Dining at Chris Erasmus’s Franschhoek restaurant is like feasting in a forest – albeit in a cabin with a fireplace. Along with his bearded team, the chef is helping to translating Franschhoek’s natural environs into a cuisine of its own.
This is the home of a creative and resourceful chef, who’s not afraid to take chances. While some of Chris’s gambles will inevitably divide the room, others are certain triumphs.
To start, the warm barbecued pumpkin dish with a careful stack of sprouts and spring onions, which somehow all comes together, takes one into the mountains and farms of the valley. It’s one of several great vegan dishes on the menu.
The Franschhoek trout tartar also features sprouts, which unfortunately slightly overpower the delicate flavour of the fish.
For mains, a guinea fowl, duck and chicken ballotine feels like a haute version of the flavours of a country chicken pie. The creamy chicken liver parfait served with it is the winner, though.
The barbecue whey-braised brisket is beautifully cooked, if slightly too salty, but the highlight of the dish comes with is a magnificent, melt-in-the-mouth forest mushroom ragout.
Don’t miss the caramelia delice on the pudding menu – if it’s available. Beneath a layer of dark chocolate lies a glorious peanut butter mousse, and a pale green, subtly flavoured cannabis leaf marshmallow. There’s also tooth-achingly sweet (but great) honeycomb.
The icy blueberry and poplar boletus nougatine is a more subtle sweet option – the plate is dusted with a buchu and honeybush sherbet that will delight fans of sour sweets.
There are missteps – the bread is unfortunately leaden, the salty brisket, and the menu, while hyper-seasonal, does seem to have a large range of cold dishes, even on a chilly winter’s night. But when Chris’s experiments do pay off, they’re thoroughly worth it.
Kick off with a glass of house kombucha, to aid digestion. Then, surrender to the carefully selected wine pairings of the chef’s menu. There’s also a great list of good quality wines available by the glass.
This is a restaurant run by people who seem to be having a blast. The bearded chefs in the open kitchen might be jiving to Journey, and relaxed, confident servers ensure the guests have an equally good time.
While the food might be fine dining, the ambience is more of a cosy bistro. Red walls, exposed brickwork and a roaring fireplace make for a warm, welcoming space.
The food equivalent of a walk in the woods.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
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.