In the Western Cape’s own French corner, there are almost too many options for mouthwatering meals. We’ve narrowed it down to the 16 spots to cross off your Franschhoek bucket list first.
This selection comprises all the Franschhoek restaurants that made the cut for the 2020 Eat Out 500, the list of best restaurants in the country as rated and reviewed by our panel of critics for the 2020 edition of Eat Out magazine (on sale now). But we know there are many more great spots in the area. Please tell us about your favourites in the comments at the end!
Dive straight into brioche French toast with local honey and berries, or the red-velvet waffle with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup. The artful mushrooms on toast is a firm favourite, with crispy onions and dill, creamy white bean-and-truffle hummus, perfectly poached eggs, ancho chilli and coffee Hollandaise. The lamb burger, a generous lamb patty served on a sesame pretzel bun with radicchio-and-citrus salad, feta yoghurt and jalapeño sauce, will not disappoint, but you could try the more adventurous togarashi fried chicken, with labneh, ginger- and orange-pickled daikon and honey-miso sauce.
The youngest addition to the Chefs Warehouse stable sources most of the raw ingredients from the farm, from hens’ eggs to pork charcuterie. Warm bread and freshly churned butter at the beginning of the meal welcomes you, and there is a distinct hands-on feel. The signature beef pastrami, warm pretzel roll and horseradish is sublime – alone worth the visit. Sharing plates bring seasonal ingredients to the fore. As is traditional with a Tomlin restaurant, there is an exceptional risotto. Light Asian profiles pop up throughout the menu: crispy curry leaves, lime and coconut feature. The menu maintains a nice rhythm throughout, rolling between intense richness and bright lightness. For dessert, go for the zesty and creamy posset or peanut butter and dark chocolate torte.
The quality of the produce is beyond reproach here. If you stroll through the garden, you’ll know the exact spot where your beets (served charred, with chimichurri) come from. If squashed avo with eggs on health toast (with rocket emulsion and parmesan crumble) is on the specials board, order it. For lunch, feast on line-caught tuna with anchovy emulsion and garden greens, or roasted pork neck, balanced perfectly with charred spring onion emulsion, parsley relish and radish salad. The enticing aroma from the smokers (where the brisket topping for the evening’s pizza is being prepared) wafts through the trees. Cinnabun ice cream, served with honeycomb, is a must.
In the South African culinary scene, chef Chris Erasmus remains a pioneer of the foraging movement. His dishes are intriguing, in both flavour and careful presentation. Think pig’s trotter and smoked chicken terrine with dried peach purée, onion and mushroom soy marmalade followed by organically plated bowl of pan-seared katonkel with wild river cress, broccoli and a tom yum broth. For dessert, expect dishes like the ‘Sweetie Pie’ consisting of peanut butter and cannabis marshmallow or a vegan option of Afrikoa chocolate mousse, apple and basil purée.
This is perfect for an exploration lunch with friends who don’t mind sharing (you’ll want to taste everything). The much-anticipated post-renovation menu from chef Nic van Wyk opens with bread, salt-adorned butter and sweet tomato jam. All the appealing options on the à la carte menu vie for top spot. The veal sweetbreads are delightfully rich, with bay and lemon for balance, while fresh ceviche-style fish livens up the taste buds with pineapple, chilli and coriander salsa. Spinach-and-ricotta gnudi and asparagus-and-barley risotto add variety. Chef is known for his sauces for good reason: the port-and-truffle sauce with mouth-watering venison loin; peppercorn-and-brandy sauce with beef fillet; and tomato concasse with pan-fried line fish are divine. The soft meringue with passion fruit curd, pistachio brittle and vanilla ice cream is a must.
You’re bound to be blown away by chef John Norris-Rogers’ clever use of flavours and textures. The experience begins with a cocktail before an elaborate garden of spiced coconut chawanmushi with miso-glazed chicken, smoked snoek pâté, and a porcini-hazelnut parfait lollipop. Seared tuna is undoubtedly the dish of the day, with crumbed avocado, punchy apricot chutney and coriander dressing. A small Japanese grill on the table smokes an impossibly sticky lamb rib, which accompanies perfectly pink lamb rump with butternut purée, baby veg, bright salsa verde and olive tapenade, all brought together by a rich, glossy lamb jus. Dessert is a joyous celebration of tropical fruit, with choc-coconut tart nestled alongside pineapple parfait, passionfruit ice cream and curd, and shards of lime meringue, before the perfect petit-fours.
Expect country cuisine with a contemporary touch here. For starters the smoked trout with a sprinkling of roasted pistachio, burnt peppadew, popped rice and nam jim gai is light and fresh. The baked camembert is more decadent, served with verjuice-poached grapes that burst in your mouth, braaibroodjie croutons and shallot marmalade. A definite hit is the main of rooibos-honey pork knuckle with an almost-too-pretty-to-eat candied apple, kimchi, home-made mustard and buttered popcorn. Additional veg sides are clever: braaied corn, baby beetroot, Cape Malay pickles and fynbos-honey pumpkin. The pecan-nut pie with butternut crust and choc-chip ice cream is a melt-in-the-mouth conclusion to a wonderful harvest feast.
