Chef Adriaan Maree’s sustainability driven menu landed Fermier a nomination for the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards in 2017.
To get the meal off to a hospitable start, the house-baked bread is served with both duck-liver parfait and whipped butter, as well as the tastiest little lamb fritter imaginable, topped with pickled onion rings. Although the menu changes regularly, expect to start with something as innovative (and superbly plated) as octopus with masala purée, orange purée, aioli, dehydrated tomatoes, crispy capers, tomato dressing and tomato flowers. A deliciously tender and juicy scallop is just seared, its sweetness offset by black radish, turnip and broccoli. Kabeljou is presented with artichoke purée, the most delicious braised fennel, grapefruit, and a little salad that includes seaweed oil. The cured duck breast is served sliced with bone marrow, a poached quail egg, duck shavings and duck consommé.
The menu includes two different beef courses. The first, a piece of short rib, is presented with cauliflower purée, black garlic, hazelnuts, dehydrated cauliflower and truffle shavings, while the second is perfectly tender slices of sirloin artfully presented under a covering of wilted red cabbage, rhubarb and a deep rich jus complementing the pink sirloin.
This is followed by a cheese course that once again speaks of elegance and refinement. Dessert on this occasion consists of fried apple slices with apple and smoked-raisin custard, almond custard, quince purée, ginger crumble, burnt butter ice cream and an almond-sesame brandy snap. Despite its intricate presentation, it still manages to be comforting and delicious.
Both the food menu and wine list are presented in the most beautiful hand-crafted leather folders. If the wine pairing offered with the set menu does not appeal, choose from several well-considered wines from the wine list, starting with some interesting bubblies.
The dining room is managed by a lively and lovely group of servers. All waitrons appear to be totally in tune with their guests, ensuring that the wines are served at the correct time before each new course. Waiters are friendly, engaging and able to answer any questions confidently. Where this is not possible, they’re happy to enquire from the chef.
The winner of the 2017 Eat Out Style Award, Fermier has a rustic, sustainable interior, with exposed rafters and raw wood, creating a unified and harmonious interior that is most certainly different from the bigger, brassier look favoured by most modern-day restaurants. The tables and chairs are beautiful yet simple, made in solid, heavy wood. In summer large, hinged doors open up to allow in nature, whilst in winter massive fireplaces are discreetly fed from behind. Flues run underneath the floor as a clever design feature to keep the space warm and cozy. The kitchen is completely open and visible to the entire restaurant, but it seems the kitchen staff has been trained to go about their work with the minimum of fuss and noise, so there’s no evidence of raised voices or tempers.
This restaurant is situated on a shared property where all sorts of other enterprises operate, such as the ceramic studio from which the restaurant sources most of its beautifully tactile crockery, and an aquaponics farm supplying the restaurant with much of its leafy produce and fish. Outside the restaurant, some staff tend to produce in their spare time from the restaurant, as a means of generating additional income.
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Adriaan Maree, chef-extraordinaire formerly of Roots in the Cradle of Humankind, is challenging diners with something totally new and delicious at his sustainability-driven restaurant, Fermier.
When you give unadventurous diners only one option and that is to enjoy a seven-course tasting menu, you have to be pretty sure of yourself, knowing that what you’re serving is absolutely amazing. Luckily, Adriaan has that cool assurance that all good chefs have. He knows his food is top notch and he won't be making any excuses for it. His passion for farm-to-table cooking and using every little bit of every ingredient in his kitchen is infectious. Speaking to him, it’s clear that he’s an expert in his field – and that’s confirmed once your plate is set in front of you.
The duck-liver parfait with rillettes, sourdough and salted butter is simple perfection. (I can’t think how they made the parfait so smooth.) It makes for a relaxed, homely start to your meal – something Adriaan is quite serious about. He wants to give his guests a taste of home with a refined twist; what he most wants is for people to feel comfortable in his establishment.
The rest of the menu follows suit with accessible ingredients given a fancy hat and executed exquisitely. A simple fillet of bream is served on top of a fricassee of shiitake, edamame and peas, alongside a quenelle of the most delectable broccoli purée. The purée is so good I could eat an entire bowl of it. This is followed by marron on a bouillabaisse sauce; another serving of duck, this time perfectly paired with coffee, hazelnuts and red cabbage; and two servings of lamb, first the loin and rib served with black garlic, Brussels sprouts and pickled onions, and the second an unctuous piece of braised lamb served in a rich, savoury broth. The meal culminates in a celebration of chocolate: a slab of dark chocolate jelly covered in white chocolate snow, buttermilk sherbet and fresh berries, with a cherry compote and freeze-dried berries to finish it off perfectly.
Every month the team focuses on a different wine estate (past examples include Cederberg and Spice Route), choosing only a few wines to showcase. Other options are soft drinks and sparkling water.
Service is friendly and efficient. The chefs come to the table to explain each dish, which is always a treat. Plates are cleared efficiently and our glasses kept topped up at all times. The service doesn’t leave an impression, but then again it doesn't need to. It just needs to flow, and that's exactly what it did.
On arrival, the first impression is that you must be at the wrong place. Walking past farm animals, through an almost forest-like environment, you feel far removed from the noise and bustle of the city, but arriving at the simple wood and raw-earth structure is a little perplexing.
But then the wooden panels open and you are invited into a beautiful yet simple dining room. The kitchen is completely open and feels like part of the dining area. This is particularly pleasing when you experience the delectable aromas wafting around the room as the chefs prepare your meal. The restaurant’s rustic simplicity is the perfect contrast to the refined, elegant food. Surrounded by the greenhouses and fish ponds to the one side, and a woodland scene of bushy trees to the other, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d driven for hours to get out of the city. That's the beauty of it: this incredible establishment is a stone’s throw away from the highway and yet it is such as escape. Fernier is an absolute gem.
Adriaan’s dream is for Fermier to be an entirely self-sustaining restaurant, where everything from the fruit and veggies to the fish and meat are grown and reared on the property, and where ‘waste’ becomes food again.