MARVELLOUS MAKARON AT MAJEKA HOUSE

Situated in suburban Stellenbosch, Majeka House & Spa is a luxury boutique hotel and its Makaron Restaurant is one of Eat Out magazine’s Top 30 Restaurants for 2017

I had long been aware of Makaron, but quite often in life, something that one has looked forward to for a long time disappoints in reality. My first visit was anything but a disappointment.

Makaron

Makaron interior

My visit was for lunch at Makaron. At the restaurant’s helm is Chef Lucas Carstens, and Makaron offers a choice of between four and six small plates from its menu.

At my first visit to a fine dining restaurant, I try to get as broad a feel for the chef’s cuisine as is possible – and the Makaron small plates menu was an absolutely perfect opportunity.

Up front it offers as Compliments from the Kitchen: Caesar taco/ crispy chicken skin & truffle/ beetroot & trout cracker/”roosterkoek” & “bokkom” butter/ “mosbolletjie en korrel konfyt.”

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Lovely palate openers all and I tried hard not to overdo them, knowing that four more courses lay ahead….I partially succeeded, although the roosterkoek kept on looking at me appealingly.

For starters, I tasted: Eggplant tartare, artichoke, turnip; and Poached oyster, peaches, pickled sea vegetables. Both dishes offered the palate a delicious freshness and textural variety.

Following these, I tried: Zucchini risotto, raw mushrooms, cured egg yolk shavings. Aware as I am of how difficult risotto can be to make, Chef Lucas ‘nailed’ this one! And then the House-smoked hake, celeriac, dill, whey soured onions.

From The Serious Choice section of the menu, I chose: Leipoldt’s springbok “rafeltjievleis”, stewed fruit, apricots, onion. Lovely contrast between the sweetness of the fruit and the onions and the spiciness of the springbok. One of the best meat dishes I have had in years! I also tasted the: Suckling pig, “suurvytjie” basting, sweet potato, nasturtium flower vinegar. Another very good meat dish with the acidity of the basting and the vinegar contrasting nicely with the pork.

My excitement-omoter always goes into overdrive faced with a good dessert menu. I could easily have tried all four on offer, but restrained myself and only savoured two of them: Banana carpaccio, roasted yeast caramel, sourdough ice cream. Wow,wow, wow! If it was proper to have a dessert as a main, this would be the one I’d choose. I also had the: Fermented blueberries, olives, olive oil.

And to end it all off, the cherry on the bottom…….we finished off with dainty Toffee apples.

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Chef Lucas Carstens’ menu was a gastro-adventure par excellence. Creative, beautiful plating, diverse and simply ”lekker”.

As the Terminator would have said: “I’ll be back!”

 

MAJEKA HOUSE

26-32 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch 7600

Tel: +27 21 880 1549

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GLENELLY ESTATE NOW HAS THE WOW FACTOR

My lasting impression of my first visit to Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch was surprise at the unimpressive way owner Madame May Lencquesaing’s extraordinary glass collection was displayed.

That was the Glenelly of yore – no more…..

I was recently invited for lunch and a wine tasting and to see the result of extensive renovations – the estate now boasts a Glass Museum, a bistro, and a new tasting room.

11 Glenelly - Tasting Room interior

 

The tasting room is on the top floor of the winery and has a spectacular view of the Simonsberg Mountain. One is able to taste current and older vintages of Glenelly’s Glass Collection, Estate Reserve and Lady May wines. I particularly enjoyed the Glenelly Estate Reserve Red and the Glenelly Glass Collection Unoaked Chardonnay (yes, I enjoyed a chardonnay!).

 

21 Glenelly - The Vine Bistro interior (8)

 

The Vine Bistro, also with “that view”, has cuisine that is French-inspired and which was deliciously evident in the dishes we tasted. Looking at the menu, I noticed that the prices of the Mains are at fine-dining level rather than bistro.

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The display of glass has been majorly upgraded as befitting Madame May’s breath-taking collection and is now a Glass Museum with the wow factor! It is such a unique and captivating assembly of beauty that it is well worth a visit on its own. The Glass Museum is in the underground of the winery, and has 340 magnificent pieces on display.

Wow again!

 

 

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Glenelly Estate

Lelie Street, Idas Valley, Stellenbosch

www.glenellyestate.com

FRANSCCHOEK WINE TRAM EXTENDS THE PLEASURE

Visiting Franschhoek has always been a pleasure, but I recently enjoyed a taste of a different way of enjoying a visit – by tram!

Right from its start five years ago, Franschhoek Wine Tram has enhanced the Franschhoek visitor experience. That beginning was a short rail journey in a 32-seater open-sided tram that only visited two wine farms.

