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.
Designed by famed chef Peter Tempelhoff, the food is beautifully plated without being so artsy that you feel you can’t touch it. The combination of flavours and textures is masterful, with close attention paid to taste and aromas complementing each other.
The tasting menus consist of four courses chosen from the eight on offer. The starter of superbly fresh tuna served with sea plants of edible kelp, seaweed and tempura sea spaghetti sounds peculiar but is delicious, as is the very imaginative smoked goat’s feta with citrus endive and beet sorbet.
The dish of grilled squid and pickled octopus served with calamari-stuffed black ravioli and accented with olives, star anise and ginger, is a knockout. The pièce de résistance, however, is the Cape Malay kingklip with seafood bisque, cauliflower, blackened onion and sultanas, which is a heavenly mélange of spices with bite and a touch of creamy sweetness.
The toffee and apple dessert with hazelnuts and meringue proves deliciously rich, with cinnamon and sea salt to offset the richness.
A very good list of many of the treasures of the famous Constantia wine area, plus others in South Africa and abroad. Many of the paired wines are great finds and carefully chosen.
A bevy of staff attends to your needs.
This upmarket and elegant venue continues to attract devotees. The restaurant revamp saw it winning the Boschendal Style Award in 2015.
The menus, of which there are usually three, change seasonally.
Eat Out critics arrive unannounced and pay their way in full. Read our editorial policy here.
This is a menu full of drama and detail. There are gels and foams and multiple ingredients on each plate; chef Peter Tempelhoff knows what he’s doing, and each artfully dabbed dot of colour is packed with flavour.
The meal kicks off with a whirlwind of flavours: a tiny cube of mushroom cheesecake gives a heady kick of umami, closely followed by a burst of sweetness from the intense sherry jelly on top of it. Then there’s a crumbed ball of richly meaty oryx on a rough-hewn twig, and a powerful hit of green olives, tempered slightly by passion fruit, all hidden beneath innocent-looking white mozzarella on a miniature spoon. And these are just the appetisers.
Release the Kraken, a dish of octopus and game fish, is plated on a dramatic black smear of ginger-infused squid ink. Frozen yuzu dressing, spooned onto the plate from a tiny pot smoking with dry ice, heaps on yet more drama. It’s the literary-sounding The Duck, the Ostrich and the Big Num-Num which packs the bigger punch in terms of flavour, though. Umami-rich fermented mushrooms perform a sweet-savoury balancing act with sweet fruity raspberry beer and tender duck.
Drama appears again in a ball of dough, which arrives on a block of heated Himalayan sea salt to rise at the table. It grows and mists up its glass cloche before being whisked away and returned, baked, with a masterful cheese course. Composed of Dalewood’s Huguenot cheese treated four ways, the Four Degrees of Cheese is simple but stupendous. First there’s a glorious warm chunk of cheese soufflé in silken cheesy sauce, then a shaving of the six-month matured version of the cheese – all concertinaed like some fancy forest fungi – then a cheese panna cotta, and last of all, an improbably creamy quenelle of Huguenot cheese ice cream, atop a Huguenot crisp. It’s an absolute highlight; a local riff on Italian wizard Massimo Bottura’s five ages and textures of Parmesan.
The palate cleanser is another inspired sweet-salty offering – a custard flavoured with Lay’s chips. Paired with a beer ice cream and crumbs of broken pretzel, it’s something quite magnificent.
In other places, the dishes are more complex: there are seven or eight flavours hiding in each, and finding and identifying them is an intellectual exercise. In a couple of cases, the complexity has one’s mind tripping up, in others, the multitude of flavours work together like an orchestra. An incredibly concentrated dab of lime gel lifts the sweet banana brûlée to another level; a powerful undercurrent of concealed olive transports one back to a first experience of the fruit; and a magnificent kick of sherry sweetens and balances the powerfully savoury mushroom cheesecake.
All in all, it’s an ambitious but rewarding journey.
The well-balanced list shows off meticulously selected bottles arranged by varietal and region, so you're free to try a Swartland white blend or an Elgin chardonnay. There's a good representation of natural, organic and biodynamic wines. Wine pairings are nuanced and, in places, inspired. A tawny port by De Krans is beautiful with the cheese course, and a Liefmans fruit beer turns out to be just the ticket for the duck.
Staff members are eloquent and accommodating, but for the most part their manner is easy – not stiff and stuffy as you might expect from a hotel restaurant.
