Fresh at Paul Cluver has been named the Best Country-Style Eatery in the Western Cape on the strength of its reviews over the last year by Eat Out fans. A previous winner for its top-notch country-style cuisine, Fresh focuses on what’s in season and available from the estate’s ample vegetable garden, which is then brought to life by chef and owner Niki Hall-Jones.
Unlike the winners of the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards, which are chosen by a panel of judges, the Best Everyday Eateries are voted for by Eat Out readers, who give restaurants star ratings when they review them on our site.
Eat Out critic Greg Landman visited Fresh to sample country-style cooking at its best. Here are his thoughts:
Most of the vegetables and herbs come from the garden on the Paul Cluver estate, as do the fruit – we’re in Elgin, after all – so everything is really as fresh as can be. Country style cooking with robust flavours and generous portions is what Fresh is all about, and owner Niki Hall-Jones goes from strength to strength doing just that.
The menu is a daily affair on the blackboard that changes seasonally. Starters of classic vichyssoise with crème fraîche and snipped chives, and country-style pearl barley and vegetable soup served with pork dumplings will make you feel like you’re tasting these ingredients for the first time.
Homemade Cumberland bangers and mash with red-onion gravy are way beyond anything any pub could dream up, and the homemade chicken-and-leek pie, with the lightest puff pastry cap, has devotees coming all the way from town to get at it.
Finish up with the irresistible Elgin apple tart with crème anglaise and homemade vanilla ice cream, or the pear-and-hazelnut tart with cinnamon mascarpone.
The famous Paul Cluver wines are the perfect foil for this kind of cooking; take your pick from the large range. Also make sure you try the excellent apple cider made in the valley.
Look forward to service with a smile, in the country manner. Bear in mind everything is made right there, so relax and let out your belt a notch or two.
It’s very cosy in winter with a coal fire going and communal, long tables encouraging diners to get to know their neighbours. But really it’s at its best in the summer, when there are tables out on the grass, just perfect.
Do phone ahead to make a booking, as the hours change seasonally. – Greg Landman
Here are a few of the glowing reviews that helped Fresh to win this year:
“Fantastic country spot that’s a scene straight out of Stealing Beauty: long leisurely lunches on the lawn, superb food, fabulous wine and Niki’s incredible hospitality make you feel as though you’re visiting a close friend for lunch. One of my favourite restaurants in the Overberg that has a unique brand of magic all of its own.” – Scarlet Nguni
“I was very impressed, to say the least! Besides the fact that it is so simple and refreshing (excuse the pun), we were a large group and made to feel welcome the moment we arrived! Their philosophy of using fresh, local and sustainable ingredients that are in season peaked my interest straight away and the food… Hmmm. Totally delicious, fresh, clean and beautifully presented! The toughest decision was deciding what to choose from the menu and when our meals arrived there was silence for the first time the entire day while we all tucked in. I’m hooked and cannot wait to return to see what the seasonal menu will offer!” – Tina Biersteker-Boast
“We were met on the rolling lawns outside the tasting room by the gorgeously friendly resident maître dog called Elvis. Entering Fresh is like entering a friend’s home. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed, Niki is the best hostess and the smells emanating from the kitchen under chef Damian’s keen eye have you drooling before you are even seated. It was lovely to see that the menu has been updated to include wine pairings. We all ordered different starters, one vichyssoise that was proclaimed to be viciously good; the mussels on my right looked so yummy I just had to steal one, and they were; whilst I ordered the carpaccio of line fish, which was just delicious. When mains came around, Fresh was reasonably busy with wonderfully happy atmosphere and lots of laughter. I couldn’t help but order the Karoo lamb, my partner the gnocchi, and our friend the fresh line fish. Silence practically fell as we tucked in; everything was truly moreish. Fresh is definitely the right name for the establishment, as all the ingredients, down to the garnish, seem to burst with flavour. I was the only one who braved stretching her midriff by ordering dessert. The chocolate and blueberry fondant was sensational, albeit the bridge too far. My dining partners kindly landed up helping me scrape fingers across the plate to clean up all the sauce. We all loved our dining experience at Fresh at Paul Cluver. It was a totally memorable day, made more memorable due to Niki, Damian and Elvis being such wonderful hosts and the food – oh, the food! I wouldn’t hesitate to go again and again.” – Leila Reinhard
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read the editorial policy here.