Now that pleasure has been enhanced and today spans the entire Franschhoek Wine Route, visiting 22 wine estates, with the opportunity to spend between half an hour to an hour on the new 80-seater double deck railway tram.

F'hoek Tram launch

I tried a brief ride in the new tram. It is superbly designed, with the aesthetic of yesteryear combined with the ‘ride” of today and (no double entendre intended) its seats “swing both ways”. Try the experience and you’ll find out to what I am alluding.

Wine Tram passengers aboard the hop-on hop-off tour on a combination of tram and tram-bus around a loop of stops allowing them to hop-off at each stop and experience the activities on offer, be it wine tasting, a cellar tour, lunch or simply a stroll through the vineyards and when they are ready, hop-on to continue the tour.

What a special, enchanting journey and a boon to a Franschhoek visit!

I cannot wait to return and enjoy the full Franschhoek Wine Tram journey and as is my won’t, I’ll share the “full monty” pleasure with you.

 

 

F'hoek Tram logo

http://winetram.co.za/

info@winetram.co.za + 27 21 300 0338 Franschhoek South Africa

THERE’S MUCH MORE TO BELLEVUE WINE ESTATE….

I recently paid a second visit to Bellevue Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, this time to taste their newly launched pinotage and also to experience their new tasting room and restaurant.

Now way back in the 1950s, Bellevue was one of the pioneers of pinotage and if they were launching another example, it had to be special…..

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And, so it was…..the new wine, a limited release, is the Bellevue 1953 Pinotage 2016. and it gets its name from the year its vineyard was planted.

Sporting a really gorgeous front label, the 1953 Pinotage is medium-bodied, and its nose oozes dark fruits and a full fruity palate with a long aftertaste follows. I don’t know if it was the romance of the old vineyard talking, but I much prefer the 1953 Pinotage 2016 to the estate’s regular pinotage, and it will drink even better after a year or two in the bottle.

The new tasting room and restaurant are beautifully designed and tastefully blend a tribute to the past with some quiet modernity and offer restful, garden views. The restaurant’s menu has some glorious wood-fried pizzas, and a variety of starters, mains and desserts.

Together these have certainly added a welcome new attraction to the Bottelary area

But it is another of Bellevue Estate’s wines that has played a significant part of my wine drinking pleasure. I have a little story to tell…

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Chatting to Dirkie Morkel about my Petit Verdot “moment”.

(Image © John Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus)

My first visit to Bellevue was to take part in a trail run on the farm. After the run I headed for the tasting room for my first taste of the Estate’s wines. Presiding was Bellevue viticulturist, Dirkie Morkel. I took a look at the price list and I noticed the PK Morkel 2010 Petit Verdot., I had never tasted Petit Verdot before and was curious.

Petit Verdot

I asked Dirkie if the Petit Verdot was available for tasting. He said that it was but suggested it would drink better with food rather than on its own. As the first sip hit my palate, I instantly fell in love with the grape variety and have sought it out ever since. Thank you Dirkie, thank you Bellevue!

My passion for Shiraz/Syrah now had company…Petit Verdot.

 

 

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Bellevue Wine Estate

LUBBLY BUBBLY AND LUBBLY LUNCH TOO

A bubbly lunch may sound to some that I am on the drinking man’s diet …..I most definitely am not.

The title refers to a lunch I recently enoyed at which each course was paired with a different bubbly from Simonsig – home of the original Méthode Cap Classique.

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Our genial and effervescent hosts were Simonsig supremos Johan and Diane Malan.

Malans

 

Now by any criteria this was no ordinary lunch. Firstly Simonsig and in particular their Kaapse Vonkel, have led the way in South African bubblies for over 45 years. The lunch was held at one of this country’s leading restaurants, Harald Bresselschmidt’s Aubergine in Cape Town.

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Now that the wine and restaurant credentials are on the table, there is another hugely significant element to join them – many rate Bresselschmidt supreme amongst South African chefs when it comes to pairing food with wine.

So upfront it was likely that a huge treat was I store, and boy did it deliver and then some!

 

Here’s the majestic Simonsig/Aubergine menu:

Ocean Kabeljou marinated and sous-vide nettle and green apple shoots

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel 2015

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Category: Standard Packshot.

Calves Liver with fava beans, lemon balsamic-glazed white grapes

Simonsig Cuvée Royale 2012

Simonsig Cuvée Royale

Quail Breasts filled with mousseline, prawn reduction, pistachio, cherry-quinoa dressing

Simonsig Pinot Noir Brut Rosé 2015

Simonsig Pinot Noir Rose 2015 HR

Ivory Chocolate Dome with MCC soft centre, almond streusel and angelica ice cream, white flower espuma

Simonsig Demi Sec 2015

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True confession. I am an avid wine drinker and food eater, but when it comes to doing both at the same time, I am severely handicapped. So enjoying food and wine pairings is usually somewhat of a challenge.

