Chef Chris Erasmus, famed Franschhoek forager, brings his burgeoning imagination and lust for the most local of ingredients to Foliage – a warm and inviting restaurant in the heart and hearth of the Cape winelands. For Erasmus, the cornucopia of flora and fauna indigenous to his surroundings remains the cornerstone of his culinary creations. Traditional plates are given a locally inspired re-imagining, dotted with treasures from the Franschhoek forest floor. This results in surprising combinations, like the yellowfin-tuna tartare with herb stems, wood sorrel, persimmon atchar and a horseradish ‘egg’.
Infused with aromatic smokehouse flavour, the nest of barbecue whey-braised Spier beef brisket, wild watercress pommes purée, porcini and wild herbs takes you directly to the campside fire. Continuing the theme, there’s a s’mores-inspired caramelia delice dessert with peanut butter and marshmallow chocolate rock. It’s a perfect harmony of sweet nostalgia. The menu changes with the passing of the seasons and, often, daily. Thus Foliage never fails to fascinate.
A solid wine list offers the best of the Franschhoek wine valley. Foliage offers a great way to explore, glass by glass, this world-renowned location through its viticulture.
A relaxed air of friendly professionalism seems to flow effortlessly between the staff, who are well-trained, attentive and detail-oriented while remaining discreet and relaxed. They show a comprehensive understanding of the menu as well as good knowledge of the produce and its provenance.
There are two main dining areas within the restaurant and the area with the open-plan kitchen is by far the more interesting and fun one. The hustle and bustle of the kitchen and the nuanced interaction of the cooks never fails to delight diners who, beyond simply eating the very fine food, are shown the theatre behind the perfect plates. The décor is simple and unassuming, playing second fiddle to the drama of the dining experience. Foliage brings together the precision of fine dining with the heart and lack of pretence one would expect of a bistro.
Try the in-house cocktail for a final hurrah! The menu also provides well thought-out options for non-meat eaters, not just the cursory substitution of a protein.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Chris Erasmus has taken firm root at his own place in town, attracting a wildly enthusiastic audience from all over. Foraging is the name of the game, with he and his staff to be found in the hills around Franschhoek, collecting the bounty of the earth.
Flavours of sorrel and basil, forest mushrooms and wild herbs, river greens, nettles and pine rings are all used to good effect in his cooking. The natural theme is continued through methods of slow smoking, charring and glazing, and the use of free-range and pasture-fed meats and seafood.
The menu changes with the seasons, and often daily, but you might find things like braised kudu shank boudin (sausage) and grilled springbok served with rich bonemarrow, river cress, mushrooms and wood sorrel, or slow-roasted pork belly with dandelion and pumpkin seeds, crushed potatoes, beetroot and baby carrots. The knockout dessert is the caramelia delice with salted peanut butter, macerated strawberries and a chunk of honeycomb to set it all off.
A very good wine list, featuring some of the best of Franschhoek and other regions in the Cape.
Smooth, knowledgeable, friendly and warm in the country manner.
Foliage is at its best in the evenings, when the cosy interior positively glows with warm wood finishes and low lighting. The open-plan kitchen, where you can see – and smell – the cooking, is most appealing.
Booking is absolutely essential, and do make any dietary preferences known beforehand.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
It’s hard not to fall for the food being served at Foliage in Franschhoek. Besides the fact that it is completely delicious, the overwhelming impression is of a chef having a total blast. And that is in fact the case: forager of note Chris Erasmus has certainly found his feet at Foliage, serving up scrumptious seasonal dishes with a lovely touch of whimsy.
There’s a wonderfully wild, organic feel to it all, starting with a serving of excellent breads, including a champagne-yeast bread with sweet potato and fennel, and a seed bread made with acorn flower and served with a mouth-watering homemade mayo flavoured with honey and wild mushrooms.
When the starters are served, you start to realise the extent of the chef’s commitment: plates abound with interesting seasonal and foraged ingredients, artfully presented to capture the essence of their natural surroundings. A salad of roasted beetroot with turnip and artichoke becomes a vibrant forest garden, featuring seasonal treats like broad beans waterblommetjies and suring. A dish of zebra dumplings (absolutely divine and so flavourful) in a spicy broth also holds tender spring vegetables and baby carrots almost sprouting from the plate. And the tom yum broth with crayfish, mussels and tuna is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy.
The adventure continues with the mains. The rustic barbecue beef ‘hump’ is elevated by a spring relish containing, once more, those delicious broad beans, as well as other spring shoots and perfectly crispy, sweet and creamy deep-fried sweet breads. A vibrant green risotto of truffled peas, porcini and fiddlehead fern tastes like the essence of spring, the vibrant flavours offset by the earthy notes of an accompanying onion blossom, and lifted by a wonderfully light buchu crème. Truly, it feels like foraging on a plate.
A small desserts section continues the level of quality – bite into fantastically creamy caramelia délice with candied pecans and homemade honeycombs, or savour the chance to play with your food when ordering the charming Valrhona chocolate pot plant, the creamy chocolate treat served in an edible, crumbly little chocolate pot accompanied by carrot cultured cream and a lovely buchu ice cream.
Dining here is like going on a treasure hunt – each plate offers many exciting elements and moments of surprise. It’s completely charming and utterly irresistible.
The substantial wine list includes a good selection by the glass. Franschhoek wines feature prominently, as expected, but they also source from further afield, like Paul Cluver and Mullineux.
Friendly and welcoming, in tune with the warm winelands atmosphere. It may not be polished to a T, but Chris’s presence adds so much charm that you’d hardly notice.
It’s a stylish and sophisticated space, with accents of charcoal and red, and gorgeous artworks from the adjacent gallery on the walls. A fireplace adds warmth in winter, and a wide kitchen counter offers views into the bustling activity of the kitchen.
With a creative chef like Chris in the kitchen, there are bound to be surprises on the day. Be sure to ask what’s cooking; they might for instance be smoking meat at the back, or offer an interesting seasonal cocktail of kombucha, white cabernet and buchu.
Richard HolmesChef Chris Erasmus should be no stranger to readers of Eat Out. While at the helm of Pierneef à La Motte in 2013, the restaurant made it into the Top 10, thanks in large part to Chris’s passion for wild ingredients married with traditional Cape cookery.