Ambience★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Service★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Food★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Like Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole, the road to the Greenhouse is a long, leafy and winding one, down the eastern slope of Table Mountain. More importantly, though, it’s a journey marked with great excitement for what lies ahead.
Headed by Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff (one of two Relais & Châteaux Grand Chefs in South Africa), Greenhouse – located inside Cellars-Hohenort Hotel – needs no introduction. The restaurant is one of the most enduring around and is a permanent fixture on the South African gourmet awards scene. Chef Tempelhoff has perfected the art of using plated masterpieces to tell stories about local produce and provenance.
Greenhouse’s provenance menu weaves a range of narratives through its dishes, playing with ingredients from the surrounding region and abroad. To start, courses include the tasty amuse-bouche set of nibbles – farm vegetables, heirloom aubergine, hakurei turnip, marog, maple-pickled pumpkin and granola – that precede the now-famous (and equally delicious) ‘The Butcher bird’s pantry’. The latter takes the diner through bite-sized savoury delights modelled on the prey of the namesake bird served impaled on a tree-like stand.
Amuse-bouches aside, the first few courses waste no time delivering oodles of theatre. The steamed blue prawn – a dish of game fish, quinoa, seaweed and grapefruit – is served with a raw prawn, which gets steamed tableside, creating a visual sensation and a lingering aroma. The chokka noodles – a dish made up of chokka sliced into thin noodle-like strips – is served with waterblommetjies, sour fig gel and a lacquered squid-ink and yuzu sauce. Not to be forgotten is the caramel smoked duck with truffled liver mousse, hibiscus beets and a cashew-and-nasturtium crumble – a classic successfully jazzed up to effective modern glory.
Leave space for the sweetest ending, as the menu includes not one but two desserts: apple with salted caramel as well as white chocolate pap. The latter – comprising pap with shaved white chocolate, raspberry, pistachio, tarragon and guava – is an elevated and nuanced take on nostalgic South African flavours.
Wine pairing is at the core of the dining experience at Greenhouse. The staff is well-versed, taking turns to present the wines with each dish. While the menu, naturally, celebrates wines from the Constantia wine valley, the extensive menu features wines from far-flung regions too.
An orchestral style of serving. Tables don’t get dedicated waiters, but rather an ensemble of waiters taking turns to bring dishes and explain the paired wines. The staff is full of amusing anecdotes and it keeps the pace of the meal upbeat.
A previous Eat Out Boschendal Style Award winner, Greenhouse is a slick and modern space with a split dining room. The cosier section closer to the kitchen is moodier with black and gold swatches, while the all-glass ‘greenhouse’ section is awash with natural light.
A romantic evening filled with exceptional food, wine, and affable service.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
It seems there’s a trend in fine dining where restaurants feel the need to engage in theatre to elevate their offering beyond simply food. Executive chef Peter Tempelhoff and head chef Ashley Moss led the restaurant to number five in this year’s Top 10 by quietly and elegantly knuckling down to produce pitch-perfect plates in the Constantia Hills, foregoing the cabaret. All the theatre they need comes on the plates. And there sure are many of them, if you do the Greenhouse Experience tasting menu.
There’s a subtle national pride to this menu, whether it’s in the storytelling elements or the ingredients. From the get-go, the first battalion of amuse-bouches impress, featuring a seaweed daaltjie with smoked snoek dip; Cape Malay pickled fish; and Hermanus abalone with egg custard and sake. These are followed by the mushroom, sherry and chocolate King Cone and The Butcher Bird's Pantry.
It’s followed by braaied game fish with kelp salad, tempura dune spinach and pesto. The fish is at once smoky and succulent, evoking familiar flavours elevated into something new and fresh. The presentations vary constantly according to the ingredients and feature birds’ nests, stones, logs and shells. The next dish, prawn mayonnaise and langoustines, with the prawns steamed in a bell jar at the table, is the most impressive visually.
The balance of the menu is spot on as Tempelhoff continues to build subtle heft into each successive dish. Outeniqua springbok is next, served with boontjie salad, niçoise vinaigrette, miso and bonito flakes. If you feel the need to call one of the multiple dishes a main, it would probably be the Szechuan barbecue Boran beef with wood fungus and turnip.
Dessert comes in the form of chamomile sherbet, dehydrated yoghurt and clotted cream, as well as a plate consisting of deconstructed chocolate, blueberry and coffee.
An extensive wine list features a fantastic selection of wines, many of which are from nearby Constantia estates. Wine service is laid-back, but engaging.
Very good, but with an unusual approach. Instead of having a waiter that cares specifically for your table, each and every waiter or manager in the place has a role on a specific dish and knows exactly where you are in your meal at any time. You won’t lack for anything.
Understated, but elegant. The contemporary space matches the character of the food beautifully.
If you want to learn from the best, executive chef Peter Tempelhoff and head chef Ashley Moss are running ‘Chef for a day’ classes on Fridays and Saturdays until the end of December 2017.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.