Venues

Ryan’s Kitchen

Ryan’s Kitchen
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Cost
R200
Ambience
Classic elegance, Comfy & casual
Food
Modern, South African
Payment
Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Linda Scarborough

Food
Chef Ryan Smith takes snapshots of local ingredients through the lens of classic techniques. The chef’s trademark colours and flavours emerge in intricately plated dishes – abundant splashes of green and pale gold stand out on sometimes dark and moody handmade crockery. While Ryan’s Kitchen is on the main road into Franschhoek, the slogan on the sign – ‘contemporary South African cooking’ – should indicate that it’s very far from the usual meat-and-two-veg fare. If you were in any doubt, meet this umami-rich amuse-bouche: Glossy black balls of sago bob in a miso broth with mushrooms and flakes of salty snoek. In another starter, fine slivers of warthog are layered with charred onion ash, root vegetables and onion purée.

Diners will be intrigued by the likes of seabass fillet poached in red wine with a smoky brinjal barley risotto; tuna ceviche with red cabbage jelly, grapefruit and black pepper gel; and beef short rib with coffee jus and parsnip crème caramel. One of the stars of the meal, a tongue-in-cheek riff on South African traditional milktart, is actually a savoury delight, with a firm cheesy custard, wild mushrooms and an outstanding flaky pastry.

Reminiscent of a lollipop of your childhood memories, the dessert ‘cannelloni’ appears as a tube of crackable sugar, filled with basil crème and complemented by crisp green compressed apple and crème fraîche ice cream to offset the sucrose. Another winning finisher is the salted caramel bavarois with accents of spiced pear, but those with less of a sweet tooth can opt for the Karoo blue cheddar with quince paste and jelly.

Drinks
A richly textured wine list hold many options for lovers of the grape. The selection is a treat to page through, with ample options per varietal, a section for aromatic cultivars, plus little gems like two sémillons and three pinot noirs from Franschhoek. Most bottles are from the Cape winelands, but you can also try some options from Spain, Italy and France.

Service
Ryan’s wife Lana performs front-of-house duties with aplomb, making considerate enquiries as to our comfort, and recommending wine pairings. The rest of the staff complement is relaxed but efficient. Things flow very smoothly, allowing you to unwind, sit back and enjoy the view and the winelands experience.

Ambience
There’s an air of calm and peace at Ryan’s Kitchen. If you’re there for lunch, find a seat near the glass windows to soak up the sun streaming in. The space is beautiful, comfortable and elegant, with pale and white wood, duck-egg-blue walls, gorgeous upholstery and loads of light.

And…
It’s fun to spy the chefs bustling about in the open kitchen in the back.

(September 2016)

Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.

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  • Greg Landman

    Food
    Since chef Ryan Smith moved here from his place in town, Ryan’s Kitchen has become one of the places to eat in Franschhoek. The menu, which changes every fortnight, offers items like a totally delicious tapioca mushroom ‘pudding’ with sautéed exotic mushrooms, and grilled goat’s cheese with a fennel and apple salad – a brilliant idea; nice and fresh, yet rich at the same time.

    Among the fish options you’ll find tandoori-cured Cape salmon with eggplant and raisin ratatouille and a beautifully spiced baked angelfish with lemongrass and coconut velouté. The knockout, however, is the twist on traditional Cape Malay pickled seafood, which is cooked in a bag. Carnivores will love the peri-peri duck parfait with lemon jelly and green-bean chutney, and the simply sensational venison carpaccio with orange-sesame dressing and caramelised chicory. The granadilla soufflé with mango ice cream is a refreshing way to end after all those rich flavours.

    More recent summer dishes include wildebeest tataki with compressed apple, pickled baby turnips and meringue; a bobotie pancake with pineapple and chilli; seaweed-crusted impala loin with glazed chicory, cherries and blackpepper gel; and an elevated version of eskimo pie.

    Drinks
    The wine list is well chosen, with many local treasures and some from further afield.

    Service
    Service is impeccable, with Ryan’s charming wife, Svetlana, often there to keep things moving like a well-oiled machine.

    Ambience
    The interior is crisply modern, with some designer touches to keep it from being too precious. The atmosphere is one of casual elegance; laid back and confident, this is a good place to spoil yourself. The open-plan kitchen allows you to see the food being prepared without you having to lift a finger. It’s all very appealing.

    And…
    Bookings are absolutely essential at this popular spot.

    (October 2015)

  • Locals and tourists have grown the reputation of this great little venue. Every table feels like a chef’s table where patrons can watch chefs at work. Adventurous use of traditional SA ingredients makes chef Ryan Smith stand out on Franschhoek’s crowded restaurant row. Must try: tuna tartare and frozen chakalaka and Cape Malay crab and tapioca pudding. (EO mag 2014)
  • Food
    Chef-patron Ryan Smith is no stranger to Franschhoek, having worked at Mont Rochelle, but he has now his own baby, and quite a bouncy one it is. The menu shows a desire to do things his own way, delivering high visual impact and delicious, sometimes unusual, flavours. Try the duck liver parfait, silkily enveloped in a naartjie jelly coating – a great foil for all that richness. If you have ever wondered why an egg should be cooked sous vide, try this one with cured ham and vetkoekies. Then go on to the baby chicken with sweet corn custard and blood orange purée. Finish up with a peppermint crisp roll with Tennis biscuit ice cream.

    Wine
    A good list featuring some treasures from here and elsewhere.