The grounds of the historic Cellars Hohenort Hotel make for a magnificent location for this greenhouse of sorts. Recent renovations have resulted in a moody, contemporary space inside the restaurant. Charcoal walls, custom-made bare timber tables and stylish leather chairs in brown and cream make the perfect canvas for such nuanced, dramatic food.
Finish with a single-origin coffee tasting, with Ethiopian and Rwandan coffees.
The Greenhouse delivers playful, avant-garde cuisine. Executive chef Peter Tempelhoff incorporates lots of South African flavour and shows a strong focus on sustainable produce. Each course, from the bread upon arrival (still-warm pain au levain with cashew nut butter) to after-dinner petit fours – cocktail-inspired delights like a bloody Mary macaron and mint julep lollipops – shows a playful, imaginative touch. The rest of the stripped-down menu impresses with dishes like a beautifully presented squid terrine with winter melon, chorizo and fresh corn, offering great flavour combinations, while roasted duck breast is topped with exciting companions: num num gel, lichen dust, baby savoy cabbage and wild Cape garlic cream. This restaurant excels with brilliantly combined flavours, textures and colours.
A well-curated wine list that clearly focuses on the area it serves, presented by the knowledgeable and accommodating sommelier, Michelle Michaels.
Friendly and welcoming.
The setting is elegant and classy – an apt backdrop for the ambitious fare.
My partner and I celebrated my birthday there last month. I hope this will be perceived as positive feedback.
The common thread of my review is about attentiveness to guests.
The day we arrived was a typical winter's day in Cape Town, wet and cold. We expected a warm welcome at the reception of this regal venue, but it turned out to be a very reserved hostess ushering us to the very quiet and empty bar area to have pre dinner drink - I can't remember if there was any light background music in this area but all I recall at this moment is quietness. This would have been an opportune moment for the hostess to offer us a "welcome port or a sherry" and to inquire if we had been there before or to explain the course of events or to welcome us back. After what felt like 20 minutes or so in the bar area, I decided to claim the hostess's attention (who was in the reception hall) by walking about the bar. We were then ushered into the dining area.
Your waitrons need to be more attentive to the patrons. We had to wave down or catch the eye of the waiter every time we were done with our various courses. It also irritates patrons when they are served after other patrons who arrived later than them.
The key is to treat all your patrons like royalty and when the one course is done, collect plates and bring next course immediately. This timing needs to be noted by the waitron, who in turn needs to inform the kitchen. Considering it's a tasting menu, the kitchen should be aware of what needs to be made well in advance so I didn't understand the delay.
The food was not of a standard I expected from a Top 10 South African restaurant. The difference between the Tasting Room and this establishment are miles apart. Even my experience at the underrated La Mouette in Sea Point, was truly a better experience, food, service and value.
All in all, an experience I won't repeat any time soon.
I cannot understand why The Greenhouse does not win every award. Sublime food, exquisitely presented. This restaurant is up there with the best in the world.
A sensory explosion. What creativity, that has motivated me to try some of the dishes that were presented. I loved the garden patch dish served at the beginning of the meal consisting of avocado mousse, a layer of edible sand and baby vegetables. Pure artistry! The only let down was the wine pairing and lack of attendence to guests.
Dinner on the 15th June.
We had both the tasting menus. (Fish and Meat) New menus from a month ago....once again amazing. The wine pairing very good. Loved the bread as always - the best in any restaurant. Congratulations to Peter Tempelhoff and his team.
My wife and I started our culinary weekend in Cape Town at this exquisite restaurant. And what a start...perfect setting and ambience, extremely creative food (chef's brilliant tasting menu) and very interesting wine pairing! Difficult to single out a dish, but the tomato and the and duck dishes were both particularly memorable. The personal and friendly, though professional service from Elton Damon took top honours!
An amazing experience! Consistently (I've been 3 times) great service, superb food and wine!
This is comparable to any Michelin restaurant we have had dinner at in Europe. Food is superb, well thought out and excellently plated.
What an amazing experience. From Natasha taking our booking to the culinary experience - it was utterly professional and exciting. Service is fantastic, venue is very very special and compliments to the chef/s for a wonderful journey. Thanks for a special anniversary memory.
Five of us ate at The Greenhouse last night. All agreed that it was one of, if not the the finest culinary experiences ever.
