Restaurant Klein JAN

1 Review
African, Fine-dining food
Phone Number 0537819441 Opening Hours Lunch

Lunch: Monday to Friday 12noon to 3pm

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Menu - Menu not available. Please inquire at restaurant.


R2850 per person
African, Fine-dining food
R2850 per person
Mastercard, Visa
Food, Lunch, Parking, Serves food

Critic's review

There probably aren’t many dining experiences you’d drive four hours into the desert to seek out. Restaurant Klein Jan may be the sole exception. This is the homecoming of chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, who made history in 2016 when Restaurant Jan, in Nice, received a Michelin star – the first establishment with a South African chef patron to do so. His more recent endeavour, Restaurant Klein Jan, was opened in 2021 at Tswalu, an exclusive private wildlife reserve in the southern Kalahari. Here, Jan Hendrik tells the story of South African culture through the under-explored ingredients of the region, giving the cuisine of the Kalahari the global recognition it deserves. Having grown up on a farm in Mpumalanga, Jan Hendrik already had a profound appreciation of ingredients and an understanding of the importance of a zero-waste kitchen. In the Kalahari, a four-hour drive from the nearest small town, he has perfected this ethos. Every morsel on every plate at Restaurant Klein Jan feels like it has been cherished. A meal here does not begin with a menu – you’ll have a chance to peruse that at the end. Instead, each dish is explained as it’s brought to you, creating the sense of discovery that is central to this dining experience. Food is presented in innovative, interesting ways that pay homage to the land, the environment and the local heritage.Everything begins with Stoep Snacks at the 100-year-old Boscia House, named after the deep-rooted shepherd’s tree that inspired architect Adrian Davidson. These include a braaibroodjie macaron inspired by the classic snack; gemsbok biltong with a Boscia lamington (brioche bread covered with coffee butter and dusted with gemsbok biltong powder), a perfect combination of deep earthy and umami flavours, topped with a cauliflower crisp that represents the Boscia tree; and Augrabies kalamata olives stuffed with goat's cheese and presented on a thorny twig.From there, you’ll wend your way to the root cellar for a heavenly bite made from the ingredient of the month. At the time of writing, this was an Upington Medjool date, presented as a pistachio shortbread base topped with a creamy, sweet nut-and-date paste and finished off with a beautiful, dome-like caramel.Still in this subterranean world, you’ll gather round the chef’s grandmother’s stove, in which he baked his first cake, for a hearty vegetable soup served in enamel mugs with dainty mosbolletjies on the side.
After this rustic introduction, you’ll settle into the fine-dining Infinity Room for the rest of your culinary journey, which showcases, among other delights, Kalahari truffles, Bonsmara beef and a dessert inspired by the DJ Opperman poem ‘Sproeireën’. Special mention must be made of The Room of a Thousand Delights, where two tables heave with a selection of Kalahari cheese and preserves, accompanied by amagwinya and dombolo bread, as well as a ‘harvest it yourself' sorghum flour breadstick rolled as thin as grass.Suffice it to say this is a culinary experience you will not soon forget.

Like the food at Restaurant Klein Jan, beverages are a celebration of place from the moment you arrive. The Boscia House Stoep Snacks are served with a delicious Kalahari whisky sour – its clinking ice cubes made from rooibos – and a brut from Orange River Cellars in Upington. The rest of the meal’s pairing unfolds with little-known gems, mostly from Prieska and Upington.

Service at Restaurant Klein Jan is, naturally, faultless.

It requires a deep knowledge of the land to look at these harsh but beautiful plains of scrubby bush and red Kalahari sand, and imagine the bounty of available food – much of it below the surface. This theme is carried through into the restaurant, with your humble, rustic arrival; your journey of discovery underground; and finally, your emergence into a land of luxury and delicious abundance. The space is designed to facilitate that continued sense of discovery, highlighting moments of delight through contrast.

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