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The Restaurant at Waterkloof

The Restaurant at Waterkloof
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Cost
R1400 per person for set menu
Ambience
Groups, Special occasions, Views
Food
Fine-dining food, French, Modern
Payment
Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Corkage
R85

Critic's review

Seth Shezi

The piquing excitement and sense of occasion conjured by the meandering drive up to Waterkloof – which jauntily perches atop the Schapenberg mountain – is rewarded by a decidedly otherworldly dining experience. Revered chef Gregory Czarnecki is gifted and has thus earned global recognition for his unique style of artful simplicity.

Food
The Waterkloof degustation menu is one of a few tasting menus that is capable of melting your heart and bringing a warm smile to your face dish after dish. The menu should always be taken with the wine pairing, as it’s brilliant, and each dish is conceived with the sole intention to complement its accompanying exquisite organic wine.

To start, arriving in quick succession, are the impeccably beautiful bite-sized dishes of tandoori and langoustine, the oyster and saffron cauliflower, and the vichyssoise and caviar. The first dish is the most aesthetically pleasing dish of the year: a tomato consomme with basil, chives, rosemary and verbena, followed by rich snails in a green spinach, mint and blue cheese sauce.

The uncontested highlight is a simple dish of Mauritian sea bass with leek ash, watercress and pommes boulangerès. The aroma of the sauce being poured over the fish is like an olfactory orgasm, capable of evoking long lost memories of holidays I had in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the south of France.

What sets chef Gregory is apart is his fearlessness. He’s not afraid to put risky ideas on the menu, and they always work. One such marvelous success is the dessert dubbed ‘Milk, Milk... Milk’ – a trio of buffalo, cashew, cow and goat’s milk.

Drinks
Located in an award-winning organic wine farm run by the one of the country’s most celebrated winemakers, Nadia Barnard, Waterkloof makes it easy for diners. The tasting menus come with exceptional wine recommendations.

Service
In keeping with the elevated culinary offering, the service is precise and polished without being ungenial.

Ambience
Dubbed the ‘cellar in the sky’, the restaurant is a striking glass and concrete cube atop the Schapenberg mountain, with unimpeded views of False Bay. The simple interior is awash with natural light, crisp white tablecloths and fynbos flower arrangements by Michelle Czarnecki to create a softening touch to the minimalist décor.

Best for…
A truly special occasion, from marriage proposals to anniversaries or making partner at your firm.

(August 2018)

Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.

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  • John Maytham

    Food

    Chef Gregory Czarnecki's superlative contemporary cuisine won the restaurant the number-three spot in the 2017 Top 10. Each dish that comes out of the open kitchen is visually exquisite, technically highly accomplished, playful and inventive in conception, and does great honour to the constituent ingredients, which are of the standard you’d expect from a farm where such attention is paid to the soil and its health.

    Take the plunge and go for the degustation menu – it’s worth every cent and every bite. There are a nominal six courses, but that turns into thirteen when the amuse-bouches, sorbets, extra dessert and petit-fours are factored in. Each dish is perfectly calibrated to ensure that you feel perfectly sated when the last delicious morsel is consumed.

    Each dish deserves an Instagram account and an essay-length description of its own. I can still see and taste the Dijon mustard caviar that spiced up the puffed beef tendon and crispy chicken skin; the lightly smoked Saldanha Bay oyster harmonizing with a beurre blanc sorbet; and the Egg 63 – sous vide at 63 degrees Celcius, it’s served in the shell, toast-soldier style with an emmenthaler velouté. Then there are also the slices of salt-crust baked celeriac enlivened by curry brittle and passion fruit; the sea bass, perfectly cooked and paired with the tart freshness of gooseberries; and melt-in-the-mouth tender duck breast with saffron apple.

    Who would have thought that a dessert containing apricot, pomegranate, fennel, tarragon and petite balls of burnt thyme could be such a satisfactory end to a stellar meal? Bravo, chef!

    Drinks

    Make it simple: accept the recommended Waterkloof wine that accompanies each dish on either the à la carte or degustation menu. You won’t be disappointed.

    Service

    Service is of a standard that befits the cuisine: accomplished, genial and non-intrusive.

    Ambience

    The mountaintop setting is spectacular, and so are the views. The restaurant is elegant and unadorned other than the crisp linen and high-quality cutlery and stemware.