Most amazing food ever. We had the chef's tasting menu and the fish tasting menu. Cannot wait to fly to Cape Town so I can return to the so well deserved "Eat Out" number 1 in South Africa! Well done and thank you.
We had dinner at the Greenhouse on Friday 4th May. The food was very impressive but, compared to other restaurants in the top 10, the overall experience was underwhelming. My wife chose the chef's tasting menu and I went for the fish tasting menu. The restaurant had run out of the salmon trout so we both ended up with the same prawn roulade for a second course. The service was very attentive but the wine arrived late for one of the courses and when our bill arrived, we had been overcharged for two rather than the one wine pairing option. The chef visited numerous tables but not ours. Compared to exceptional dining experiences at the Tasting Room, Test Kitchen, Terroir and the Roundhouse, the Greenhouse was actually quite disappointing.
Had the most amazing meal at Greenhouse on Friday evening - everything was excellent from the reservations people who helped me out up to the end where Chef Peter personally came and thanked each guest. I am very impressed and have definitely added The Greenhouse as a "must do"!
I ate at this restaurant recently and came away remembering that one should be wary of being caught up in the hype surrounding some of the restaurants we are so lucky to have here in the Cape. I am in the fortunate position to have eaten at 3 of the top tasing menus in the past 3 weeks (Test Kitchen, Tasting Room and Greenhouse). Whilst I e-mailed the Greenhouse weeks ahead of my food prefences, and they assured me this was no problem, I arrived with my 3 dining companions to be given the standard menu to choose from, and only after much searching through the menu, realised I should request a vegetarian menu (I do eat fish as well). At the Tasting Room (in Franschoek), they knew immediately who our party was on arrival, and they had prepared for us. Just to be double sure I asked our waiter to confirm that "poisson" was fish, he insisted it was chicken. I was confused, asked him to check, but he insisted it was chicken. I have obviously since checked with a French speaking friend, and realise I dipped out on half my dish. The service really wasn't great on our visit, with only the first of 4 courses being explained, as the waiters steadily got busier during the course of the evening. . To my fellow foodies, or anyone who would like to spoil a loved-one with a tasting menu, there really is only one place to go, and that's the Tasting Room. In terms of the total package i.e lighting (so that you can actually see the food), waitering etc., you will get will get bang for your buck.
The Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel, Constantia
We had a wonderful evening with our neighbours at The Greenhouse a fortnight ago. It was sublime! Expensive yes, but worth every penny. Beautiful decor at the Conservatory, great ambience. It was a long drive to Constantia but we were all looking forward to a superb dinner. I would like to think that the evening's meal was overseen by the Executive Chef, Peter Tempelhoff. Whether he was there or not, his team did a splendid job. The appointed waiter and the sommerlier knew their job inside out. Their recommendation was perfect. Exquisite! The boys had so much fun, so much so, that their Pinot Noir was all over the table cloth and my husband's shirt (our guests were drunk, I might add). Will definitely go again if they will allow us in.
Brilliant. Absolutely deserving of its nunber 1 status, The Greenhouse served up a spectacular Chef's Tasting Menu of 7 courses with wine pairing that is faultless. Although pricey, the quality of dishes are of such a high standard that the indulgence is worthwhile. Lovely setting and ambience to boot.
Absolutely incredible- Peter Tempelhoff is an absolute genius, the food is incredible. No one should miss out on an opportunity to eat at the Greenhouse.
My girlfriend and I went here last year and we were so over joyed when we heard that it is the restaurant of the year. We make it a priority when we can to eat at the top restaurants when we can and whilst last year, the Greenhouse was merely considered instead of being in the top 10, we decided to try it anyway. We are so glad we did. We did the tasting menu and it was a delightfull dinner of intricate dishes, taste explosions and mind-numbingly beautifully presented food and odd concoctions formed from the mind of a genius. The sommelier was great and we absolutely loved the wine so much, we drove all the way to the farm to buy cases of it a few weeks later. It is a little pricey, but for a special occasion, it's well worth it and I am desperately looking forward to the next special occasion to go back. Definitely Number 1 in our books!
Beautiful setting, faultless food and outstanding service.
I agree with Gill Carter - The Greenhouse should be in the top 10 selection of restaurants and I would go as far as saying it should be in the top listing for Africa and the Middle-East. I rate you same as and above The Tasting Room in Franschhoek. Well done with food and divine flavours.