Venues

The Restaurant at Newton Johnson

The Restaurant at Newton Johnson
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  • Location 021 200 2148
  • Phone Number Newton Johnson Family Vineyards, Hemel-en-Aarde Road (R320), Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Overberg, Western Cape
  • email therestaurant@newtonjohnson.com
  • Website URL http://www.newtonjohnson.com/dine/
  • Opening Hours

    Lunch: Wednesday to Sunday 12noon to 3pm

    Dinner: September to April (in season) from Thursday to Saturday 7.00pm to 8.30pm. May to August (off season) Saturdays 7pm to 8pm 7pm to 8.30pm

Cost
R285 for a two-course lunch; R375 for three course lunch; R595 for a six-course lunch; R460 for a four-course dinner; R595 for a six-course tasting menu (excluding wines)
Ambience
Comfy & casual
Food
Contemporary fare, Modern, South African
Payment
Diners, Mastercard, Visa
500
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Critic's review

Richard Holmes

Food
Despite building his reputation in the world of fine-dining, owner/chef Eric Bulpitt determinedly steers away from that label here, instead delivering accomplished country cuisine that effortlessly combines bold flavours, careful sourcing and artful yet unfussy plating.

The compact menu offers just a few options per course, allowing the small kitchen crew to bring dollops of creativity to each plate, including the likes of fire-roasted Jerusalem artichokes, endive marmalade, pickled seaweed and preserved lemons. They’re all combined into contemporary dishes that range from crowd-pleasers like pork belly and sirloin, plated with foraged mushrooms and delicious organic beetroot, to the more adventurous slow-braised beef tongue accompanied by homemade mustard.

A standout starter is the sturdy pork dumpling given a lift by carrot, nasturtium and a green elderberry dressing. Bulpitt’s way with vegetables is worth noting: his roasted celeriac and raclette is as good a reason as any to make the drive out. But look out for his seafood dishes, too. The oiliness of fresh local mackerel is brightened by cucumber ribbons and a zesty citrus-soy dressing, while ‘15-minute cured hake’ adds a cauliflower purée and herb crust to bring a splash of inventiveness to this ‘stokvis’.

Drinks
The focus falls firmly on the excellent Newton Johnson wines, with a handful available by the glass. A selection of Bulpitt’s personal favourites from further afield is also on offer, along with a small range of artisanal spirits and craft beers.

Service
A country-casual approach belies the excellent service on offer. Waiters have an excellent handle on both Bulpitt’s cooking and the wines from the estate.

Ambience
While the standard of cooking leans towards fine dining, the relaxed ambience is more appropriate to the gorgeous vineyard location. Glass walls and a small terrace make the most of the superb Hemel-en-Aarde views, while quirky artwork tries hard to cosy up the indoor space. An open kitchen lets diners watch the chefs at work.

And…
Look out for the five-course winter special, which offers good value for money.

(September 2015)

 

  • Ambience
  • Service
  • Food
  • Eat Out

    Food 
    Eric Bullpit’s food has always been technically sound (as diners at his former establishment The Roundhouse would know) but now he’s cooking with more confidence, demonstrating fantastic balance of flavours. Dishes are bursting with flavour and show a clear and uncluttered focus on the core ingredient. No foams, gels or other tricks here – this is pure and very tasty country cooking. Start with a light, crimson soup of beetroot with mascarpone and fennel, its delicate flavours enlivened by the inspired addition of fennel pollen. A main dish of Swartland boerbok, slow-braised until tender and served on buttery umngqusho with grilled cabbage, and topped with a dollop of mustard cream, is worth the two-hour drive from Cape Town alone. The same goes for the aged Chalmar beef sirloin with herb crust, potato gnocchi and pickled beetroot, which is beautifully plated in a wreath of beetroot  ‘petals’, sweet pea shoots and roasted garlic. The food is more intricate than it seems; each dish becomes a revelation in pure flavours and layered textures.

    Wine 
    Limited to Newton-Johnson produce, and a few surrounding estates, but sommelier Bafen Johnson’s picks pair beautifully with the food.

