Chef Gregory Czarnecki presents technique-driven four-course tasting and eight-course degustation menus inspired by his French heritage. The menu changes regularly and begins with canapés and a sublime bread course served with four butters, each more delicious than the next, and a creamy black garlic aïoli. The butters include a chicken consommé-flavoured butter, butter rolled in onion ash, slightly sweet straw-wine-infused butter, and a plain butter.
Three canapés follow, including a Comté cheese mousse on crispy chicken skin topped with a sultana glaze – the perfect bite of saltiness and sweetness. Depending on what’s available on the day, you could expect the first course of the tasting menu to be marinated artichokes with anchovy, coriander and hazelnut. The second might be thinly sliced Mauritian sea bass rolled in leek ash, which creates an attractive marbled effect, served on pommes boulangères with a buttery watercress emulsion, the chef’s very sophisticated take on humble fish and potatoes. The potatoes are soft and creamy, and the fish perfectly cooked, creating a supremely comforting and nostalgic plate. You’ll want to drink the remaining sauce from the jug left on the table.
The third course of grass-fed beef fillet from Greenfields in KwaZulu-Natal is a playful, and very clever, take on steak with a cheese sauce. Made using Époisses de Bourgogne cheese, known for its very strong flavour, the sauce is surprisingly mellow yet still flavourful enough to provide a foil to the meat. It’s accompanied by shards of potato glass, charred onions and broad beans, the perfect fresh complement to the rich sauce.
There’s a choice between a cheese course or dessert: if the Belnori goat’s cheese with hibiscus and torteau fromager is on the menu, don’t hesitate. A French baked ‘cheesecake’, the fromager is a pastry shell filled with goat’s cheese, eggs and vanilla, with a crust that appears to be charred and burnt, but isn’t. It’s soft and slightly sweet – an excellent pairing with the pungent goat’s cheese – tart hibiscus gel and a guava paste, served in a small tube. Dessert options might include blue vanilla cremeux made with vanilla from Réunion, a basil emulsion, basil snow and basil pebbles, or Granny Smith apple with black tea and tandoori flavours. Petit-fours and exquisite hand-made chocolates round off a very special dining experience.
Wines from the biodynamic estate are served, as well as others from the area.
Polished, professional and friendly, but never stuffy or intrusive.
The restaurant is located on a hill inside a modern building, with vast glass windows and juts over the surrounding vineyards, offering breathtaking views of the area and ocean in the distance. White linen and wood complete the picture, with contemporary flower arrangements the only adornment on the tables.
Very special occasions.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
Favourite meal of the year!
Brett van Aswegen
When you’re looking for a taste of Paris, but your Rands will only take you to Parys, there’s always The Restaurant at Waterkloof wine estate for contemporary classic French cuisine by chef Gregory Czarnecki.
The drive up the hill alone is enough to leave you feeling a bit intimidated. Inside it’s expansive and airy with incredible views over the peninsula, but lacking charm and warmth unless you cozy up to the fireplace.
Since neither of us had the appetite for the degustation menu we opted for the tasting menu with wine pairing, which was good value and plenty of food (could have done with some more wine though). Each course showcases and combines approximately 3 ingredients; apart from the cow shit (epoisses) cheese sauce, every element of every dish was just fantastic.
After dinner, over espresso and petit fours, I sat watching the team working in unison in the kitchen. I reflected over every element that needs to be prepared, from the crispy chicken skin to the guava purée. It blows my mind how much effort these chefs, like so many others around our city, have to put in every day to consistently create so many perfect dishes for commoners like myself to enjoy.
So to every head, sous, commis and dishwasher out there, a big thank you for your talent, passion and time. Cape Town is a global food destination because of you.
Deseree van den Berg
Hmmm I am no food expert but here goes... the ambience...not romantic we thought it is clean and clinical, if that is your thing it is the place for you, the view is AMAZING though. The service...very good and it is what you expect from the top restaurant. Now lets talk food...will I go back..No...is it worth a visit...yes there is drama, flavour and colour with great ingredients but hmmm I just expected more. There are other great restaurants on the top 20 list that I will rather go back to again and again....but that’s just my pallet, go decide for yourself.
The situation must rank amongst the best in Africa. It was simply beautiful. The wine was very good and flowed throughout our meal. The food was excellent apart from one thing that really bugged me. On the mains was duck, delicious I thought! The only problem was that if you blinked you would miss it! Now I do appreciate that this is a tasting menu but one thin slice is really not enough to taste or am I being picky? It was gone in a flash and as a consequence I felt the meal became unbalanced and more sweet than savoury. Sorry but you asked for my opinion and this is how I felt. Would I come again, yes but please a little more duck next time!
I am privileged to have dined in some of the best restaurants in South Africa and around the world, so I believe I am qualified to share with you my opinion that the Restaurant at Waterkloof is not worthy of its title as the Best Restaurant in South Africa as bestowed on it by Eat Out.
We clearly set the cat amongst the pigeons when we told our waiter that one of our guests is a vegetarian and requested the vegetarian version of the Degustation Menu. Our waiter explained that there is no separate menu available, but the kitchen will make a plan. Next, we received a visit from one of the chefs who was obviously perplexed and explained that they could not match on a course for course basis the Degustation Menu with a vegetarian option, so the best they could do is offer our guest a much smaller menu (a vegetarian version of the Tasting Menu) and consequently we would not all be enjoying a course at the same time. Our guest being a very accommodating vegetarian and not wanting to spoil the evening for us carnivores happily agreed to the arrangements.
