Perfectly crafted for the diner with a taste for food of a superb quality, the largely classic European-inspired menu at the De Hoek Country Hotel restaurant makes the establishment stand out as one of the finest among the finest. And it’s no wonder, considering Chef Michael Holenstein and his team have consistently worked hard to deliver the superlative gourmet experience that guests have over the years come to expect of the highly regarded dining venue, The Conservatory. The five-course dinner menu changes regularly to ensure that the finest ingredients are served at the best time of the year.
Consistent with seasonal changes, in the colder months, a highly recommended starter would be the rustic yet elegantly presented chicken soup served in a bowl covered with the most deliciously baked and browned golden pastry. On a less cold day, the rocket caesar salad with parmesan, croutons, and camembert might be ideal. A word of caution: while this may be a fine dining establishment, it is South African, and the portions certainly reflect this as you will be hard-pressed not to wish to take a stroll in the immaculate gardens surrounding The Conservatory between each course to try and boost your metabolism so as to not too feel to full for the next generously portioned course.
One of the standout main dishes is the springbok loin, which is probably one of the best you will ever have – it is so tender, succulent and beautifully seasoned and served with vegetables. The steak au poivre, a grilled pepper-crusted rib-eye steak served with red wine butter, and roasted vegetables, is equally satisfying. For dessert, both Holenstein’s signature bread-and-butter pudding and the pineapple carpaccio served with tuile and sorbet are winners. The efficient waitrons and host are always on hand to ensure that guests know exactly which wine to pair with each course to help digestion and enrich the dining experience.
The wine list is carefully selected to perfectly enhance and balance each of the courses. While, bringing your own bottle is not permissible, the menu with its wines from some of the best vino-producing cities around the world, including local vineyards, more than meets expectation. Wine is also sold by the glass, ranging from R55 (Cederberg unwooded chenin blanc) to R85 (Donkiesbaai hooijwin). Champagnes are part of the offering, and so are dessert wines.
As booking is highly recommended, the first interaction with The Conservatory staff might be on their website, where friendly reception staff are online to talk to you, asking how they can help you in a live chat box that pops up on the screen before you have even made contact with them. For those who prefer the more traditional way of booking, staff on the phone are equally as efficient, helpful and polite, speedily securing bookings and e-mailing to confirm. While good service at any restaurant is to be expected, there are many fine dining establishments that rely solely on their food to woo their customers, whilst treating them with the utmost contempt. The Conservatory, while still consistently delivering on charming and original food, gladly, does not feel into that trap of complacence as the staff there are particularly remarkably hospitable – from helping guests park, leading them to the restaurant, welcoming them with drinks before seating them, to ensuring the food is delivered perfectly prepared and timeously.
The setting is gorgeous, whether you eat indoors or in the garden. While the dining arrangement is quite formal, with no cellphones allowed at the table and most guests seeming to speak in very hushed tones throughout the courses, there is a certain warmth and charm which does not make patrons feel ill at ease. The resulting experience is intimate.
De Hoek Country Hotel is a wonderful place to consider sleeping over in for a romantic weekend ending with a Sunday lunch.
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