    Service
    Very personal service from knowledgeable staff.

    Ambience
    Situated in the lounge area of a gorgeous old guest house, the restaurant has plenty of wood finishes and crystal chandeliers, making it sumptuous without being intimidating, as well as elegant and special. Just the place to spoil someone who needs it.

    And...
    The menu changes regularly. Dining outside on a fine summer evening is something really special. (GL, October 2012)

User reviews

  • Deeply disappointing experience on all fronts. Front of house clumsy, poor wine, mediocre food.
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  • Franschhoek is not short of good restaurants but Ryan's Kitchen must be one of the beast. It is small and so you can watch the chef being very relaxed mastering the kitchen. We ate ourselves through the menu and enjoyed every bit of it. It is quite pricy but great value and the wines are affordable. A place to remember.
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  • This has got to be the second best dining experience (after the Test Kitchen) that I have had anywhere in SA! Ryan is a magician and his interpretation of SA dishes is revolutionary....black pepper meringue, anyone?

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  • Superb! Go for the chef's selection and prepare to be blown away!

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  • Absolutely agree with all the other reviews. Ryan's is dinner theatre without the bad tunes and tired jokes - mesmerising, tantalsising and truly delicious. Try the sweetbreads and the naartjie souffle if you can... Fabulous.

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  • A great new find in Franschhoek. This tiny restaurant serves delicious creative food with brilliant personal service.

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  • Unique setting but well worth all of the hype - the food was sublime and totally different to anything I have ever experienced. The service was smooth, perhaps a tad too pretentious, but still overall a lovely evening for a special occasion.

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  • Unfriendly and uncomfortable. I wouldn't go back in a hurry. Not a good memory of my otherwise good time in the valley.

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  • This restaurant more than exceeded our expectations. As well travelled "foodies" that are hard to please, I have to say that credit must be paid where it is due, Ryan's Kitchen ticked all the boxes!
    Not the cheapest night out, but definitely great value for money.
    The overall food, wine and ambience experience was most enjoyable, and intamate (approximately 10 tables) and the service was great without being intrusive.
    Franschoek should be proud to have the calibre of food and overall experience that Ryan's Kitchen offers.
    A great night out, and well worth it!
    We are from Sydney, and won't hesitate to recommend this eatery to anyone planning to visit Franschoek.

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  • Had an amazing meal at Ryan's Kitchen on Satruday evening. Everything was perfect from the venue to the food to the service. A truly memorable experience and since Franschhoek is only a 45 minute drive, it won't be a once in life time experience but a mulitple times in a lifetime experience.

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  • Truly fabulous evening. The food was out of this world - the service was attentive without being overly so. Our favourite place to eat in the winelands. Book it, you will not be disappointed.

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  • We had an exceptional evening at Ryan's, with a fantastic view of the production of the most wonderful food. The service was perfect - efficient and friendly, without being intrusive. Engaging with the chef was a treat. But it was the food that was quite sublime from start to finish.

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  • Delicious and creative food with attentive service. Loved it.
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  • Excellent food, atmosphere and hosts!!!!
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  • We tried Ryans Kitchen this year following our usual annual trip to The Tasting Room. Wow, it is fabulous, the Taste of Africa menu was a sensation. We will not go to The Tastiing Room again, this is far better. Fabulous service and the most incredible food. It was a little hot inside but the terrace was perfect. We are already looking forward to it again but unfortunately will have to wait another 12 months!!
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  • Seriously, this guy and his team know how to cook. After some truly disappointing and soulless food from the usual suspects in the Franschhoek village, Ryan and his team have restored my faith in the magic of beautifully conceived and cooked food. His flavour combinations are adventurous but so balanced and logical, that when the blinding epiphany of his culinary marriages hit you, it is almost impossible not to get out of your chair and start cheering rather loudly. The desserts are extraordinary - like eating surround sound pudding with 3D glasses on. Thank you!
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  • I had pleasure of recently dining at Ryan’s kitchen. What a truly memorable experience. Every aspect of taste and texture was to savour. With this in mind I had to call Ryan over to say that the portions are too small, jokingly of course! Not really, but had to try to get more from him to keep tasting! I am not a South African local food lover and prefer other influences, however this place certainly has changed my mind. All I can say is, experience it for yourselves…. Charming and relaxed environment with exceptional food in great company, as Ryan chats to you while cooking! Cheers mate, good show! I will be back…
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  • A really good new restaurant is a rare thing, and although the main street of Franschhoek is packed with restaurants, few of them could be classed as really good. So our expectations of Ryans Kitchen were middling, if that. And we were wrong. Ryan has really tapped into a great concept - take the foods that South Africans know and love, the chicken livers, the steak, the venison, the fish, and all those lovely traditional puddings, deconstruct, reconstruct and serve them in an elegant, modern format. This is proper restaurant food that could not be emulated at home; sauces are prepared with hours of reduction and the greatest of care; unexpected combinations bringing out the best in each other without pretension or trying too hard, and each plate is exquisitely finished by Ryan before it leaves the kitchen. The kitchen, itself is on full display so no tantrums allowed and impeccable cleanliness and professionalism for all to see. If there must be a criticism, it is that the room is too small - an economic necessity no doubt as this young Capetonian chef has returned from a long stint overseas to set up his own restaurant. I know we will regret writing this review, as we wont be able to get a last minute table on a Saturday night any more... but they deserve it.
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Dinner
  • Eat Out reviewed
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Smoking
  • WiFi

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