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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s fun to spy the chefs bustling about in the open kitchen in the back.
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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.
The wine list is well chosen, with many local treasures and some from further afield.
Service is impeccable, with Ryan’s charming wife, Svetlana, often there to keep things moving like a well-oiled machine.
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.
Bookings are absolutely essential at this popular spot.
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?
Superb! Go for the chef's selection and prepare to be blown away!
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.
A great new find in Franschhoek. This tiny restaurant serves delicious creative food with brilliant personal service.
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.
Unfriendly and uncomfortable. I wouldn't go back in a hurry. Not a good memory of my otherwise good time in the valley.
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.
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.
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.
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.