Hanlie van der Merwe
Inspired by the bountiful seasonal produce grown a short walk from the kitchen’s doorstep, the menu changes regularly. For starters, expect fresh produce in the starring role, stylishly colour-coded for maximum visual effect. Meat-eaters need not despair. All dishes come with suggestions for a perfectly paired protein. But here in lies the brilliance of Babel – the delicate balance of interesting flavours in a green dish like the miso and yuzu broth makes even the staunchest carnivore question whether it needs the addition of seared tiger prawns. The wilted Asian greens, kohlrabi wrappers and a sprinkle of toasted Amaranth seeds are a revelation.
For mains, the focus shifts to one core ingredient, like beef fillet on the bone or crispy pork belly. But once again, an ingredient from the garden might just steal the show. The roasted pumpkin with honey and zest, served with cinnamon-and-cumin-spiced lentils and deep fried curry leaves is a deliciously modern spin on a South African favourite. And if that does not sound mouthwatering enough, why not add a double grilled lamb cutlet sourced from Riebeeck Kasteel?
All portions are as generous as the people of the Simonsberg area, which makes fitting in dessert a challenge. Resort to sharing, just so you can experience a weird (yet totally wonderful) combination like miso ice cream with poached guava and wild olive berries.
A meal at Babel is a special treat that makes the drive totally worth it. Herbivores will be in heaven. Carnivores may just be converted.
The wine list includes Babylonstoren wines, several other great options from the region, wine by the glass and occasionally, a seasonal cocktail.
Expect a very warm welcome from a team of local waiters whose genuine passion for the farm-to-fork philosophy shines through in everything they do.
A mix of local and international patrons create a pleasant Babel-like bustle, consistent with people having a fabulous time.
Go for the day. Take a stroll in the gardens, check out the farm shop and bakery, do some winetasting. The garden spa facilities are the stuff of pampering dreams.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Hetta van Deventer Terblanche
Fresh fruit and vegetables – that had hours ago been ripening quietly on the trees and growing snugly in the organic garden – are served boldly, vibrantly and with style in the restaurant. Starter options are coded in three different colour options – green, yellow and red. Expect to be surprised with brilliant unconventional tastes such as buttermilk, plum and beetroot soup with star anise and black sesame ice-cream, or crumbed squid with pineapple carpaccio.
Main courses focus more on a single main ingredient, for example the fig leaf-spiced fish of the day with Jerusalem artichokes and chenin blanc butter sauce, or beef fillet on the bone with risotto. Or be swooned with slow-roasted saddle of lamb with fragrant spices, pomegranate, pear and rose water.
Desserts feature different taste combinations such as sweet and salty, bitter and sweet, sweet and sour, and salty and piquant. These could be in the form of panna cotta, dukka, honey milk, fennel pollen and cape gooseberries. The creative genius of this menu challenges the eater to rethink taste combinations and introduces contemporary styles without losing focus.
The wine list includes the wines from the estate, as well as an extensive selection of other wines, with by-the-glass options ranging from a reasonably priced R45 upwards.
Generous South African hospitality, good humour and a welcome smile is to be expected from all staff, who go out of their way to welcome, inform, direct and serve visitors.
It is a feast for all the senses from the point of arrival, when you will walk through the magnificent gardens to the modern contemporary white-walled, glassed-in restaurant, housed in a converted cow shed.
Make a day trip of it. Take flat, comfortable shoes for walking, visit the beautiful farm shop, bakery and garden spa. Do the wine tasting and do not leave without a freshly baked bread, home-cured meat and cheese.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.