It was hubby and my 14th wedding anniversary this week. We don’t often go out, but on special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries, we really make an effort and go to a really special place. Living in the Cape Town surrounds we are really spoilt for choice as 8 of the top 10 restaurants featured in the yearly EatOut Mercedes Benz awards in South Africa are actually located here!
So for this years’ anniversary celebration, we decided that The Restaurant at Waterkloof would be our pick of the crop. The Waterkloof wine estate is located close to Somerset-West, on the south-facing slopes of the Schapenberg, and it offers beautiful vistas over False Bay. The views over Somerset West, towards Gordons Bay and out to sea are breath-taking and the contemporary architecture of the cellar and restaurant makes this the perfect setting to celebrate such a special occasion. Part of the restaurant’s seating area is housed in a ‘glass box’ that juts out from the concrete building and it offers uninterrupted mountain, vineyard and ocean views. We were there in the evening and the way that the twinkling lights below line the bay is truly spectacular.
So, with me being such a foodie (and a foodie in the sense of me loving to eat food!), combined with sitting down in one of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants gave me the idea to try my hand at writing a food review. The idea is not critiquing, but rather trying to convey all the flavours in a written form… so how hard can it be?
I can tell you now… it is very difficult! Naturally not all the ingredients of each dish is divulged on the menu, which means that it is up to the fantastic waiters to convey what each wonderful, delicious mouthful consists of. Once you try to commit to memory what every smear, drop and crumb contains, you end up realising that you have to place your hope on your palate as it would be impossible to recall what the waiter so effortlessly told you while you are tasting all the gorgeousness on the plate and savouring each bite!
Hubby and I opted for the three course menu and this is what went down!
Complementary amuse-bouche from the kitchen:
This lovely little appetizer consisted out of a rooibos jelly, dotted with pumpkin cream and an almond sprinkle. Blackened leek shavings completed this perfect little mouthful. The pumpkin cream was surprisingly savoury and the jelly so light. The leeks being blackened slightly really intensified the onion flavour and added a lovely smokiness to this bite sized delight!
Saute snails with fleur de sel sable, spinach and blue cheese:
I opted for the snails as a starter. I always like to try new things that I can’t make at home myself and this was surely one to try. I’ve only ever known the snails in the local steakhouse, smothered in garlic and mozzarella! Boy, is there so much more to snails! The beautiful green ‘wings’ is actually parsley chips and it tasted amazing… like a paper thin crispy potato chip. The snails were served with a spinach puree, garlic cream sauce on the plate but what really made it for me was the blue cheese sauce served on the side. The garlic and blue cheese combined beautifully with the soft snails, while the spinach puree had some freshness to it. The salted crumb added a wonderful texture to the dish.
Sea Bass Ceviche and Celeriac with snoek, seaweed and bottarga:
Hubby opted for the fresh seafood and of course I sneaked a little taste! The celeriac discs were folded beautifully and in my mind looked like a little sea creature in itself under which all the wonderful seafood was hiding. The flavours of the sea bass ceviche was clean, while the snoek and bottarga provided a bit of saltiness. In hubby’s words: “Not over complicated, and perfectly balanced”
Karoo braised lamb shoulder with courgette, granola and cashews:
Karoo lamb. The best lamb in the world, in my opinion. This was hubby’s choice and it is right up his ally. The lamb shoulder was so tender and sticky and had great flavour. Although I can’t recall the waiter saying so, I could definitely taste the smallest hint of curry – maybe a masala spice? The granola and cashews added a different spin on the normal meat and two veg!
Seared Mauritius Sea Bass with caramelized fennel, grapefruit beurre blanc:
I opted for a fishy main. Quite unusual for me, because, although I love seafood, I am typically sucked in by meats! However, I love fennel, so that was the first thing that caught my eye and when I saw grapefruit, my mind was made up. I just had to taste this combination! The fish was perfectly prepared with a great crisp on the skin. The grilled fennel was served with grapefruit and orange segments. I’ve had fennel and orange before in a salad, but adding the grapefruit just added a touch of bitterness which I really enjoyed. Additionally, and orange and grapefruit poached endive was served with the fennel and I could not believe how the endive actually absorbed the taste of citrus fruits. However, the star of the dish for me was the grapefruit beurre blanc. It really tied the dish together and with each bit I would lather up the sauce. Delicious!
Complementary pre-dessert from the kitchen:
We were served a little vanilla crema with a cinnamon tuile and cinnamon gel, topped with coconut crumbs. Definitely a combination made in heaven! I loved the intense taste of the cinnamon tuile!
Belnori Forest Phantom with pistachio brittle and truffled pear:
So for dessert, I decided to try something different. I was served a beautiful goats’ cheese, with a pistachio brittle and sweet slices of pear. This is an amazing alternative to a cheese course. I do love goats cheese so this was the perfect dessert for me; the sourness of the cheese with the addition of the sweet pear was a match made in heaven. The pistachio brittle was also just the right amount of sweet and savoury! I must admit, when I ordered this dessert and the waiter told me what it was just to make sure that I am comfortable with it, I did think twice. However, my gut was right – I highly recommend it.
Dulcey Cremeux with pistachio, orange, rice pudding ice cream:
For me it was between the Belnori Forest Phantom above or this Dulcey Cremeux for dessert. Well, thank goodness for hubby and that we could share! This dessert was as amazing! (Come to think of it, do it like we did – share!) It consists out of a beautiful green pistachio sponge, rice pudding ice cream, a hazelnut tuile on a base of cocoa crumbs. There was a wonderful pop of orange flavour – dare I say an orange curd? Oh, it was delicious – gooey chocolate, with the gently flavoured ice-cream. The cocoa crumbs adding a bit of bitterness and the orange curd some acidity. Out of this world!
And just to push you over the edge, when you receive your bill, they bring out the best ‘after dinner mints’ ever – a feather light choux pastry filled with a blueberry cream, a tangy tangerine jelly and finally a deliciously decadent bitter sweet truffle!
Chef Gregory Czarnecki is a master at work and he has a great team supporting him. The service is warm and friendly and you feel appreciated and taken care of. Great food, great wine and great service in a stunning location.
Do yourself – and your tastebuds – a favour, and when you are next in the vicinity, make a reservation! (Else you can try and use this as inspiration for a home cooked feast… let me see if I can go find some garden snails… NOT!)