If you’re looking for modern South African food with a true gourmet backbone (possibly to entertain guets from beyond our borders?), Tokara restaurant should be on your list. Think buchu, think heerenbone, think poached quince – chef Richard Carstens finds fresh new ways to play with local flavours. He’s also not afraid to combine them with a bit of Asian flair – like in a starter dish of tempura line fish with smoked snoek amasi, avocado and ginger sauce.
The menu teeters on the expensive side of the spectrum but there is good value to be had in tasting menus, like the 4 course Cape Senses menu on the day of our visit. Roasted hake with cauliflower purée and (a divine) chardonnay mussel sauce is followed by the very umami mushroom ravioli with soft goats’ milk cheese. Braised lamb is complemented wonderfully by heerenbone purée and sweet poached quince, and for dessert, a square of lemon cake gets along famously with a very subtle olive oil ice cream. Some of the flavours, notably the fresh mozzarella with this latter dessert, were a bit too experimental for my taste, but overall the food is delicious, innovative and beautifully presented. And there are some items on the a la carte menu – like a dessert of caramelised apple with ginger ice cream, vanilla mousse and almond – that I would not mind getting to know better in the future …
A very nice wine list. The Tokara wines are available of course, and by the glass. (And a glass of their Reserve Collection chardonnay, enjoyed on a beautiful spring day, is a treat not to be taken lightly.) There is also a strong selection of great wines beyond the Stellenbosch borders, from the Cederberg region to a couple of big hitters from Hemel & Aarde.
Excellent – service is swift, smooth and very welcoming.
The setting alone is enough to knock your socks off. There is a serious appreciation of beauty here, both artistic and natural. The venue boasts a strong collection of fine art (some of it for sale), and is designed to allow the diner to drink in the natural beauty of the area. Enormous glass windows and walls offer views for days – let the eye wander over the olive groves, the pretty town of Stellenbosch down in the valley, and even, on a clear day, towards Table Mountain in the distance. Inside, it’s all sleekness with wood and glass and greenery, and clever little half moon tables pushed agains the glass panes for optimum view-finding. There’s also a sophisticated bar, which would make a very fine option for a pre-dinner drink …
This is the perfect spot to bring friends visiting from overseas – the combination of the views, the setting and the clever use of local flavours is sure to impress.
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