Chef Philippe Wagenführer has journeyed full circle and returned to the Cradle of Humankind after having left the award-winning roots at Forum Homini several years ago to open several restaurants throughout Johannesburg and Parys. He has been lured back with a tantalising opportunity at Toadbury Hall Country Hotel. The chef has been given carte blanche to re-imagine this little piece of paradise by putting his magic hands to three restaurant offerings: Otter’s Deli, WildWood Brasserie and Bijou.
The locale, set alongside the Crocodile River and boasting picturesque grounds, woodlands, lavender fields as well as a lake, is best-known as an idyllic wedding venue, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg now that Philippe is on board. “I tried the town, I tried the city and the urban lifestyle, and I found it just wasn’t for me,” he says. “I love nature and this environment; it inspires happiness.”
Bijou is the belle of the ball at Toadbury Hall. This exquisite fine-dining restaurant will see patrons taken on a rich and enchanting culinary journey focused on seasonality and local provenance. The chef elaborates: “Bijou has a classic French feel and look; it boasts an extensive wine list and wine service as well as the options of a set menu and table d’hôte menu. Both have very strong French foundations with many of dishes reminiscent of my younger years.” Think terrines, parfaits, tartlets and consommés as well as cassoulets, entrecôtes and, of course, the classic tarte tatin.
Otter’s Deli is far more casual, but no less enticing. You can fill picnic baskets and lounge away the day on the lawns or at quaint lakeside tables, or choose from the selection of blackboard specials, pizzas, burgers and salads, and soak up the sun on the adjoining deck. “There’s a great need for family-friendly restaurants in this area, and Toadbury Hall, with its vast grounds, rolling lawns and sprawling trees, offers kids a space where they can run free,” says the chef.
WildWood Brasserie, which is located further down the grounds, along the banks of the river, is a brasserie/gastropub that offers excellent cuisine. “The menu is hearty and meat-driven,” explains Philippe, “and we are currently building our own smokehouse to make smoked trout, eisbeins and more.” Beer lovers will be pleased at the offering of Fat Toad weiss beer and ale, and the venue is in the process of getting a licence for an on-site microbrewery. So it looks like there’s a little something for everyone, and you just can’t beat the views.