Restaurant Klein JAN captivates with a remote desert dining experience and impeccable style


Brought to you by Lexus

Vast ‘nothingness’ is what first inspired internationally acclaimed chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s Restaurant Klein JAN – a breathtaking and remote restaurant in the Tswalu Kalahari. Deliberately pairing food with its surroundings resulted in a desert dining experience in a space that is equally as awe-inspiring as chef Jan’s dishes, earning Restaurant Klein JAN the Eat Out Lexus Style Award 2023.


Tswalu isn’t just a safari destination – it offers guests a state-of-the-art dining experience like no other. Enter Restaurant Klein JAN, what appears to be a cosy 20-seater tucked in a Victorian farmhouse on the Kalahari plains. Led by Michelin-star maestro Jan, this gourmet hotspot – for those lucky enough to visit – combines seasonal heritage-inspired creations with a space that provides a ‘wow factor’ drawing from Jan’s rural roots and love for the bush from his childhood in Mpumalanga.

As you approach the restaurant, Boscia House, a landmark for over a century, stands as a testament to the fusion of old and new. Rustic charm juxtaposed against the dramatic backdrop of the vast African plains gives guests a surreal experience as if the restaurant was transported from history – with tiny touches of contemporary flair. What appears to be a quaint and unassuming farmhouse is the beginning of a design journey unlike any other. The restoration of this historic building sets the tone for what awaits below the surface – an architectural marvel.


“It’s a sensory journey of produce, land and water, the Kalahari’s most precious commodity. I can honestly say the root cellar had been a dream for years and to see it come to fruition is incredible,” explains Jan. “Imagine visiting your grandmother who lives on a faraway farm in the Kalahari. You arrive at her house, but she hasn’t arrived yet. You sit on the stoep and have a cocktail or two. The next moment you’re five metres underground in a root cellar filled with local ingredients: fruits and vegetables, Kalahari salt-cured products, meat and wines. You enter a library hosting a staggering selection of South African recipe books. And you arrive at the pièce de résistance… a koolstoof. Around the corner, you arrive at the seating area, where the serenity of the Kalahari overwhelms you.”


The décor of Klein JAN, a collaboration between Jan and the creative minds of Hannes from Kraak Events and Adrian Davidson from Savile Row, mirrors the essence of the Kalahari. The cathedral-like root cellar, stretching almost 26 metres, creates a near-spiritual atmosphere, culminating in the ‘sop-en-brood’ room with a vintage coal stove at its centre. This stove, once belonging to chef Jan’s Ouma Maria, became the heart of Klein JAN, nodding to tradition and the humble foundations of food.

The space above ground seamlessly integrates with the original farm, and the ‘petrichor’, named after the earthy scent when rain falls on dry soil, serves as the gateway underground. The design choice is not merely aesthetic; it’s a connection to the land, preserving the historic Kalahari farm narrative.

An ode to its surroundings, the restaurant has an earthy colour palette that mirrors the landscape. Even the dining chairs, crafted from French oak wine barrels and Kalahari cow leather, draped with local sheepskin, embody the marriage of old and new, paying homage to South African culture.

Klein JAN’s menu takes guests into Jan’s childhood, each dish a story that reflects his Klein JAN journey. Signature dishes like the braaibroodjie macaron and biltong lamington showcase the fusion of South African flavours with a modern twist. The Kalahari truffle, a local favourite, adds another indigenous touch to the menu.


What sets Klein JAN apart is not just its exceptional cuisine but also its commitment to sustainability and supporting local communities with a no-waste mindset. Everything found in the cellar, from fruits and vegetables to salt-cured products, meats, and wines, represents the Kalahari and the restaurant’s dedication to respecting the environment.

The restaurant’s layout, with the main dining area underground, follows the lead of burrowing desert creatures, not only preserving the historic narrative but also providing thermal benefits. The temperature-regulated root cellar reflects Jan’s extensive research into food preservation methods, showcasing his commitment to sourcing local and indigenous ingredients.

Jan’s homecoming project has not only elevated the Kalahari’s underexplored ingredients but also created a dining experience that is as rich and diverse as the landscape that inspired it.

Click here to see the full list of winners for 2023!

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