Talented chef Darren Badenhorst plays with French influences and Asian flavours in his detail-oriented dishes. Every pearl, blob, cube of jelly and leaf is placed with precision to craft an alluring plate. A quail dish done three ways – barbecue breast, KFC leg and a pancetta-wrapped thigh – will have you wishing for more. Somewhat of a maximalist, Darren presents butter-poached and barbecued langoustine with aerated boerenkaas, and snoek brandade velouté with wild vineyard pea shoots and guanciale risotto. Each showcases his skill of balancing flavours, textures and ingredients. The meal ends with playful desserts, such as the always-exciting dry-ice presentation of grape jelly and chocolate-truffle petit-fours.
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Look forward to artful dishes with a touch of theatrics. The swordfish ceviche, for example, is perched on dry ice, and the beetroot trio of relish, meringue and roasted beetroot comes encased in a mini glass dome. The heady duck-liver parfait delights with burnt orange and the flare of umami as a balsamic pearl bursts in your mouth, and the beautifully prepared lamb rump dish checks every box. Tender and packed with flavour, with just enough crisp fat around the edges, it is indulgence on a plate, along with tomato chutney, tomato jus and burnt aubergine purée. Be adventurous for dessert and try the coffee twist on ouma’s traditional malva, served with chocolate mousse, honeycomb, chantilly cream and chocolate soil.
Chef Eric Bulpitt dips into the diverse cultural heritage of the Cape to create simple, earthy dishes that honour the ingredients. Inspired by the farm’s gardens, a small seasonal menu showcases estate wines with spices, pickles and herbs. Start with a platter of breads, asparagus or artichokes, and home-style condiments from the pantry, including chakalaka, kaaiings and curried green beans. Wood-fired roasted chilli spring chicken with creamed mielies might tempt, or succulent slow-cooked free-range pork shoulder in a rich savoury broth. Vegetarians will enjoy the salt-baked celeriac with roasted hazelnut butter, sage, lemon and kale. Don’t miss the sago pudding with honey or dark-chocolate fondant with roasted walnuts and rose-scented marshmallow ice cream.
The embodiment of the casual fine-dining concept, with everything working in a balance that is so easy to love. Buckle up for sourdough toast with golden chicken butter and confit garlic, before edamame beans with a kick of sriracha and then unreal Korean fried chicken with coriander-infused whipped buttermilk. It’s brave starting with flavours this big, but the next course delivers in the form of seared tuna with spiced squid, crisp jalapeño and avocado and the unassuming-sounding beetroot tart that ticks all the boxes. If you don’t go for cauliflower risotto or the Malay crayfish next, there’s smoky springbok loin or peri-peri lamb rump with addictive caponata and Jerusalem artichokes. Try the fun and fresh mango cannelloni or a local cheeseboard.
The heritage tasting menu is exclusively available for dinner, but the same items can be sampled à la carte-style during lunch. First to arrive is melt-in-the-mouth lavash flatbread with hummus, followed by umami-rich bobotie samoosa and cheese churros canapés. The flaky smoked snoek with oyster cream, fish kaiings and Malay onions sets the scene for hero plates such as springbok rump with mieliepap, chakalaka, buchu and honey jus or the expertly cooked lamb rump with morogo and rooibos jus. The thin layer of crisp and juicy fat on the medallions will entice you to lick the plate clean. For dessert the coffee parfait with hazelnut praline, cocoa nibs and tonka-bean ice cream is a must.
Reuben Riffel’s delightful dishes include classic stalwarts, plus new genius additions like braai platters prepared on the open coals in the beautiful courtyard. Set menus offer value for money with fresh and delicate pan-fried Patagonian squid and prawn with turmeric oil and black bean dressing, and braised free-range duck pie skilfully complemented by cinnamon-caramel sweet potato with bok choi and spiced citrus. The à la carte menu makes choosing difficult: think peppered springbok steak with preserved-cherry gastrique and pork belly with mash, peppery gochujang jus and pickles. The mild and creamy chicken curry is delicious, with biryani-spiced jasmine rice, coriander yoghurt, sambals and sweet chutney. The dessert offering includes the ever-pleasing chocolate fondant and a decadent dulce de leche créme brûlée with kalamansi and Campari-grapefruit sorbet.
It’s all about seasonal ingredients with serious technique here. Start with signature gruyère soufflé, a fabulously intense bouillabaisse, beef tartare or classic French onion soup. Some starters – wild mushroom tortellini and West Coast mussels steamed in Le Lude MCC – are available in starter or mains portions. Move on to succulent duck breast with fennel, orange and coriander crust or ginger-glazed pork belly with cauliflower purée, fresh apple and celery salad and pomme neuf frites on the side). Desserts showcase French flair, featuring stone fruit poached in champagne, ethereal profiteroles and decadent chocolate tart. The champagne high tea showcases the chef’s patisserie skills.
The menu setup here is simple with diners choosing from Garden, Ocean, Pasture and Sweet categories. The charred broccoli with land cress pesto, grape seed oil emulsion, macadamia nuts and roasted garlic will impress even non-vegetarians, while the green-listed hot smoked hake with fire-roasted lettuce, almonds and preserved farm lemons is a winning seafood dish. Sharing is highly encouraged, but keep space for dessert because the Afrikoa chocolate dessert with cardamom and rosemary ice cream and Boschendal brandy custard is certainly worth it.
This selection comprises all the Franschhoek restaurants that made the cut for the 2020 Eat Out 500, the list of best restaurants in the country as rated and reviewed by our panel of critics for the 2020 edition of Eat Out magazine (on sale now). But we know there are many more great spots in the area. Please tell us about your favourites in the comments below.
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