The options seem endless at Marigold: The menu is extensive and covers a range of Indian cuisine from chaat, tandoori dishes and curries to dhal and briyani. Side options include a range of rice, salads and Indian breads.
We start with the golgappa and tamarind pani: bite-sized, hollow, crispy pockets housing a small, spicy assortment of chickpeas, potato and onion. Pour the cold tamarind water into the pocket, pop it in your mouth and wait for the – quite literal – explosion of flavour. The contrast between the warm, spicy basket and the cold, sour liquid will fill your whole palate with flavour. They are fantastic.
The machli amritsari (deep-fried fish goujons) are battered in a Bengal gram flour: they’re not crispy, but rather soft, chewy light and fluffy. The fish is salty and spicy, and served with lemon, chaat masala and fresh coriander.
The murg malai tikka comprises chicken thighs marinated in yoghurt curd, baked in the clay oven. It is well cooked and succulent with a great spice. The spice is not overpowering and the dish has fantastic smoky undertones. Try the palak paneer for a vegetarian dish that is as good as it gets. It’s light, creamy and the heat is on point.
A cautionary note on the sides: there is a temptation to order too many and you may find your side-to-main ratio out of sync. Hold yourself back (if at all possible). The naan is good, and the rice is, well, rice. Choose one or the other. The stuffed naan (R35), however, is phenomenal. In fact, it’s the star of the entire meal. Loaded with chilli, coriander, garlic onion and paneer, it’s creamy, airy, fluffy and full of flavour. It could (and perhaps should) be a dish on its own. Don’t miss out on this one.
If you still have room, the concise dessert menu may tickle your fancy. Don’t expect your run-of-the-mill desserts here: choose between the likes of gajar halwa tart (a North Indian sweet dish made of crated carrots, condensed milk, cardamom and pistachios), kulfi (Indian ice cream with fragrant spices), phirni (creamy ground rice with mango) or tandoor-baked pineapple and saffron crumble with coconut and fennel seed.
Expect an extensive wine list. A good variety of local options is available by both the bottle and glass (R45 for both white and red), as well as a selection of premium Mullineux & Leeu family wines by the bottle. There is no cocktail list, but the sommelier is happy to step up the challenge and whip up a drink on request.
An initial confusion with a faulty booking system is amended (after some convincing), despite the restaurant being fully booked for Sunday lunch. The service is friendly and attentive, but can be a touch slow in parts.
Marigold makes good use of a small room. Clean lines and the clever use of gold and wood give a sense of space. The restaurant is bustling for Sunday lunch without being too noisy or cramped and, despite the more-upmarket ambience, most tables include children as diners.
If the seemingly endless options are overwhelming, take the thinking out of your dining and opt for the thali: a variety of small portions as chosen by the chef, served on one platter. Choose between the vegetarian or non-vegetarian options.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Vanie Padayachee’s new spot at Leeu Collection (formerly Le Quartier Français) in Franschhoek has been drawing the crowds. It’s spicy and amazingly fragrant – what a treat. The sharing menu is highly recommended, allowing you to try little bits of everything.
The food is served in copper bowls on a big copper platter, and you can dish up the quantity you’d like. The waiters bring food with names like golgappa and tamarind pani, buffalo milk paneer, nimbu machli tikka, murg makhani (more commonly known as butter chicken) and desserts like fennel-seed kulfi, tandoor-baked pineapple and saffron crumble with coconut.
Everything on the menu is really good, but the butter chicken and deep-fried spinach are my favourites by far. Our waiter recommends the fish, which is also a winner and über delicious. To end, the kulfi, served on an ice lolly stick and flavoured with cardamom, vies for attention from your taste buds.
You should absolutely eat with your hands; there’s just something special about it. Afterwards you’ll still catch the aromas lingering on your fingertips...
Chef Vanie Padayachee has a good thing going on here.
The wine list is quite extensive, with Mullineux & Leeu Family wines taking pride of place on the menu. Analjit (or BAS) Singh, the owner of the Leeu Collection properties, has a bubbly named after him, which makes a really good end to the meal. If you’d like craft beer as an option, Tuk Tuk Microbrewery just across the street is also part of the Leeu Collection, and its wares appear on the drinks list.
The waiters are excellently trained and know anything and everything about the origin of the dishes, the way they are prepared, the street food traditions of India, and what makes north-Indian cuisine different from that of other regions.
If you’re looking for Indian elements everywhere, this is not that kind of establishment. There are subtle hints like the traditional hand paintings presented as art; the colours are bold yet understated. There’s lots of light streaming in and you have enough room to feel relaxed. The aromas from the kitchen are very enticing.
It’s really refreshing to have an authentic Indian restaurant in the heart of the Winelands. If you’re not familiar with Indian food, the waiters and maître d’ are on hand to assist you through the process.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.