First taste: Stefan’s Restaurant in the heart of the Helderberg

Tucked away up Lourensford Road lies Somerset West’s newest (and currently only) fine-dining restaurant, Stefan’s. Erinvale Golf Estate’s flagship restaurant is named after its head chef, Stefan Bekker, who has been in the industry for 10 years, working in Qatar and England. Now, he’s back in South Africa, with specific ideas about both the food and setting of Stefan’s Restaurant.

The space is all pink – pink walls, pink ceiling and pink curtains. This may sound ostentatious, and perhaps under anyone else’s guidance, it would have been. Instead, Stefan has opened a restaurant that is modern while still being inviting. Splashes of royal green and warm orange add glamour so that the overall effect is that of being in a contemporary, luxurious dining room overlooking the beautiful gardens of Erinvale Hotel. In winter, a grand fireplace provides extra warmth.

It’s the perfect space for the menu, which showcases dishes that are modern and intriguing. Diners have a choice of a seven- or 10-course dinner. Both options are well-priced at R545 per person for the smaller menu and R685 per person for the full menu. Both menus start with small bites of duck taco, stuffed zucchini flowers and mussel takoyaki (based on popular Japanese street food). Your senses will delight in the variety and be perfectly primed for the bread course, which comes with trout pate, whipped butter and the mysterious “foie gras rock”. Resist the temptation to overindulge on the bread course because the “first course” is still to come.

Diners who opt for the 10-course menu will enjoy both the sous-vide langoustine with prawn ceviche and the smoked tomato jelly in a tomato consommé; otherwise, you’ll have to choose between the two, which is an almost impossible task. The langoustine is packed with flavours of fennel and carrot while the smoked tomato jelly is surprisingly light with subtle summery flavours. Next, is the palate cleanser – icy and mysterious, surrounded by smoke. The “second course” is a choice between wagyu beef and a celeriac risotto. Again, both are delicious, and vegetarians are well looked after, this time with a creamy risotto that is filled with intriguing textures. Meat-lovers will enjoy the beef, which comes with classic sides of fondant potato and mushrooms, as well as bone marrow, served in a bone-shaped dish.

tomato jelly

The smoked tomato jelly at Stefan’s Restaurant

All the dishes are beautifully served on crockery that is handmade by Chef Stefan himself. Where he finds the time to make pottery, only he will know, as preparation for dinner must surely take most of the day, with each dish being more intricate and delicate than the one before.

Dinner ends with a choice between the Russian honey cake that is dense, sweet and perfectly balanced by a yoghurt foam and subtle honey-flavoured jellies, and the cheese course of Dalewood cheese that is beautifully presented with lavash and fresh grapes. Finally, save space for the petit fours, which provide the perfect sweet ending. White chocolate bonbons, peppermint macarons and raspberry tart may sound overly saccharine but, as with everything Stefan prepares, the flavours and textures are surprisingly light with bursts of subtle flavour.

The Russian honey cake at Stefan's Restaurant

Stefan’s Restaurant does not offer a wine-pairing option, but its sister restaurant, Magnolia Social Dining Lounge, hosts monthly wine-pairing events. The wines showcased at these events are then served in Stefan’s Restaurant to highlight interesting and unusual wines both from the surrounding Stellenbosch vineyards and further afield.

Stefan’s Restaurant is open for dinner from Wednesdays to Saturdays, from 6 to 10pm. Diners who follow a plant-based diet can enquire about Chef Stefan’s special vegan menu while locals who are travelling from outside of the Winelands are encouraged to make a weekend of it by staying over at Erinvale Estate Hotel and Spa.

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