Truly taken aback by the reaction of the staff to our request, I wondered if we had missed some vital information, so this morning I visited the restaurant’s website to read the fine print:
1. the old Tasting and Degustation Menus are on the website.
2. the website says the restaurant may make changes to the menus, but diners may not.
3. the reservation system says that with respect to special requests or dietary requirements the restaurant will do its best, but no guarantees are given.
Is the Best Restaurant in South Africa so inflexible? I know for a fact that restaurants like La Colombe and Restaurant Mosaic would not only have reacted differently but would have developed a vegetarian menu alongside their standard menus.
When the chef was explaining the difficulties in offering a vegetarian version of the Degustation Menu, he billed the Degustation Menu as having 17 courses. As the only restaurant where I have enjoyed close to 17 courses, is Dario De Angeli’s Cube Tasting Kitchen, I started to count. It soon became apparent that the only way that you could get close to 17 courses is by counting the bread basket and each canape, palate cleanser, pre-dessert and petit four.
A few courses warrant additional comments:
• Bread: the black garlic aioli served with the warm bread is truly delicious.
• Smiling Valley Marron: we were very excited at the prospect of tasting a marron for the first time but were surprised at how tasteless the marron is on its own. It truly needed the avocado and mango to add sweetness and creaminess.
• Asparagus and Confit Scallop: why when you prize yourself on fresh seasonal ingredients would you chop up a beautiful scallop?
• Mauritius Seabass: this was one of the main courses, but the seabass was so finely sliced that all you could taste was the potato it sat on top of. As my husband caustically commented: “A tasty potato dish.”
• Waygu: not something you see on a menu in South Africa very often, so once again we had great expectations. This was our second main course and all that arrived were 2 slithers of beef no bigger than my little (pinky) finger.
• Uganda Vanilla: not a vanilla speck in sight on this dessert. To emphasise my point, our server explained this dish as “flavours of basil”. When we asked in which component is the Ugandan vanilla to be found, she stared at us blankly.
This brings me back to the 10 additional courses added to the menu as it makes me think of Daniel Boulud's Restaurant Daniel in New York where the portions are so small that they try to fill you up with a basket of madeleines and a cup of coffee at the end of the meal, but you still need to ask your Uber driver to stop at McDonalds on your way home.
This review would not be complete without talking about the wine pairing. On a level I get it, the restaurant is on a wine estate and therefore promoting the estate wines is important. But when the estate wines are not the best South Africa has to offer, why is the chef and restaurant being further constrained by only being allowed to offer wines produced by Waterkloof? Never with any wine pairing have I had the same wine paired with 2 different courses – the Seriously Cool Chenin Blanc made two appearances as it was served with both the Smiling Valley Marron and the Camembert Crème Brulee. I assure you, we checked and double checked as the menu indicated that with the cheese course we would taste the Circumstance Chenin Blanc.
As I mentioned above, I am fortunate, but take a minute to think about the table next to us who had saved up to enjoy a meal at South Africa’s Best Restaurant while on vacation and had a similar experience to us last night. They will be put off fine dining for life!
I’m not sure where to start with this review, as everything was just mind-blowing.
If we start with the views - huge glass windows overlooking the surroundings are superb.
Then comes the food. We selected the Tasting Menu and I can honestly say, from start to finish, this exceeded our expectations. Fabulous amuse bouche (two different surprises) beautifully presented and explained to us. We liked the fact that a chef came to the table at each course and explained in detail the food presented.
Oh, and fabulous wines to add to the experience.
This is absolutely fine dining. As far as I can see they got everything right and I am so grateful for being introduced to Waterkloof. I cannot stop telling people about it.
Well done !!!
I visited The Restaurant at Waterkloof around 5 years ago. I don’t really remember much about it, other than the fact that the view was beautiful and they still had an a la carte menu.
We were excited to try the latest tasting menu for our anniversary, especially since they’ve just been named the top restaurant in the country.
First, let me say that the service was friendly and warm. We were treated to a complementary glass of bubbly for our anniversary, which was a nice touch. The servers and chefs serving the various dishes were knowledgeable and friendly, and we had no complaints there. The views and setting were as spectacular and elegant as always. The restaurant is off to the side of the tasting room but it was barely noticeable and didn’t infringe on the elegant dining experience.
The food was wonderful overall. We chose the small tasting menu, which we were glad about because the kitchen was not stingy with little treats and amuse bouche-type dishes in between the dishes listed on the menu. The highlights for me were the pea-and-ham croquettes (served on the famous hand cast), which burst into your mouth with pea-and-ham soup flavour. I also loved the Mauritian sea bass, and the Milk, Milk, Milk dessert followed by the petit fours. I could have done without the poached chicken. It was okay but it was pretty beige and didn’t blow me away.
It’s well worth the visit but... (there’s always a ‘but’)... In my opinion, while the Top Restaurant award is deserved this year, it will be hard for them to keep it next year. Mainly because the competition is so stiff and there are other restaurants (La Colombe, Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient to name just two) doing food and dining experiences that are just as good and actually better in some ways. Also, I think at this level, they should consider a sommelier and have a more extensive wine list. They currently only serve estate wines and I think it lets them down. For example, there is no dessert wine option. The estate’s wines are fine but, for food at Top Restaurant level, there should be an extensive and carefully curated wine list.