But I think a corner has been turned for me. Savouring the glorious range and different vintages of Simonsig bubblies before the lunch was pleasure enough. But then, my personal food and wine-pairing sea change…..

The superb Harald Bresselschmidt dishes and the Simonsig’s always excellent Cap Classiques were so magnificently complementary that my taste-buds finally got the food/wine pairing message. Food, wine, food, wine, food, wine , left right left right, whichever way I turned the balance and harmony were perfect.

Although Simonsig are the Cap Classique pioneers, they continue to strive for excellence and regularly receive industry accolades.

At the recent 2017 Amorim Méthode Cap Classique Challenge, they won: Best Rosé: Simonsig Woolworths Pinot Noir Rosé No Sulphur Added 2015: Best Blanc de Blanc and Best Overall: Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012 and Best Producer:
So seek out the Simonsig bubblies, dine at Aubergine, enjoy sensory excellence.

Long may they vonkel!

 

THE GASTRONOMIC JOYS OF SPRING

I recently made my third visit to La Motte in Franschhoek, this year. Each visit was more enjoyable than the one before and each offered something extra.

My first visit was to try the La Motte Food& Wine Pairing and then lunch; the second was to celebrate a new Pierneef Exhibition followed by a Pierneef inspired lunch.

The third visit was titled “The Splendour of Spring” and was for lunch in the form of a fynbos-inspired menu of modern Cape Winelands Cuisine at Pierneef a la Motte. With each meal I have become more and more a fan of Chef Michelle Theron’s cooking.

The something extra this time was that Michelle collaborated with Sarah Graham, the food writer, cook and the host of two food TV programmes on the Menu and the execution of it.

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Sarah Graham and Chef Michelle Theron collaborating

The Splendour of Spring menu and the pairing with the fine La Motte wines made for a very special four-course lunch indeed. For me, I was glad not to know the micro-detail of the partnership and be free to enjoy each dish on its own merits.

Here’s the menu and the wines that went with each item:

ODE TO BREAD

Mosbolletjies with farm butter, quince spread and buchu salt

FIRST

Tomato, honey bush and goat’s cheese “roosterkoek”

2016 La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc

SECOND

Fragrant Cape seafood curry with lavender, lightly smoked mussels and banana chutney

2016 La Motte Chardonnay

Fybos-inspired luncheon (83)

Cape Seafood Curry

THIRD

Waterblommetjie and samp risotto, Karoo lamb “sout ribbetjie”, pulled lamb belly, bone marrow, red wine jus

2015 La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon

FOURTH

Poached citrus salad with rosemary salted caramel, brandy milk pinch blanc mange, milk tart semi-freddo

NV La Motte Straw Wine

 

Each course was a joy and the wine pairings were spot on, but one dish and one wine were my personal favourites: my Dish of 2017 – the Cape seafood curry and I really enjoyed the La Motte Straw Wine that ended the meal.

Congratulations and thanks Michelle and Sarah!

I wonder what my next La Motte visit will bring……

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All photos were supplied by La Motte

A PRIVILEGED TREAT

Occasionally, the stars are aligned and something delectable is on offer and one is included in a select few.

The occasion was a visit to Jacobsdal a family-owned winery in Stellenbosch, to taste their range and for lunch. The privilege? Jacobsdal is not open to the general public…..

Jacobsdal Logo

 

Our gracious hosts, the Dumas family has been making wine on the estate for three generations with present owner Cornelis Dumas being helped by his son Hannes.

Cornelis and Hannes Dumas

Cornelis and Hannes Dumas eyeing their handcrafted wine

Jacobsdal only makes two wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon and (of course!) a Pinotage. They hand-make their wines and only use natural yeasts.

We tasted eight vintages of Jacobsdal Pinotage from their 1997 to the 2014, which is their current vintage in bottles, and six vintages of Jacobsdal Cabernet Sauvignon from 2001 to the 2014, its current bottled vintage.

It was rewarding to smell and taste the often subtle differences across the vintages and it would be easy to give detail impressions of each. But, as I am not sure that all the wines we tasted are still available for purchase, I’ll give a general impression of only two of them, if I may? To check on the availability of the Jacobsdal vintages, I suggest you visit: https://www.vinoteque.co.za/collections/jacobsdal

Jacobsdal started out only making Pinotage before adding Cabernet Sauvignon, so let me start with the Jacobsdal Pinotage 2013.

