Last week I joined Steenberg Public Relations Consultant Gudrun Clark for lunch at the recently opened Tryn restaurant, in the transformed space that was the home of Catharina’s at Steenberg for twenty years. Tryn was the nickname of founder owner Catharina Ras. Its Kitchen is now headed up by Chef Kerry Kilpin, who has been in charge of Bistro Sixteen82, also at Steenberg, for the past five years. Catharina’s has been transformed, renamed, and modernised, to bring her into the 21st century. The restaurant transformation was accompanied by a major renovation of the Steenberg Hotel.
Our lunch date last Wednesday was on a day with unseasonal rain, with a traffic jam on the M3 due to traffic lights being out of order at the Kirstenbosch intersection. I received a call from Gudrun whilst I was driving, checking if I had an umbrella in the car to get from the parking area into the restaurant. Like a good Capetonian I do have an umbrella in the car but I never use it! I was lucky in that the rain had subsided by the time I arrived.
Everything looks pretty much the same on the exterior of the building, there not being any branding. Big green doors create a strong colour contrast to the white building exterior. The Transformation is visible immediately once one steps inside, with the Tryn branding to the left, the new typeface an informal friendly one. It was the perfect place in which to do a photograph. Gudrun as well as Chef Kerry waited in the restaurant reception for me, and I was surprised to see Jürgen too, who had worked at Bistro Sixteen82 when I last met him, had left for Tigers Milk Kloof Street for a while, and returned to Steenberg last year. He looks after the back-of-house operation of both Tryn and Bistro Sixteen82.
Gudrun showed me around the other rooms. There is the Cuvee room, with plant inspired artwork, in jade and other variations of green. It has tables and chairs, almost like a lounge. Then there is the private dining room in Ruby, on the other side of the reception, a separatable room which can be booked for special events. In the Reception area two large artworks by Award-winning Mongezi Ncaphayi hang, an artist from Johannesburg. One major change has been made: the Bar which was previously in the Cuvee Room has now been set up in the main restaurant. It has an Art Deco touch, in green with touches of gold, and with soft rounded lines. The base of the bar appears to have been done in marble. Another change is that the area closest to the Bar, which was previously filled with restaurant tables and chairs, now has couches for comfortable pre-meal seating.
The biggest surprise for me was how bright the restaurant was, despite it being a grey rainy day. Perhaps it is the new yellow-gold banquettes which add warmth and light? Kerry assured me that no changes had been made in terms of windows. One can see out onto the Steenberg Vineyards from the restaurant.
The restaurant design transformation was done by Bone Studio. From the notes that Gudrun sent me, I learnt that the designers were cognizant of the Heritage of the restaurant building, and modernised the former Catharina’s to reflect the free and feisty spirit of the new Tryn. Her personality was brought to the fore in the private dining areas, using ‘bold and gutsy ruby and jade walls’, reflecting her strong character yet her femininity. Added to this character personification was the choice of the burnt orange and mustard tones for the furniture and furnishings. The Bar was moved to the dining room, as the central focal point where diners meet before or after a meal. ‘…. the bar is rooted with daring marble and stone bringing all the eclectic colouring home. We envisage Tryn flirting and swaying amongst the guests – lavishing her role as hostess in a space that more accurately conveys her persona’.
We sat at a round wooden top table, in a booth type design, on a comfortable mustard/gold banquette and a rust brown/orange chair. Our waiter brought us the leather-bound menu, and took our water order. A welcome drink arrived from Chef Kerry, an unusual non-alcoholic drink of ginger, fig, and rosemary. Very quickly too an Amuse Bouche of calamari, a mini portion of their starter dish, was offered, served as a mouthful in a ceramic spoon.
Gudrun and I had not seen each other in at least a year, and we had a lot to catch up on, so not paying enough attention to the menu. The menu introduces the new restaurant as follows: ‘In the spirit of Steenberg’s indomitable 17th century founder, Catharina Ras, or Tryn as she was known to her nearest and dearest, Executive Chef Kerry Kilpin takes you on a sensory dining experience. Authentic dishes with Asian and Middle Eastern influences enliven the familiar with exciting combinations to delight all tastes. In constant search of new ingredients, flavours and textures, Chef Kerry creates inspiring cuisine with an inimitable contemporary spirit that is seasoned, flavourful and bursts with freshness. This signature restaurant embodies Tryn’s character in an authentic and sensory narrative for a refined and relaxed dining experience. The journey awaits….’
