New head chef Farrel Hirsch is no stranger to the popular Constantia restaurant (which is currently number six in the country), after having served as its sous chef from 2014 to 2016.
The chef is quietly confident in his new role. He seems unflappable and is always ready with a wide smile. “You have to be humble, nothing is below you,” says Hirsch. “If something needs to get done, do it! It really helps the kitchen team when you are also pushing with them; and it lends to the camaraderie in the kitchen, and in the end, happy chefs make good food!”
It’s an attitude that’s served him well during his stint at the famed The Test Kitchen (currently number two in the country). After that, Hirsch landed his first head chef position at The Westcliff in Johannesburg before moving on to a sojourn in the Seychelles as an executive chef. The mindset he’s brought back with him to Greenhouse? “My philosophy is simple: source the best ingredients, which are sustainable and as fresh as possible, and from there we build our dishes,” shares Hirsch.
At lunchtime, it’s easy to see where the restaurant gets its name. Beyond the slanted glass roof, the green of the garden shifts and shimmers in the sunlight. The restaurant’s storytelling proficiency extends to the plate, where your taste buds are drawn to the earth and sea; to memory and to mystery. Highlights include Wagyu beef tartare on a rice cracker presented on petrified wood; pink ocean trout pooling on the dark iridescence of the plate; and Cape octopus tentacles with coral tuille and a deep ink-yuzu sauce.
The thrum of African culture is a rhythm through the courses, subtle yet continuous, a rolling beat for Hirsch to build upon. The tongue-in-cheek braai bokkie is whimsical, yet rooted in heritage: familiar flavours of springbok, carrot and pap are elevated into something new, a plate that plays on memory as much as the senses.
Hirsch leaves you with a story to take home – one of Cape ingredients, African legends and a chef who’s only headed further up.