Bertus Basson’s wine and tapas bar might be more casual than some of the chef’s offerings, but this food means business. The short, changing tapas menu features some packed-with-flavour gems.
Organic-maize tacos appear topped with translucent slivers of radish, tangy, sweet pork shoulder and piped dollops of sour cream. The gnocchi – feather-light pillows – has been sautéed until golden, and comes in a lemony, creamy froth, with meaty mushrooms and a sublime crispy, parmesan-laced crumb.
The real standout, though, is the cauliflower dish. As one of the waiters – apparently not much of a vegetable fan – says: “If I like a cauliflower dish, then you must know it’s good.” A head of cauliflower has been roasted until slightly crisp at the extremities, and served in a creamy cauliflower purée with roasted macadamia nuts, salty, crispy onions and sweet little raisins. It’s a triumph.
Portions are fairly generous for tapas, so set out cautiously, and order more as you go. We’re told to start with two tapas dishes, and go from there. Three turns out to be plenty for two – especially if you’re planning dessert.
The Peppermint Crisp cones (two to a portion) have become something of a signature. The ice cream is beautifully textured and the flavour mimics Peppermint Crisp tart cleverly. I sort of wish they were smaller and cuter – it is a lot of ice cream – and that they had a nugget of chocolate at the tip of the cone, like in my childhood memories.
The other pudding that shouldn’t be missed, if available, is Tannie Hetta’s apple pie – a sublimely sweet, soft apple sponge, soaked in syrup and served with ice cream and custard. Food coma stuff.
This is also a wine bar, with an interesting wine list to match. Think Ghost Corner, Crystallum, Luddite and AA Badenhorst. Prices range from R150 for a bottle of Gavin Brand’s Cape Rock Rose, to R795 for Eben Sadie’s Palladius. There’s also a list of local gins to slake your thirst, and local craft beer.
“What a hidden gem,” exclaims a diner at a neighbouring table, shaking his head. It is hidden – look for the sign at Oom Samie Se Winkel, and disappear down the alley into the back courtyard. The location is maybe a bit underwhelming, but that sort of adds to the surprise factor. It’s a pleasant enough place to pass an afternoon, with the town’s oldest fruit producing vine providing shade in the courtyard, and hip marble tables, and glossy black and white tiles inside.
Efficient and unobtrusive. The team handles small errors with grace and sincerity, which is all most diners want.
The restaurant is named for Bertus and Mareli Basson’s gorgeous pet pig and dog, whose likenesses appear in photos and various artworks around the restaurant. As far as we can tell, though, they sadly don’t frequent the restaurant themselves.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Bertus Basson opened Spek & Bone with a slightly different concept than you might expect from the chef: it focuses on the sharing of small tapas plates and great wine. Quite in agreement with the charming origin of the name – Spek, the chef’s pet pig, and Bone, his pet boxer, are the best of buddies – the tapas-style restaurant will capture your imagination and tantalise the palate, says Eat Out critic Thulisa Martins.
The menu at Spek & Bone supports local produce as much as possible, and the food is creative and delicious. The shared plates come out of the kitchen as and when they are ready, which is a fun way for guests to do a bit of guesswork on what’s coming next. Be sure to be surprised each time you visit, as the menu will change quite frequently to support the principle of seasonality.
Amongst the goodies, the herbed potato churros served with mushroom ketchup are full of flavour: crisp and warm with a light, fluffy interior. For meat lovers, the slow-cooked lamb ribs with shiso leaves, caraway, confit garlic and chimichurri is just the thing. The ribs have an appealing caramelised surface and a melt-in-the-mouth interior, served on a bed of sweet-and-sour braised beans.
A dish of creamed lower-land organic maize served with mushrooms and Edwin Heim white asparagus is tasty, a modern take on the South African speciality of pap. Another dish of note is the smoked hake, cooked to perfection and served with tasty butter-braised leeks, potatoes and chives.
The dessert menu is compact and interesting. If not choosing the brioche doughnuts with apple purée and vanilla ice cream, then try the Peppermint Crisp king cone. Beautifully presented on a wooden stand and served with caramel popcorn and chunks of peppermint, it’s pure indulgence.
A small selection of wines and Champagne, including Billecart Salmon Brut, leaves visitors with plenty to please their tastes. The Duchess virgin ‘gin and tonic’ is perfect for those avoiding alcohol.
Professional and well-informed waiters are quick to advise guests from the selection. They’re so passionate about the dishes it’s almost as if they’d prepared the food themselves.
Outside is the ideal setting for a relaxed dinner, especially on a warm summer evening. A few tables are situated underneath the oldest fruit-producing vine tree in Stellenbosch, with the branches overhead draped with fairy lights. Part of the historic building used to be the original market in town. The open-air garden is intimate, which would suit couples and larger groups.
Quirky solar-light jars are used on the tables.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.