    Service
    Relaxed, unflappable service with a touch of personality. Staff members are happy to make recommendations and explain dishes.

    Ambience
    Located in the beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, perched on a hilltop amidst the vineyards, the restaurant is light and airy and filled with sunlight even in the middle of winter. It’s a great spot for a lingering lunch – lose yourself in the relaxed vibe and fantastic views.

    Comments by the 2014 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards judges

    “Eric’s food is honest and simple, with an innate sense of purity.” – Abigail Donnelly

    “Dishes impress with deep, intense flavours and a nice surprise here and there.” – Reuben Riffel

    (August 2014)

  • The food
    When Eric Bulpitt left The Roundhouse last year we were thrilled to hear he was going out on his own, with wife Celeste, and taking over the old Heaven space at Newton Johnson estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

    Hot little white bread roll balls with butter start proceedings, while we peruse the concise three-course menu. Fresh and seasonal are the order of the day here, and the presence of producer’s names highlights the care that has gone into sourcing the best of local produce.

    In the interests of proper research (and to compare it with the famous Noma-inspired version that used to be served at The Roundhouse) I start with the vegetable salad. The plate of veggies that arrives feels a little austere, but the pickled cucumber and carrots pair nicely with the porcini crumble and brinjal purée.

    Because I have my family well trained, I also sample the slow-braised beef tongue with carrot purée and tasty homemade mustard. It’s tender as butter, but ever so slightly bland (we miss salt on the tables, here). The olive oil-poached yellowtail is incredibly moist and swimming in a delicate tomato emulsion with touches of amasi and celery.

    For mains, I order the cashew-crusted hake, a lovely rendition that successfully convinces me that the fish belongs in places other than a thick layer of batter. The Glen Oakes pork loin with braised lentils and a white bean and truffle espuma is tasty enough, and the aged beef sirloin with pickled and butter-poached turnip is pretty good. (My brother is annoyingly smug about the crispy young potatoes that accompany it, and I am left with no choice but to steal one.)

    The undisputed winners of this section of the meal, though, are the three bowls of chips we order as a side, having seen other tables do the same. Triple-cooked, they are exquisitely crunchy and golden. (I wish they’d come with an aioli though – having ordered fish, I am forced to swipe meaty juices from adjacent sirloin plates, for dunking purposes.) They also need better draining – one or two are dripping oil.

    Eric has a definite eye for plating – there’s a visual delight in each plate that arrives – but he has a tendency of spotting of ingredients around the plate in several places. I watch my family of less invested eaters dutifully eat round everything they deem to be a garnish, and thus miss out on some of the flavours they’re meant to be experiencing. Perhaps better sometimes to serve a steak in one piece with a sauce with a pile of potatoes and be clear about it.

    For dessert I have an Eton mess, which comes with a heap of slightly lurid pink foam, too-hard meringue, and a totally incredible coconut ice cream. I offer it round, carefully shielding the ice cream quenelle from marauding spoons.

    I claim tax from my brother who has predictably ordered the chocolate mousse (I think this plating needs a second look), which is suitably rich and chocolatey, though the orange is very tart.

    The lemon verbena panna cotta with pistachio and honeycomb is the most beautiful of the desserts, and fairly subtle. (I want a bigger whack of honeycomb here, but perhaps that’s my over-active sweet tooth).

    Nobody orders the butter-toasted brioche with Camphill milk whey sorbet, pears, oats and almonds, which is annoying because it sounds kind of amazing.

    Wine
    The winelist comprises predominantly Newton Johnson wines (they offer a top-of-the-line range, plus a more affordable Felicité range), with some bubbles and dessert wines from elsewhere. There is a bit of a mark-up on the Newton Johnson wines – which might seem a little unreasonable given the extremely short distance they need to travel from the vine to table – but doesn’t actually bother me, given how affordable the food is. (They’ve got to break even somehow!)

    Ambience
    The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world and this restaurant has one of the best views. The restaurant décor is designed to take advantage of the view, with some stylish designer chairs and tables, but needs a little finessing. The floor –which resembles rough patio tiles – could definitely do with an update. A bigger concern is the acoustics. It gets so loud in one of the rooms that it’s a little hard to hear the rest of my party. Some soft furnishings are needed pronto to soak up some of the sound on busy days.