 

Jacobsdal Pinotage PackShot

The Jacobsdal Pinotage 2013 offers dark berries and dark plums on the nose and a hint of spice. It comes across on the lightish side, but is well balanced and elegant. I tasted it on its own and could see it doing well with venison or a meaty stew.  A very drinkable and enjoyable Pinotage.

Jacobsdal Cabernet Sauvingon Packshot

The Jacobsdal Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 is full boded and generous with fruit flavours, it gives dark berries on the nose and a hint of vanilla from light oaking. It too would go well with a meaty stew.

Two really well made wines, generous on the palate with or without food.

We tasted the Jacobsdal range on its own and then paired with lunch.

Talking about lunch…..our invitation was to Jacobsdal Wine Estate, so the balance of this post must necessarily be the wine. But the lunch came to us from Executive Chef Jean Delport from Somerset-West restaurant Benguela on Main.

The plating, the food, the creativity and the pairing made for one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had in this country.

If this is an example of what to expect from Chef Delport, I’ll definitely be adding a visit to Benguela on Main to my 2017 bucket list.

Too often one visits wine estates that exudes far too little of a sense of being a farm – the genuine warmth, passion and generosity that makes a farm visit so special. Jacobsdal did more than just tick those boxes!!

Baie dankie Dumas gesin!

 

MOST EVERYBODY REMEMBERS THEIR FIRST TIME

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The iconic main building at Dewetshof Estate in Robertson


I remember the first time I tasted chardonnay.

It was in the mid-1980s and at the time, I was living in Johannesburg. A visiting family member brought me a bottle up from Cape Town.

Of course, the chardonnay was from the pioneering Dewetshof Estate in Robertson-what else?

What are my memories of that first taste?

Unfortunately I can’t share with you my nose/palate memory of it, I remember downing so much of it, and enjoying very last drop, but 500ml is a lot of wine on an empty stomach………

Fast forward a few decades – I recently attended a luncheon to launch Dewetshof’s Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2017 held La Tệte Restaurant in Cape Town’s super-trendy Bree Street.

DWH Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2017

 

Now La Tệte has quickly earned a reputation for delivering its Head to Tail philosophy and also offering diners wondrous offal dishes…..

On arrival, my brain clicked in and the inappropriateness of pairing offal with chardonnay….so what dishes would we be served?

I tried a sip of the Limestone Hill before our first course was served. It is unwooded and offered some citrus and nuttiness.

Not being that knowledgeable on matters food and wine pairing, I found it amazing how different the wine tasted with each dish.

We started with a pork dish, which for me (apologies for my lack of sophisticated descriptive words) made the wine taste very very chardonnayish.

Our main was a gloriously crusty and juicy Hake Pie which made the Limestone Hill Chardonnay taste sweeter than it did on its own or with the pork.

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A truly versatile wine from the pioneers of South African Chardonnay, one that works well on its own or with food.

 

FOOTNOTE

 

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Dear La Tệte, it won’t be offaly long before you see me again!

 

ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER

Over the past 20 years or so, our visits to Somerset West have largely been to take part in running races on the Lourensford and Vergelegen wine farms. To get there from Cape Town, one takes the Somerset-West turn-off from the N2, turn right onto the Main Road and then left into Lourensford Road.

But recently (and happily) my wife and I strayed off course. Instead of turning left into Lourensford, we turned right into Bright Street and headed for lunch at Imibala Restaurant.

Trying a restaurant “on the other side of the main road” appeals to my inbred passion for things new, so when a colleague suggested giving Imibala a try….

Often one approaches a new restaurant experience with a fair degree of expectation and maybe even some apprehension…….

We were pleasantly surprised!

The first thing we noticed on entering the restaurant was its homely but elegant decor and we had a corner table which afforded us a view of the whole room. Although it was mid-week, the place was busy, which immediately said something positive.

 

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Imibala’s Daytime Menu at first glance seems quite large. Chatting to the Executive Chef Nicola Dupper afterwards, she agreed but said she had an excellent team in the kitchen and that they coped well with the size of the menu.

Let me break the Lunch options down into manageable portion size for you: Under Tapas there are 10 items ranging from Gnocchi to Baked Camembert to Braised beef short ribs.

Then there’s a selection of 10 Mains including Oxtail risotto, Karoo lamb cutlets, and a Pork sausage, fennel and bean cassoulet.

You’ll also be able to choose from the Daily Roast: which could either be beef, chicken, lamb or pork, each with a selection of vegetables or salad.

