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First taste: Chefs Warehouse at Maison in Franschhoek

Liam Tomlin’s award-winning tapas concept has arrived in the Winelands. Chefs Warehouse at the beautiful Maison Estate opened on 26 November 2017, with a kitchen run by another of Liam’s protégés, David Schneider. Should you drive all the way to Franschhoek to try it, when there are two other Chefs Warehouse branches in Cape Town? Yes, says critic Katharine Jacobs; yes, you absolutely should.

Fast facts

Price: R700 for tapas for two (eight plates)
Parking: On the estate
Good for: A glorious Winelands lunch on the lawn or a romantic dinner inside
Book: Online
Star ratings: Food 5, service 4, ambience 5

Tapas at Chefs Warehouse at Maison

A selection of tapas at Chefs Warehouse at Maison. Photo supplied.

Food

There’s something inherently more fun and relaxed about tapas-style dining, so it always comes as a bit of a surprise when the dishes are this exceptional. The first clue that this might be the case at Chefs Warehouse at Maison comes with the bread, which we’ve somewhat greedily ordered to precede the tapas menu. The still-warm ciabatta comes with an unbelievably good tapenade and glorious whipped butter with fennel flowers.

The tapas for two consists of eight dishes, served in three stages. Serving them like this lays down a bit of a challenge to the chef: Each must be different, yet sufficiently arresting to hold its own in quick succession.

First up is a New-York-style pastrami dish with pickled carrots and a glossy, sea-salt-spiked pretzel roll. These strong, lip-smacking flavours are immediately counterbalanced by beautifully subtle wood-fired Franschhoek trout with a feta cream and burnt leeks. The final plate in this part of the menu switches things up yet again: The ceviche is full of curry flavours, tangy with lime pickle, green mango and coconut cream.

Salmon tapas at Chefs Warehouse at Maison

A salmon tapas dish at Chefs Warehouse at Maison. Photo supplied.

Both of the other Chefs Warehouse branches (in the City Bowl and Constantia) are known for their risotto, and this vivid green parsley-and-spinach version does not disappoint. It may be green in colour, but much to our joy, it turns out to be swimming in Parmesan goodness. Smoked bone marrow adds depth, with the glossy layer it adds taking the richness up a notch.

The grilled hake is another highlight: It’s miraculously firm and flaky, and comes served with ‘garlic bread’ for scooping up the sauce. If only all garlic bread were brioche and this sweetly perfect.

If there are missteps, they might be a slightly too peppery sauce that overpowers the blesbok loin, and a slightly too sweet dessert. The s’more with sticky chocolate brownie is little blunt after the subtleties of the tapas menu, but shows a spirit of fun. If you’re after classics, fear not, the famed lemon posset graces the menu, too.

The famous lemon posset at Chefs Warehouse at Maison

The famous lemon posset at Chefs Warehouse at Maison. Photo supplied.

Drinks

Maison’s fabulous wines are available by the glass, mostly around the R60 mark. This list is augmented by a short list of bottles of varietals not made by the estate.

Service

For the most part, service is very smooth. Slight issues with timing are fixed with genuine kindness, and will likely be sorted altogether once the team has been running for more than a week.

Ambience

The lovely lawn at Chefs Warehouse, partially shaded by a tree, is the place to be for lunch. The interior is beautiful, too, with blonde wood, grey walls and lovely contemporary furniture.

The calming interiors at Chefs Warehouse at Maison

The calming interiors at Chefs Warehouse at Maison. Photo supplied.

And…

Pop into the deli section, where Liam Tomlin has installed some of the fantastic recipe books and beautiful kitchen equipment he sells in the Bree Street store. You can also buy that amazing tapenade.

(December 2017)

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

Have you dined at the brand-new Chefs Warehouse at Maison? Tell us what you thought in a review and we will pledge a meal for a hungry child through Rise Against Hunger SA. Write a review now

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