    And…

    There is a particular pleasure to visiting when the Percheron draught horses are ploughing the vineyards.

    (October 2017)

    Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here

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User reviews

  • I’m not sure where to start with this review, as everything was just mind-blowing. If we start with the views - huge glass windows overlooking the surroundings are superb. Then comes the food. We selected the Tasting Menu and I can honestly say, from start to finish, this exceeded our expectations. Fabulous amuse bouche (two different surprises) beautifully presented and explained to us. We liked the fact that a chef came to the table at each course and explained in detail the food presented. Oh, and fabulous wines to add to the experience. This is absolutely fine dining. As far as I can see they got everything right and I am so grateful for being introduced to Waterkloof. I cannot stop telling people about it. Well done !!!
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  • I visited The Restaurant at Waterkloof around 5 years ago. I don’t really remember much about it, other than the fact that the view was beautiful and they still had an a la carte menu. We were excited to try the latest tasting menu for our anniversary, especially since they’ve just been named the top restaurant in the country. First, let me say that the service was friendly and warm. We were treated to a complementary glass of bubbly for our anniversary, which was a nice touch. The servers and chefs serving the various dishes were knowledgeable and friendly, and we had no complaints there. The views and setting were as spectacular and elegant as always. The restaurant is off to the side of the tasting room but it was barely noticeable and didn’t infringe on the elegant dining experience. The food was wonderful overall. We chose the small tasting menu, which we were glad about because the kitchen was not stingy with little treats and amuse bouche-type dishes in between the dishes listed on the menu. The highlights for me were the pea-and-ham croquettes (served on the famous hand cast), which burst into your mouth with pea-and-ham soup flavour. I also loved the Mauritian sea bass, and the Milk, Milk, Milk dessert followed by the petit fours. I could have done without the poached chicken. It was okay but it was pretty beige and didn’t blow me away. It’s well worth the visit but... (there’s always a ‘but’)... In my opinion, while the Top Restaurant award is deserved this year, it will be hard for them to keep it next year. Mainly because the competition is so stiff and there are other restaurants (La Colombe, Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient to name just two) doing food and dining experiences that are just as good and actually better in some ways. Also, I think at this level, they should consider a sommelier and have a more extensive wine list. They currently only serve estate wines and I think it lets them down. For example, there is no dessert wine option. The estate’s wines are fine but, for food at Top Restaurant level, there should be an extensive and carefully curated wine list.
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  • Booked via app. Somehow strange to ask for a prepayment of 1200 ZAR for four persons. Reservation cancelled, we’ll find another restaurant.
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  • I visited just before the restaurany closed in June 2018. One of the most beautiful restaurant views in South Africa! After having eaten at EatOuts top 10 list I would say that this is one of three must visit restaurants (the others being Chefs Warehouse and Potluck Club). In my opinion this is also the most affordable in the EatOut top 5 list. The atmosphere is definitely suited to fine dining or a sophisticated lunch. Each course is picture perfectly plated. Unfortunately for me the menu has been too similar for too long and Im hoping to revisit this month to try the new menu. I always enjoy the scallop, egg 63 and quail. Desserts look good but can be better. The petit fours at the end are worth waiting for (they usually have a popsicle, a fancy eclair and some gourmet sweets)
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  • Terribly disappointing! The food is uninspiring, with poor or no flavour combinations and in some instances off-putting texture combinations. Don't expect any service either, wine glasses were left empty for 15-20 minute intervals, we enjoyed our dessert with used plates and butter knives as part of the table decor! If you want to pitch yourself as a fine dining restaurant, one would assume that the staff would be able execute the very basics. I cannot believe this restaurant is no. 3 on the top 10, this seriously casts a doubt over EatOut's ability to judge restaurants... Dine here at your own peril!
