Situated on the wine estate of the same name, in the Stellenbosch winelands, Cavalli Restaurant has views of the Helderberg mountains over a tranquil dam. The restaurant adheres to strict environmental and sustainability practices, and chef Lucas Carstens prides himself on his in-depth knowledge of sustainable sources. He has created a menu that displays a deep respect and understanding of local ingredients, and recognises the provenance of each ingredient. Diners can choose from the chef’s menu or order a la carte. For starters, the snacks – fired mushroom, furikake, tapioca crisp, curry and apricot – are a good opening salvo; light and vegetable focused, with the tapioca crisp bringing with it a hint of curry and apricot. Oysters with a fynbos mignonette are simple and delicious, allowing the flavours to shine; while artichoke, avocado, salsa verde and pine nuts show off delicate flavours and textures, and are a triumph of simplicity and gentle treatment. The butternut, langoustine and smoked fishbone velouté is outstanding – perfectly cooked butternut topped with poached langoustine and an exceptionally flavoured velouté. Mains of Angus beef with umami hollandaise, carrot and horseradish; and sustainable fish (hake, in this case) with eggplant, sherry caramel and black garlic impress with both flavour and technique, and innovative, elegant plating. Sides can be ordered separately: pommes anna with crème fraiche and chives, and a green salad of leaves, herbs, broad beans and seeds add an extra layer of indulgence to an already well-rounded menu. Vegetarians are well catered for with the likes of mushroom risotto with caramelised miso and dukkah, as well as celeriac, new potatoes and beurre noisette. For dessert, lemon curd and white chocolate beneath a meringue shell is an interesting and successful marriage, while a scoop of lemon sorbet served alongside delivers on the promise of true lemoniness.
Guests can opt for a wine pairing with the chef’s menu, which includes mostly wines from the estate along with others from the area. There are also cocktails on offer, including the Sticky Tongue – chopped lime and Absolut vodka stirred with guava syrup, charged with ginger beer and served long over ice. A selection of beers and spirits includes non-alcoholic options.
Service is warm, consistent and attentive from the moment you arrive. The waiting staff and sommelier go the extra mile to ensure you have an excellent experience.
The restaurant is large and filled with natural light from the terrace, which overlooks the dam. Outside, comfortable seating under umbrellas presents views of the indigenous plantings in the garden, and distant mountains. Inside, the furniture and décor are modern and minimalist, and almost gallery-like. There’s an art gallery and tasting room downstairs, which are well worth a visit.