Liam Tomlin’s latest addition to the Chefs Warehouse family takes the fine-dining tapas concept to Franschhoek in a charming setting that’s everything you want in winelands dining.
Chef David Schneider is no stranger to Chefs Warehouse cooking, having spent time working alongside Ivor Jones at the Beau Constantia restaurant. With his own touch, he brings flavoursome dishes to the table in a playful yet well-thought-out manner.
The eight-course feast begins with tender beef sirloin pastrami and home-made soft pretzel. The dish is complemented by a gorgeous horseradish catalan, spiced onion relish and charred spring onion salsa. A dish of exciting flavours with a nod to nostalgia, it hits the spot and sets the tone for what’s to come.
Ruby-red beetroot lacquer coats tender Citrusdal ostrich with marinated daikon radish, and a dish of Franschhoek trout tartare is vibrantly plated with a fragrant oil, tahini-soy dressing and light-as-air tempura celery leaves. The miso-cured chicken liver parfait with Maison fennel cured bacon and toasted raisin-and-pecan brioche feels slightly out of place in between the other plates, but still offers decent flavour, if somewhat monotonous.
Risottos have always been a triumph at Chefs Warehouse and the cauliflower version here is no exception. It’s luscious and creamy, offset by a mild Malay spice seed topping for a satisfying crunch. The other dishes to follow include rich roasted free-range chicken thighs with poached organic chicken egg and roast Jerusalem artichoke; and the most comforting slow-braised springbok shanks served on a dreamy roasted parsnip-polenta with salsa verde and parsnip crisps – a contender for the best dish of the meal. Lastly, light beer-battered hake brings a welcome and refreshing ending to the meal. The dish is served with Malay-spiced seed and sultana crumb, blood orange segments, and lime-dressed leaves.
If you can squeeze in a pudding, the lemon posset is still as great as when Liam first introduced it at Chefs Warehouse and Canteen, and the apple cider and berry consomé that accompanies it gives it a zingy lift.
A decent wine list with some lovely bottles from the Maison Estate. Sip on their blanc de noir, which pairs perfectly with a lot of the dishes served. Craft beers and good coffee are also available.
Relaxed and friendly but not missing any professionalism.
The space is gorgeous. The interior boasts hues of grey and wood, and a fire warms things up on cooler days. The place to be, though, is on the stoep overlooking the green lawn and the mountain backdrop. If you’re with a crowd, book one of the long picnic-style tables on the grass and soak up the sun while chickens happily graze around you.
A lazy winelands lunch with friends.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
Liam Tomlin's award-winning tapas concept heads to the Winelands with this new restaurant on the beautiful Maison Estate, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The lovely lawn, 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.
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.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.