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  • Let’s start with the good. 1. Absolutely spectacular views from the restaurant. It is a truly impressive spot to have dinner. Note that the layout is a bit strange, it feels like a tasting room with some tables on the side. 2. Food wise, it was not outstanding (yet) but certainly very good. Presentation was excellent, and most dishes had good balanced flavours. I think the chef will go a long way. My favourite courses were the Tradestone Quail, Egg 63, and Mauritius Seabass; but since everyone at the table had a different top three it is safe to say we had a very good menu. One small suggestion, I think it was a little overdone in terms of courses. We received an incredible amount of food, and it felt like the chef was trying too hard. The food was good enough and I think he can safely cut out 2 of these. Problem areas: 1. Service was very patchy. Staff were friendly and helpful but seemed either poorly trained or inattentive. Empty glasses, used plates, butter dishes, etc were left on the table for multiple courses, we had to ask to have items removed repeatedly. They made multiple mistakes with orders, although they did correct them very quickly when raised. What I found very surprising is that the staff seemed to know very little about the wine, even though it was from their estate. When asked, the sommelier (...rather the member of staff that was handling the wine) couldn't even tell me where the wine is from, let alone provide any tasting notes or why it would compliment the dish. 2. The Wine list only contains wine from the estate itself. Whilst I’m okay to have wine from the estate when going there for a lunchtime snack, it is completely unacceptable for a restaurant trying to pitch at this level. Waterkloof’s wines are okay, but they were simply inadequate for the meal. We had the wine pairing and they simply rolled out their wine list top to bottom. Most of the glasses went back half full, or barely touched. Whilst the wine isn’t great, that wasn’t always the problem. Only having your own few wines to pick from is an impossible task even for the best of the best. One great example, the estate doesn’t have a desert wine, thus we didn’t get any wine with desert. This is absolutely shocking. The restaurant should either get a full wine list or start serving hamburgers. Conclusion On balance, despite the very good food, I simply can’t recommend this restaurant. It feels half baked, as if the owner(s) can’t decide if it’s a fine restaurant or a sideshow cafe. Given all the limitations above, I think the pricing offers very poor value for money. Especially given the quality of the local competition. Frankly, based on my experience, I am very surprised this restaurant came in at number three on the EatOut top 10. I think the chef should consider moving to a serious restaurant so his talents can shine.
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  • This was a most disappointing meal. For all the hype and the price, we were expecting something special. The food was frankly not very special and quite uninspired. A fine dining meal is meant to be a journey of flavours. This meal was a series of dishes that took me absolutely nowhere. The scallop starter was cold and lifeless with nothing to recommend it. The main of beef cheeks was slightly overdone although it was tasty. It is such a pity that a restaurant that has been elevated to such a level can serve such boring food. Until they get their food mojo back, rather go somewhere else where you can have the flavour experience that is needed at the same price.
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  • Again, and of late, it seems chefs in South Africa are not being inspired by our gorgeous produce and food anymore, and this translates directly onto the plate and into the service. While the views and decor of this restaurant and wine establishment set back in the mountains of Somerset west are amazing, the expensive wine and apathetic (and rather inappropriately dressed) front of house/hostess made this an unworthy dinner out. The food and plates themselves made it even more uneventful. It was also VERY quiet for a Saturday evening. While I applaud that Chef Greg has found his way into the Top 10 SA restaurants (Waterkloof is no 6), I think he needs to work harder to set him apart from the top 50! His cooking remains fiercely rivalled by the big brass at La Colombe and Test Kitchen, and was certainly uninspiring, in my opinion. And I am no longer willing to pay for food that is unenjoyable, lacks decadence and offers no taste explosion. Here is my review of the food: The breads and butters were delectable, smooth, and well baked - we asked for more. The shitake starter had no earthiness or wow factor. The 69 degree egg, langoustine and scallop dishes were worthy contenders. ...Everything else our table of 7 friends ate was dismal (ok probably too harsh) - it certainly was not worth the price and offered no enjoyment. The salmon was not flakey and flavourful, and the beef cheeks lacked the gelatinous glory and seasoning that could elevate them to top 10 standards. Both dishes were in our opinion over done. The quail was overly sweet. The vegetarian main 'Garden of Medley Veg' was laughable and comprised the same selection of cheesy lack lustre vegetables that arrived on everyone else's dishes. Why do chefs continue to ignore how many people are turning to green living and how vegetables/grains can be translated into gutsy ballzy delicious dishes? The cheese board was overly big for 1 person and came with thin wafers of bread that failed to awe, and with the same cheese garnish that appeared on other plates - specifically the scallop dish. Where are the popping, refreshing delighting flavours that make you go wow? One can not rely on your amuse bouches and palate cleansers and surprises from the chef to elevate you to standards... Disappointed.
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Dress code
  • Fireplace
  • Licensed
  • Parking
  • StreetSmart affliated
  • Wheelchair
  • WiFi

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