Tasting-Room-2
Tasting-Room-1

The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français

Cost
R875 for eight-course tasting menu (R1390 with wine)
Ambience
Classic elegance
Food
African, Modern
Payment
Amex, Mastercard, Visa
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Critic's review

Ishay Govender-Ypma

Food
In 2015 Margot Janse celebrates a brilliant 20 years at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français. Over this time, Margot, with the support of (former) hands-on owner Susan Huxter, has ensured that the restaurant has regularly appeared on the World's Best Restaurants list.

The Tasting Room specialises in telling an essentially South African story: many dishes are composed of ingredients found in the Franschhoek area, either from local farmers and artisans, or foraged by the staff. The preparation techniques are on par with any top restaurant kitchen around the world.

Dining here is an experience not to be rushed: over three-and-half hours, an energetic young team presents no less than eight courses. Within moments of you sitting down, an array of small snacks arrives. These bites – macarons, churros, madeleines or meringues – might look sweet, but they are usually savoury, intensely flavoured and will have your taste buds revving.

Margot finds inspiration in South Africa, interpreting local scenes in dishes like a Day at the Beach, a fish dish with seaweed, refreshing Eugenia (foraged on the property’s garden), buchu and Natal wild plums.

The team works magic with the duck too, in the form of a local Joostenberg vlakte bird baked in salt, and served with boerekinders, buckwheat and wild rosemary.

Dessert serves up sensual tableside drama with the sensual pouring of honey-bush caramel over a boabab shell that cracks open to reveal coconut sherbet. The menu changes regularly, so it's best to go in with no preconceptions, and allow the team to take you on their culinary journey. It's a pricey one and best enjoyed when shared with a loved one, perhaps even extended with an overnight stay.

Drinks
An extensive range of South African wines is thoughtfully presented, with some focus on sister property Môreson's offerings. The Solitaire or even old-faithful Miss Molly bubbly are fun ways to start. The sommelier will guide you on wine pairings for the menu.

Service
Winner of the 2015 Service Excellence Award. You’ll be met by superbly trained staff; they’re friendly and chatty without being intrusive. It isn't uncommon to hear guests burst into laughter as the waiters engage them with stories. Bookings run a few months in advance and credit card details must be supplied to secure the reservation, as is the case with most fine dining establishments internationally.

Ambience
It’s a well designed space, sparse but elegant. There are no tablecloths or oppressive décor to distract from the cuisine – the idea is to allow the food to do the talking.

(September 2015)

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  • Eat Out

    Food
    So much of what chef Margot Janse does defies description, but one thing is certain: she’s pushing the envelope in showcasing unique South African flavours. This is culinary storytelling at its best. The African surprise menu is a playful, innovative feast of visual surprises. Strong techniques and flavours back up dramatic, striking presentation. A soup course comes in the form of a small pile of octopus, daikon and mushrooms nestled under a leaf of dehydrated sorrel that resembles a nori sheet. Over this is poured a cucumber and horseradish consommé, creating a fantastic rock pool of flavours and textures. A serving of salt-baked guava with pork belly and chickweed may just be the best bite of pork you’ll have all year, while cured kabeljou with homemade ‘mussel’ is bursting with intense maritime flavours. Sweet confections reimagined as savoury – fynbos macarons, a ‘chocolate bar’ of foie gras – are delightful. Eating here is a magical adventure, and Margot is the master waving
    her wand.

    Wine
    A wine list of local producers seems to be aimed more at foreign diners, with prices to match, but the pairing suggestions are inspired. The bar serves wonderful, unique cocktails made from homemade infused syrups.

    Service
    Impeccable, making this restaurant a deserving winner of this year’s Grolsch Service Excellence Award. Confident, informed and friendly staff are eager to explain the intricacies of each dish.

    Ambience
    Step into an understated, uncomplicated dining room. The comfortable and uncluttered style creates the perfect backdrop to better appreciate the bold, interesting dishes.

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

    “Margot is at the top of her game and is clearly having a lot of fun.” – Reuben Riffel

    “Consistently genius food dazzles and thrills with a magical element of surprise.” – Abigail Donnelly

    (August 2014)

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  • Anelde Greeff

    Food
    It’s rather tricky to write about the food of this top restaurant – not just because it’s so brilliant that at times words escape you, but also because the menu changes every day. So the magic you experience today, might well be surpassed by something even more delectable the next. It’s an African surprise menu served as five or eight courses, where chef Margot Janse take diners on an adventure through the culinary landscape of this part of the world. En route you will be hear, see, smell and taste the story of many local ingredients – venison, waterblommetjies, mebos, sour fig, baobab, buchu and more – masterfully plated by the chef and her team and beautifully presented by the friendly service staff. If you’re lucky, your meal will start with a ball of beetroot filled with buttermilk labneh alongside a dill and cucumber granita. Then, you might come across a nettle soup with dainty Jerusalem artichokes and a smear of granadilla, followed by lamb cheek and tongue, aubergine, black garlic and amaranth, give or take a course or two on either side. And to end, you will hopefully get to experience the awesome (in the true sense of the word) coconut dome with honeybush, baobab and caramel. Delectable.

