On Franschhoek’s main street, you’ll find a magical place where stories are told and inspiration is found in South Africa and its produce. The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français came in at number 3 this year at the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards. Watch the team hear the news.
Eat Out critic Ishay Govender-Ypma explains what makes The Tasting Room so special.
In 2015 Margot Janse celebrates a brilliant 20 years at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français. Over this time, Margot, with the support of (former) hands-on owner Susan Huxter, has ensured that the restaurant has regularly appeared on the World’s Best Restaurants list.
The Tasting Room specialises in telling an essentially South African story: many dishes are composed of ingredients found in the Franschhoek area, either from local farmers and artisans, or foraged by the staff. The preparation techniques are on par with any top restaurant kitchen around the world.
Dining here is an experience not to be rushed: over three-and-half hours, an energetic young team presents no less than eight courses. Within moments of you sitting down, an array of small snacks arrives. These bites – macarons, churros, madeleines or meringues – might look sweet, but they are usually savoury, intensely flavoured and will have your taste buds revving.
Margot finds inspiration in South Africa, interpreting local scenes in dishes like a Day at the Beach, a fish dish with seaweed, refreshing Eugenia (foraged on the property’s garden), buchu and Natal wild plums.
The team works magic with the duck too, in the form of a local Joostenberg vlakte bird baked in salt, and served with boerekinders, buckwheat and wild rosemary.
Dessert serves up sensual tableside drama with the sensual pouring of honey-bush caramel over a boabab shell that cracks open to reveal coconut sherbet. The menu changes regularly, so it’s best to go in with no preconceptions, and allow the team to take you on their culinary journey. It’s a pricey one and best enjoyed when shared with a loved one, perhaps even extended with an overnight stay.
An extensive range of South African wines is thoughtfully presented, with some focus on sister property Môreson’s offerings. The Solitaire or even old-faithful Miss Molly bubbly are fun ways to start. The sommelier will guide you on wine pairings for the menu.
Winner of the 2015 Service Excellence Award. You’ll be met by superbly trained staff; they’re friendly and chatty without being intrusive. It isn’t uncommon to hear guests burst into laughter as the waiters engage them with stories. Bookings run a few months in advance and credit card details must be supplied to secure the reservation, as is the case with most fine dining establishments internationally.
It’s a well designed space, sparse but elegant. There are no tablecloths or oppressive décor to distract from the cuisine – the idea is to allow the food to do the talking.
The Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards are judged by a panel of judges. Eat Out critics and judges dine unannounced and pay their own way. View the judging criteria here.