A change of ownership in late-2017 has seen this acclaimed Italian restaurant take a distinct step upmarket, with a choice of innovative set menus.
It’s Italian, but not as you know it. Forget about pizza or casual trattoria fare. Rather, chefs Salvatore and Nina Branda bring their experience in high-end European kitchens to bear on a selection of four-course set menus with a fine dining aesthetic.
Diners are presented with a choice of three menus: Garden, where the focus is on vegetarian dishes. Land, for meat and mushrooms. Or Sea, for seafood. The ‘Sea’ menu is certainly superb, with lightly smoked ocean trout lifted by a fresh lemon granita. Risotto of Saldanha Bay mussels and broccoli cream follows, while the main plate of pan-seared octopus gets the tricky texture just right.
Between each course there are amuse bouche, intermediate courses and sorbets, so while the plating may be modern and the portions modest, you certainly won’t go hungry. There’s flexibility here too, and switching courses between the menus is welcomed. Dessert offers a choice of three Italian classics, and the reinvented tiramisu doesn’t disappoint.
An excellent wine list, focused on Breede River valley estates. Good selection by the glass.
Warm, attentive service. It’s a family affair, with dad Chris on the floor while Nina and Salvatore work the kitchen.
Modern yet intimate space in one wing of the family-run guesthouse.
Gourmet escapes over a long weekend.
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Italian husband and wife pair cooking Italian cuisine with a modern twist in the heart of Swellendam. What more can I say?
The food was amazing, mostly because the chef cooks out of passion and not obligation. A brief description of what I ordered,
Primo, Gnocchi and Springbok ragu. Secondo, Duck with pomegranate sauce on carrot mash Dessert, Traditional Tiramisu.
This 16 cover restaurant is a true gem and has all the right ingredients which come together to create a special evening. The interior is contemporary – sophisticated yet relaxed, the lovely tables are well-spaced and well-appointed. Enthusiastic and charming service is owner-driven (by Gianni). The menu is seasonally focused and monthly changing with quality ingredients deftly handled by Cristiana, allowing the true flavours to shine. Portions are spot on, letting diners sample excellent antipasti, primi, secondi and dessert courses. Lovely calamari, bresoala, quail, gemsbok, beef, lamb, lobster were some of the items on offer, but I particularly enjoyed the ravioli of prawns accompanied by an intense lobster sauce and also the beautifully light, rosemary infused gnocchi. The coffee is also excellent.
The relatively brief wine list contains some gems from the Breede River Valley region (such as De Wetshof, Arendsig, Konigsrivier, Bon Courage) listing vintages and short tasting notes. Given the quality of everything, prices are excellent value and some of the wines exceptionally so (e.g. De Wetshof The Site Chardonnay at R189 when the Cellar Door price is around R135.)
The restaurant is only open for dinner and for nine months of the year, as passionate Gianni and Cristiana return to Milan and the rest of Italy to keep abreast of Italian food trends and home cooking skills. Advance booking essential!
Surely a candidate for Best Country Restaurant or Best Italian Restaurant!
When Gianni and Christiana left Italy a few years ago, a gift arrived in Swellendam... Flavour- bursting, innovative Italian dishes. A menu that changes every month. Personal attention by the owners themselves and well-trained staff. Well designed, intimate space for maximum 20 guests. One of the Western Cape's best kept secrets.