    Wine
    As expected, the wine list is incredible. The team is brilliant at recommending something to suit your taste and plate, if you don’t go for the wine pairing option, which is definitely your best bet.

    Service
    It’s rare that service staff can strike such a perfect balance between friendly and professional. Between serving masterpieces from the kitchen and topping up your wine without you noticing, they are able to share entertaining anecdotes about the food in front of you. You might learn about the winemaker and his dog or why the baobab is called the upside-down tree. It makes for an utterly enjoyable experience.

    Ambience
    The tables are unadorned by linen and elaborate centerpieces, keeping things unfussy but infinitely cool and comfortable. The colour palette with slate grey, crimson and acid green is bold and funky, and there are special touches like custom-made crockery.

    And...
    Make sure to stop for a cocktail at the bar before or after dinner. It’s not everyday that one comes across a custom-made Pimms infusion or earl grey gin and tonic. (September 2013)
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User reviews

  • Wow!!! This is one of the most amazing experiences we've had in quite some time! Great service, delicate, artistic food and spot-on wine pairings. Definitely a must-do destination.
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  • I think being a foodie-you always think you know that have have the last laugh, the ability to survey on top and state that this one close as it may is not quite the mark. I visit LQF last year during winter and while I was preparing to be underwhelmed by the experience, was positively balled over by the synthesis of design, delivery and detail. It was like a symphonic opera of the palate, eyes and mind (with the witty, direction and assistance by staff). You have not eaten in South Africa, until you have eaten at LQF.
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  • Not my cup of tea when it comes to food, but I wouldn't knock off more than a star for that as the skill and quality is clearly there. Ambience was decent, though a little loud at times, and they had us staring directly into the sun for the first 15 mins of our meal. The servers even commented on how they were trying to avoid the sun, yet left us there to face the window. The was easy to get over and I generally would not even think of this as an issue had it not been for the rest of the night. Regarding the service: I don't know if it was just us or if things have changed drastically. The day started off well as we showed up early in the day without reservations and they were able to take us in. That was unexpected and quite exciting! From then on it was mostly downhill. We probably had over 5 servers serve our dishes throughout the night, all of whom had little personality and not much to say beyond the descriptions of the dishes (though we did notice other servers offering great service, that was not our experience at all). We were the first in the restaurant at 7pm when they had us come in. All started off very well and good with no problems and servers seemed vigilant in ensuring that we had the correct dishes and that none of the dishes had any of the things that met our few dietary restrictions. By the 5th course they simply stopped saying anything and we always had to ask. Probably because we kept getting different servers. We waited at least half an hour between multiple courses. Sure, if the restaurant is crowded and we are sitting there talking and drinking our wine, that would be fine, but we were not drinking on this particular night, and noticed that nearly half of the restaurant had left before we did (keep in mind we were the firsts ones to arrive). The waiting was beyond unacceptable. Had someone come up to us once and apologized or even acknowledged our wait, it would have been much less of an issue, but nothing. Oh and the kicker is the R600/persons mentioned above would have been great! Now that they're rated among the top restaurants in SA they changed R850/head and R450 for the wine pairings (keeping in mind you can do wine tasting for as little as R25 in the surrounding farms). Hopefully your experience will be different, but I think at least the service and ambience are way overrated. Like I said, personally did not think much of the food but I won't knock them because others seem to like it do much he.
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  • Way over priced at R600/head especially as I only ate two of the five courses. Although adventurous and creative, I found the food too processed. It caught me at the back of my throat.

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  • My hubby and I recently did a Top 10 Restaurants in SA Tour (according to Eat Out Mag) and we dined at The Tasting Room! Wow! What an awesome experience! Food was amazing! Nothing like we've ever seen before! The service was impeccable. All the restaurant staff are so knowledgable about the food! 10 out of 10 for the food, experience and service!

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Menu

Set menu - R850 for the eight course African Inspired Surprise menu (R1300 with wine)  

Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Accommodation
  • Booking required
  • Cocktails
  • Dress code
  • Eat Out reviewed
  • Licensed
  • StreetSmart affliated
  • Wheelchair

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