But for me, Imibala’s Harvest Table is the section I’d suggest you head for. The array is impressive, one selects  from a wide variety of freshly prepared dishes including soup, pies, tray bakes, curry, salads, vegetables and freshly baked breads. The day we were there, the salads included a tabbouleh, which is one of all-time my favourites.

So, with that plethora of palate pleasers, what did we eat?

I started with a dish from the Tapas selection: Duck 3 Ways – poached egg with crispy duck crackling; duck liver with cherries; and crispy duck croquette with roasted garlic aioli. A duck feast with a range of textures and flavours to delight. A yummy yummy yummy duck duck duck dish!

To follow that, from the Harvest Table, I tried a beautifully seasoned plate of lamb ribs.

My wife had the Beer battered kingklip, the fish was perfectly cooked and the batter light and tasty.

We then hit the salad table, my wife diversely, while I tabboulehed like there was no tomorrow and was reminded of my Lebanese neighbours of yore.

The service was efficient and friendly and the menu pricing reasonable. The food is beautifully seasoned and cooked, the variety is extraordinary, and the portion sizes very decent.

We will definitely make a good turn again soon.

 

IMIBALA RESTAURANT

18 Bright Street

Somerset-West

Tel: 021 851 2364

Hours: 08:00 – 22:00

Any profits from the Imibala Restaurant support the Imibala Trust.

The Imibala Trust works with school-age children deeply affected by impoverished circumstances, and offers programmes that make a substantial and measurable difference to the children’s present and future lives.

….BUT NO MONA LISA

If the heading confuses you, I’ll explain it at the end of this posting…

My daughter Clare and I, as we enjoy doing whenever we can, recently went on a daddy-daughter date. Clare and I are committed foodies, she with a chef’s training and a superb palate, me with years of experience and eating-out passion.

We both fulfilled a long-held ambition by choosing to have lunch at Reuben’s in Franschhoek. Not at the now-closed Reuben’s of old, but at the very recently opened, Reuben’s Restaurant &Bar.

Reuben’s Restaurant & Bar is in a prime location, it’s in Daniel Hugo Street, a few metres off Huguenot Street and parking shouldn’t be a problem on most days.

 

Reuben's interior

As you can see from the photograph, the décor is modern, elegant and understated. Centrally on the right is the bar counter and centrally on the left is a fireplace. It was a cold day when we visited, but the whole restaurant was comfortably warm.

I hate categorising but…I would label Reuben’s as ‘relaxed fine dining’. Happily, the menu is a small one with four Tasters, eight Starters, nine Mains and four desserts. There are also daily Specials advantaging the freshest of locally available ingredients.

I chose well, Reuben’s signature Starter, Tuna Tataki – yuzo (a Japanese citrus), pickled mustard, avocado, radish, lime mayo and roasted sesame. Refreshing, and a good palate opener. Clare ordered the Poke Bowl – ceviche, lemongrass, edamame and sesame. Lovely textures and Asian flavours, I tasted some and we both agreed it’s a starter we’d be happy to order again.

Choosing a main was a challenge, Clare chose one of the Specials of the day, Asian Braised Beef Cheek and I chose from the Menu, Peppered Chalmar Picanha. Two perfect meat dishes for a cold day and lovely contrasts to the light freshness of our starters.

Waistline conscientious, we dithered as to whether or not to order Desserts. Our server ended our agony by suggesting that we share a Warm Chocolate Fondant, and who were we to argue. The test of a good fondant is its ooze of liquid chocolate, and this one certainly did ooze. Clare and I don’t like overly sweet desserts, the Chocolate Fondant was just right for our palates.

All the portions of the dishes we ordered were of a very decent size. Not always that common these days

Now to the non-menu yardsticks of a good restaurant, plating and service. Not only is Reuben’s plating top-notch, but mention must also be made of his beautiful choice of plates as well. I like servers that are well-informed, warm and appropriately friendly, ours certainly was.

A faultless meal in every way – the boy from the ‘hood certainly knows how to cook up a storm.

Why did I refer to the Mona Lisa in my heading, I hear you reminding me? On my very first visit to Paris, a visit to the Louvre was top of my tourist must do list. We joined the queue, and went in. Looking at the layout guide, we headed straight for the Mona Lisa (what else?!), almost out of breath, we reached where she is hung…..except she wasn’t there!!!!! Removed for cleaning. Gasp, close to tears with huge disappointment, necessitated a three year wait before a (successful!) return visit.

Reuben was not at Reuben’s on the day we visited, so no Mona Lisa! But we definitely will not wait three years to return!

Not the Mona Lisa, but here’s Reuben:

Reuben

 

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Call 021 876 3772