A glorious vegetable garden sprouts delicious produce that is picked even as diners take their seats. In the kitchen it’s transformed into comforting, country-style food. Chef Christiaan Campbell cooks with finesse but not fuss.
Start with a beef tartare dish, hidden inside flutes of nasturtium leaf. There are crunchy baby potato chips, wonderful sweet pickled onions and instead of a raw egg, a poached one. It’s a light, delicious starter. The waiters encourage tables to order the mains for two, and share.
Family-style dishes include citrus salt-baked trout; fillet with chuck, sausages, bone marrow and béarnaise. If your appetite is not quite that hearty, try one of the options for one. There’s a wonderfully rich slow-cooked pork belly, served on a creamy barley risotto, with Chinese cabbage that’s been flash-fried for flavour. The lamb leg is equally comforting, served with a rich, glossy sauce, with roasted carrots and cauliflower puree. (Though the sauce might be a bit too salty for some.)
For dessert, break open a perfect whirl of burnt Italian meringue to find hazelnuts, rhubarb cubes and a sprinkling of nutty burnt honeycomb. Alternatively, there’s a nicely wobbly little crème brulee.
The wine list is limited to Boschendal, but that’s no great hardship. Start with some of their delicious bubbly. The more easy-drinking Boschendal offerings are supplemented by some special reds. Try the Cellarmasters Barrel Selection if you’re after something really memorable.
Attentive waiters work hard to treat each table to a good experience. There’s a sense that they’re being trained properly.
On a clear day, this is one of the most beautiful spots to eat in the winelands. The outdoor deck area looks out over the manicured vegetable garden and towards the mountains of Franschhoek. Inside, the original cellar of the manor house has been revamped to look the part of contemporary country cottage, complete with tongue-in-cheek artwork and beautiful copper pots.
Don’t leave without taking a walk around the vegetable garden. There are also horse and carriage rides, vineyard tours and mountain bike trails for the more adventurously minded.
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With chef Christiaan Campbell (formerly of Delaire Graff), assisted by Paul Nash (formerly of The Roundhouse), running the kitchen, you can expect interesting flavours and plates that look really good. Christiaan’s philosophy is to serve only ethically sourced produce that is local, seasonal and sustainable. The à la carte menu changes regularly, and offers starters for R90, mains for R175-R195, salads from R75-R82 and desserts R65-R78, with some tasty sides like roast potatoes and garden veggies from R45-R55.
Before you begin, you’re offered fresh rolls and a generous board of various butters, pickled carrots and baby beets, smoked angelfish pâté and a butter-bean mousse – delicious and very filling if you get carried away.
Starters could be cultivated mushroom, grilled potato and mozzarella and wild mushroom ‘tea’; rainbow carrots, smoked chicken and onion crunchies; or deliciously pickled pressed octopus served with delicate touches of brown butter mayo, hake roe emulsion and tiny slivers of refreshing orange. The main course of duck breast with a spoonful of intense pulled duck leg and slightly crunchy Anna potatoes is anointed with a rich reduction. The other main might be braised beef short-rib with bread dumplings, or pan-fried cob with pickled mussels and gnocchi. Desserts of chocolate fudge cake, crème brûlée and poached pear complete the offerings. The chef’s surprise was a punchy lamb bitterbal with smoked aubergine.
A selection of the famous wines of Boschendal is available by the glass or bottle. No BYO.
Things do happen when they should, but a smile will not go amiss. Check your bill; there was a mistake on ours.
The space has been magnificently updated, and is now bright and airy, comfortably furnished in light tones. A large open fireplace will be great in winter. Vast glass windows overlook an outside deck and the huge vegetable farm being created on the side of the manor house. The distant mountains look benevolently on the scene, making it a delightful world of its own.
Vegetarians are advised to let the kitchen know when making a booking and special dishes will be created for their enjoyment.