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.
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