Chef Eric Bulpitt – formerly of Restaurant at Newton Johnson – has created a gem of a restaurant at Avondale in Paarl, very worthy of its nomination at the 2017 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards. With a focus on sustainable sourcing, much of the vegetables used are grown on-site at Avondale’s biodynamic and organic food garden.
The menu is concise but hits the right notes. Whet the palate with organic wheat sourdough. The bread is heavy and warm, served with salty, flavoursome rendered-down beef. The accompanying pumpkin fritters are everything a fritter should be: warm, fragrant, subtly spiced, sweet and, most importantly, evoke a strong sense of homely nostalgia.
The ‘hereboone’ velouté packs a massive punch for a vegetable dish. The velouté is silky smooth, and caramelised pear adds sweetness to an earthy dish. The cured and air-dried Avondale duck is light, fresh and salty, happily complemented by sour pickles. The bite of mustard-mayo lingers, leaving you pining for more.
For mains, the braised beef shin is fragrant, rich and spicy. Olive tapenade accentuates the spice in the dish, while creamy organic corn grits works well to bring together the flavours.
The east coast hake is cured in salt, sugar and kombu, and coated with a flavoursome herb crust – it easily outshines all other dishes on the menu. The onion soubise is light and sweet, and an earthy pumpkin-seed pesto grounds the dish.
The optional sides, while delicious, are entirely unnecessary if you’re opting for a three-course meal. The hand-cut fries are superb and would be the perfect companion to a burger, but feel a touch out of place with the mains.
Dessert options include 'cookies and milk', a decadent, thick hot chocolate served with roast-banana choux buns. The grilled orange, star anise, fennel biscuit and lemon parfait is incredibly fragrant and tart. Undoubtedly a must-try.
The wine list is limited to Avondale cultivars, with by-the-glass options.
Service is friendly and swift, but errs on the side of being a touch stiff and hesitant. The pace could be slowed a touch, with a little space added between courses. Staff are, however, knowledgeable about the menu and happy to assist with information when prompted.
The traditional Cape Dutch building is modernised with the clever addition of wooden shelving and hanging plants. A huge, roaring fire warms up the space on colder days. The view into the open, trendy kitchen will quickly grab your attention, though, as you watch Eric and his team calmly take on the service. Dine outside in warmer weather and enjoy sweeping views across the Paarl winelands.
Kids’ options are available on request.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.
Bulpitt’s love for seasonal ingredients is showcased in a concise menu with a choice of four items per course.
The artisanal experience begins with the marvel that is the bread course: a large-seeded chickpea tuile, warm honey-glazed dinner rolls, a pumpkin fritter, and the seeded raisin bread with truffle aioli will get your appetite flowing.
I recommend starting with the Avondale Black Angus beef, hand-reared on the farm. Thin, tender layers of Carpaccio-style beef with argan oil and delicate notes, from the pickled elderflower, are brought together with a bone marrow dressing. Vegetarian diners are not forgotten and will be delighted with interesting options like the butter-roasted parsnips with sea lettuce and a mustard cheese foam or toasted porcini with smoked cauliflower and potato angel hair.
Pan-seared False Bay Gurnard nestled in light creamy broth, with spears of warm cucumber and pops of sweetness from lupins is a dish that tastes like summer. The dish is elevated by the addition of mustard flowers and radish, which round off each bite with a mild peppery note. The warm salad of Graaff-Reinet spring lamb or beef sirloin and garlic swede sounds like a heartier option.
Of the four desserts, it’s hard not to choose one simply called PB & J – peanut butter cake, strawberry jellies, and roasted peanut butter. Struggling to make a decision, the waiter convinced me to go with the cream cheese and honey sorbet with coconut crumble and blueberry macaron instead. His assurance of it being the perfect ending to my meal on a hot spring day was fulfilled. Landscaped on their range of ceramic handcrafted plates, the tart and sweet flavours of the ice cream and Avondale Muscat-infused berries was a treat; the blueberry macaron, perfect.
The menu offers an exclusive selection of Avondale wines, most of them available by the glass.
Warm, friendly and knowledgeable staff are tuned in to diners’ needs without being intrusive.
FABER is set in a gracious ‘Old Cape’-style building. The deep veranda is perfect for summer days and balmy nights and leads to the gardens, with sweeping views of the vineyards and valley. The food may be of superior fine-dining quality, but the atmosphere is one of comfort from an old friend. The space brims with natural elements like wood and a living wall of planters with seasonal foliage, ringing true to FABER’s ethos of the balance of nature and the modern lifestyle.
Being in a convenient location just off the highway, FABER is set to become a favored dining destination.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy, here.