamiest of creme fraiche it was soon devoured. Yes, I even had some.
And here’s my second sensational starter. Soft shell crab in a crispy tempura batter with a scallop in a creamy yom tum sauce. I love soft shell crab with a passion and was so excited to see it on the menu. I was even more excited when I bit into its delicate crunchiness and dipped it into the velvety sauce. Wow! And the scallop (another of my faves) was pretty special too, soft and flavoursome, the perfect counterpart to the crunchy crab. These are two of the best starters I’ve ever had.
For mains, the steak dish was incredible. Beef fillet served with oyster mushrooms, truffle, baby corn, aubergine and a steamed bun (that’s the white thing that looks like a potato). I can’t remember eating a tastier fillet ever and it was perfectly cooked and matched with the deeply earthy flavours of the mushrooms and a surprise of tempura aubergine.
And finally, some fish. The linefish today was yellowtail which is one of the denser, stronger flavoured fish and was paired with a butternut and gorgonzola risotto and served with fennel, pine nuts, yogurt and beetroot. We were intrigued with the idea of serving gorgonzola, which is obviously very strong-tasting, with fish but should have known it was going to be the perfect combination. Which it was.
De Grendel won several awards in 2015, for both its wine and the restaurant – including the Klink Award for the Best Gourmet Restaurant on a Wine Farm. There’s no doubt there’s a constant stream of award-winning dishes coming out of that kitchen. A kitchen you can check into frequently as its glassed wall looks out over the restaurant. I couldn’t resist having a regular look. Here are some of the beautiful dishes being prepared.
As well as the views, the setting and the food, the service is fantastic too. By coincidence we had the same waitress as on our last visit and I’d definitely try to sit on one of her tables again. Nikki was friendly, knowledgable, patient and efficient, charmingly dealing with the demands of our table.
If you don’t have time or the inclination for lunch there’s also the wine tasting area where you can enjoy a platter while you sample the wines on offer. Red wine lovers simply have to taste the Rubaiyat 2013 which won a platinum award and is sublime. You’ll soon be loading a case into your car.
I love De Grendel. Can you tell?
De Grendel is at Plattekloof Road, Panorama, about half an hour from the centre of Cape Town.