    Service
    Relaxed and not in the least overbearing (which is a cardinal sin in my book). We do need to summon the waiter once or twice though. Bookings are also taken in a staggered fashion, to help the small kitchen cope, so be aware that you may wait a while if you arrive late.

    The verdict
    This is definitely food with ambition, but I can’t help but feel it needs more gumption. Even dishes like the sirloin feel a little tentative – I miss the exclamations of joy from my fellow diners. The restaurant only opened in October 2013, so it will perhaps take a little longer for Eric and his team to find their voice and to really push their flavours. The foundations are there, though, and it will be interesting to see what the judges make of it come nomination season.

    Besides that, at just R220 for two courses and R285 for three this is a great value fine dining option.

    (February 2014)
  • The food
    When Eric Bulpitt left The Roundhouse last year we were thrilled to hear he was going out on his own, with wife Celeste (plus some mentorship from George Jardine of Jordan), and taking over the old Heaven space at Newton Johnson estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.

    Hot little white bread roll balls with butter start proceedings, while we peruse the concise three-course menu. Fresh and seasonal are the order of the day here, and the presence of producer’s names highlights the care that has gone into sourcing the best of local produce.

    In the interests of proper research (and to compare it with the famous Noma-inspired version that used to be served at The Roundhouse) I start with the vegetable salad. The plate of veggies that arrives feels a little austere, but the pickled cucumber and carrots pair nicely with the porcini crumble and brinjal purée.

    Because I have my family well trained, I also sample the slow-braised beef tongue with carrot purée and tasty homemade mustard. It’s tender as butter, but ever so slightly bland (we miss salt on the tables, here). The olive oil-poached yellowtail is incredibly moist and swimming in a delicate tomato emulsion with touches of amasi and celery.

    For mains, I order the cashew-crusted hake, a lovely rendition that successfully convinces me that the fish belongs in places other than a thick layer of batter. The Glen Oakes pork loin with braised lentils and a white bean and truffle espuma is tasty enough, and the aged beef sirloin with pickled and butter-poached turnip is pretty good. (My brother is annoyingly smug about the crispy young potatoes that accompany it, and I am left with no choice but to steal one.)

    The undisputed winners of this section of the meal, though, are the three bowls of chips we order as a side, having seen other tables do the same. Triple-cooked, they are exquisitely crunchy and golden. (I wish they’d come with an aioli though – having ordered fish, I am forced to swipe meaty juices from adjacent sirloin plates, for dunking purposes.) They also need better draining – one or two are dripping oil.

    Eric has a definite eye for plating – there’s a visual delight in each plate that arrives – but he has a tendency of spotting of ingredients around the plate in several places. I watch my family of less invested eaters dutifully eat round everything they deem to be a garnish, and thus miss out on some of the flavours they’re meant to be experiencing. Perhaps better sometimes to serve a steak in one piece with a sauce with a pile of potatoes and be clear about it.

    For dessert I have an Eton mess, which comes with a heap of slightly lurid pink foam, too-hard meringue, and a totally incredible coconut ice cream. I offer it round, carefully shielding the ice cream quenelle from marauding spoons.

    I claim tax from my brother who has predictably ordered the chocolate mousse (I think this plating needs a second look), which is suitably rich and chocolatey, though the orange is very tart.

    The lemon verbena panna cotta with pistachio and honeycomb is the most beautiful of the desserts, and fairly subtle. (I want a bigger whack of honeycomb here, but perhaps that’s my over-active sweet tooth).

    Nobody orders the butter-toasted brioche with Camphill milk whey sorbet, pears, oats and almonds, which is annoying because it sounds kind of amazing.

    Wine
    The winelist comprises predominantly Newton Johnson wines (they offer a top-of-the-line range, plus a more affordable Felicité range), with some bubbles and dessert wines from elsewhere. There is a bit of a mark-up on the Newton Johnson wines – which might seem a little unreasonable given the extremely short distance they need to travel from the vine to table – but doesn’t actually bother me, given how affordable the food is. (They’ve got to break even somehow!)

