If you live in Stellenbosch, you are totally spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants. There are just so many really great eateries to choose from. Of the top 10 best restaurants listed in Eat Out Magazine 2011, four are situated in and around Stellenbosch. Needless to say, if you want your restaurant to stand out, you need to compete with the best of the best.
On Saturday morning we joined some friends for a birthday breakfast at Hillcrest Berry Farm on the Helshoogte Pass. I have not been to Hillcrest for quite a few years, and couldn’t quite remember what my last experience was like. After about an hour and a half of scanning the menu, ordering and eating, I can only say that their food and service were mediocre. You’d think that Hillcrest would have an arsenal of dreamy berry dishes up their sleeves. I mean they are the berry kings, aren’t they? But disappointingly this is not true. I ordered yoghurt with toasted nuts and berry compote, and someone next to me ordered the poached fruit with double cream yoghurt. It was unimaginative and we left feeling hungry and dissatisfied. I would rather go to Nook Eatery in the centre of town and order their magnificent flapjack stack with mascarpone and berry compote than ordering any berry dish from the berry masters at Hillcrest Farm with it’s magnificent views. Very very sadly so.
In fact, we felt SO hungry that we decided to travel further into the Franschhoek direction, and ended up at Bread and Wine at Môreson Wine Farm for an early spur-of-the-moment lunch. They were fully booked in their courtyard restaurant, but seated us right at the entrance of the charcuterie where we could choose from the chalk written board at the deli counter. We ordered the charcuterie platter for 1, the cheese platter for 1, a slice of the chicken liver parfait, a freshly baked ciabatta filled with pesto, feta and sundried tomato, and a bottle of Môreson Chardonnay. It was nothing less than an absolute feast! Fantastic service completed the experience, and I cannot wait to be back. What an absolute jewel of a place.
After managing a huge event in Durbanville on Sunday afternoon, I decided to take Monday off. It was the 14th of Feb: Valentines Day, but also our 7th wedding anniversary. We decided to go for a light snack at Tokara deliCATessen, but unfortunately arrived to closed doors ( they are open from Tuesday to Sunday). Seeing that we were in the area already, we decided to go next door to Le Pommier Restaurant. It seemed strange that there were only one other table seated on this fantastic Valentines morning, but we decided to stay and scanned the menu. I wanted to order the white chocolate cheesecake, but it was out of stock. So I settled for the chicken livers. When it arrived, it was served in a little black potjie with a spicy tomato kind of sauce (not really perri-peri at all), with four very dry strips of “home-baked” bread arranged around it. Once again: mediocre. There are few things as disappointing to me as a mediocre meal. I would never go there again. The place has the potential to be pumping with activity, but now I know why it was empty.
On Monday night we had a reservation at Umami Restaurant situated in the Black Horse centre in Dorpstreet. It was our second official date after our daughter was born (she is now 14 weeks old) and we were really looking forward to a special night out. Umami is currently not listed in Eat Out Magazine (which I think is a shame), but they do feature on www.eatout.co.za . Owner/chef Toerie van der Merwe (no, we are not related!) and his team make the most of seasonal produce by changing their menu regularly to accommodate only the freshest ingredients, always maintaining the highest level of integrity. We decided to order the 4 course tasting menu with wine pairing – what a delightful food journey indeed!
Umami ‘s tasting menu is simply fantastic. For R340 you can choose any 4 courses from a list of 7 options with wine pairings, consisting of freshwater fish, poultry, seafood, game, beef, a vegetarian risotto and a dessert. Don’t expect full portions for the tasting menu; if you want a big plate of food with lots of chips and veg, go to Dros! I decided to go with the following:
1) FILLET OF TROUT with wasabi butter on a salad of lentil, tomato & coriander, paired with Rudera Robusto Chenin Blanc
2) KUDU LOIN on parmesan pomme purée with dark chocolate & pine nut jus, roasted red onion and fine green beans, paired with Tamboerskloof Shiraz
3) FILLET OF BEEF with sauce béarnaise, shoestring fries and steamed asparagus, paired with Rainbow’s End Cabernet Franc
4) CHOCOLATE FONDANT with an almond-honey crisp and coffee ice cream, paired with Jordan Mellifera.
The trout and lentil combination was very refreshing, with a great contrast between the cool, sweet lentils and the warm, moist, grilled trout. Paired with the very bold Rudera Robusto – one of my favourite chenin blancs of all time, it was a great start to a night of feasting. The kudu loin also proved to be packed with flavour, and was grilled to absolute perfection. The fillet’s texture was meltingly soft, with a velvety béarnaise sauce as a comforting aftertaste. I ended my food journey with the star of the night: an oozing almost-black belgian fondant cake – the perfect indulgence for Valentines Day. Together with Jordan’s Mellifera – a superior dessert wine, it was a tasting experience of note. Considering the price, this is true value for money, and the best deal you’ll get for a tasting menu in the whole of the Winelands.
Life is way too short to eat mediocre food. But eating at Umami and at Bread and Wine makes this short life an absolute pleasure.