    Ambience
    The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world and this restaurant has one of the best views. The restaurant décor is designed to take advantage of the view, with some stylish designer chairs and tables, but needs a little finessing. The floor –which resembles rough patio tiles – could definitely do with an update. A bigger concern is the acoustics. It gets so loud in one of the rooms that it’s a little hard to hear the rest of my party. Some soft furnishings are needed pronto to soak up some of the sound on busy days.

    Service
    Relaxed and not in the least overbearing (which is a cardinal sin in my book). We do need to summon the waiter once or twice though. Bookings are also taken in a staggered fashion, to help the small kitchen cope, so be aware that you may wait a while if you arrive late.

    The verdict
    This is definitely food with ambition, but I can’t help but feel it needs more gumption. Even dishes like the sirloin feel a little tentative – I miss the exclamations of joy from my fellow diners. The restaurant only opened in October 2013, so it will perhaps take a little longer for Eric and his team to find their voice and to really push their flavours. The foundations are there, though, and it will be interesting to see what the judges make of it come nomination season.

    Besides that, at just R220 for two courses and R285 for three this is a great value fine dining option.

User reviews

  • We went to the restaurant at Newton Johnson during restaurant week, where they were placed first in the competition the previous year so we were anticipating them to want to hold that title. I am pretty sure after our lunch there they will. I had the most amazing hake I have ever tasted in my life, hake being the fish you don't usually expect much from, I was blown away, it was prepared in a medallion and was similar to an amazing sashimi plate. The views are arguably one of the best of the valley and you can watch the chefs with all their gadgets preparing your feast as well as have a seat next to the smoke burning outside for additional heat in the winter months.
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  • Our experience was totally different to these negative reviews. The food was innovative and excellent and the service was prompt and efficient. The views are spectacular and we would unreservedly recommend it in the Hermanus area.
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  • A spectacular meal in all senses! Each dish very well executed and presented . Truly an evening to remember
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  • We went for the wine and food experience with their best pinot noir. The wine was served rather cold, so that only later all the aroma's came to life. The wine went well with the liver duck. The Charmal steak was disappointing and should have been replaced. The manager was clearly not able to read the comment of the customer. She managed to take the experience away. For this type of restaurant the kind waiters are not instructed enough to do a proper job. Very friendly, but not able to answer questions. Compared to Jordan or Creation they still have got a lot to learn.
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  • What a horrible experience. I flew my sister down to Cape Town from Gauteng for her birthday and thought I’d treat her at one of the Top 10 restaurants in SA. We arrived 15 minutes late (after phoning to say that we would be late) and were seated. Not all the Newton Johnson wine are served by the glass – even though the tasting room is right next door. So limited choice in that department. Being hungry and excited we wanted to order right away. We were told 3 times that our “waiter will be called”. 15 minutes later the front of house told us that we are now “queued” for orders in the kitchen and have to wait because we were late. 45 minutes later we (finally) ordered. We opted for the full 3 course meal. The starters can only be described as mediocre. The pork bite had more fat than meat and the tomato based soup... well, I had a Woolworths version the other day that had a similar flavour profile. Then the mains arrived. The toughest sirloin this side of the equator and I’m convinced the hake saw the inside of a microwave oven – it was that rubbery and tasteless. Throughout this whole ordeal there was no sight of service enquiring if we’re satisfied. Not once. Finally a waiter (still not sure who “ours” was) came to clear the plates. I expressed in no uncertain terms our dismay, which was met with a “oh, ok”. I cancelled the deserts just wanting to get out of there. The cheque was brought to the table with no show of concern – he merely put it on the table and turned away. We got up to the front desk to pay – and my card was swiped with eyes turned down. Upon me signing the bill with the prerequisite 10% tip added, she finally looked up and said “I hear you didn’t enjoy the meal”. No kidding. How this ever made Top 10 I don’t know. Good luck to anyone planning to go. I can only advise the following: Don’t be late. Don’t expect service. Don’t go hungry. In fact - just don’t go.
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Vegetarian
  • Wheelchair

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