Gudrun explained the ABALOBI ethical sourcing of fish to me, of which Chef Kerry was the first champion, in using sustainable and traceable fish. ABALOBI is a small-scale Fishermen initiative supplying more than 100 Cape restaurants with sustainable and traceable fish. Using the ABALOBI App, one can use a QR code to trace the journey of the fish one is eating, from ‘hook to cook’, including where the fish was caught in seven different Western Cape fishing areas, and by whom. Not only is a fair income generated for the ABALOBI fisherman, but it guarantees fish being in supply for future generations. The ABALOBI ethical fish sourcing is used at both Tryn and Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg.
The Menu commences with ‘The Finery’, offering two spoiling starting treats: oysters (R29 each), and Oscietra Royal caviar at R2800.
From the Starter list, entitled ‘The Journey begins’, I selected the scallop dish, served with pea purée, unusual cumin fritters interspersed with the scallops on the plate, a selection of steamed greens, toasted almonds, and an unusual vanilla bean velouté (R185), a tasty start to be meal. Gudrun selected a very unusual dish, the Beetroot Tataki, something I’ve only experienced for Tuna or Beef, but never for a vegetable before. It was accompanied by edamame beans, wild rocket, roasted hazelnut, balsamic syrup, and topped with Parmesan shavings (R115). Gudrun allowed me to try her Beetroot Tataki, a very healthy starter.
Gudrun suggested that we have a glass of wine with our meal, and suggested the Steenberg Catharina flagship, a blend of Merlot (75%), Shiraz (20%), and Petit Verdot (5%), or the Nebbiolo. We were brought a little taster of each, and I selected the Catharina 2016, perfect for me on the rainy cold day, and Gudrun the Nebbiolo, a lighter red wine with an Italian descent. Gudrun sent me some notes about Catharina. Each cultivar is vinified and aged separately. French oak barrels were used for malolactic fermentation, and maturation for 18 months. It was bottled in 2017. Its aromas are described as those of ‘life’s pleasures’: biltong, cigar, coffee, dark chocolate, fruit cake, and Ceylon tea. Red and black berry fruit on the nose and palate.
Despite the cold weather, I chose to try the Ethically sourced Fish salad from ‘The Aporoach’ menu section, consisting of four salads in total. The Fish salad was served with Cob, being the fish of the day, accompanied by greens, orange and grapefruit segments, mangetout, sprouts, a ginger and kalamansi (a citrus variety), and topped with aioli (R235). It was a light and healthy yet filling main course. Other salads offered are a Black Truffle (with asparagus and quail egg), Caesar (unusual with pork belly and a poached egg), and a House Salad (with feta), all available in two sizes, at R125 – R145 for the smaller portion, and R195 – R235 for the larger one.
Gudrun chose her main course from a list entitled ‘Sojourn’, the pork belly being a perfect winter dish, served with an unusual courgette purée, snow peas, an unusual cabbage and apple salsa, and a further unusual pineapple and passion fruit jus (R195), this dish demonstrating the creativity of Chef Kerry in not offering vegetables and fruit in their standard form, but in unusual combinations and for unusual uses.
Other main course options are Ethically sourced fish served warm, rack of lamb, beef fillet, a risotto of the day (made with Sauvignon Blanc, it being mushroom on our day of visiting), venison, and a vegetarian dish of Shimeji mushrooms and vegetables. The dishes range in price from R165 to R285. The venison of the day was impala. Side dishes are offered at R52, for truffle and parmesan chips, garlic French beans, a salad, and sautéed vegetables.
Despite two generous portions, the Amuse Bouche, and the bread course, we found some space for a dessert. Gudrun had eaten the Textures of Boerenkaas before, but wanted to eat it again, once again a good rainy day dish. At its base is onion soil, different aged slices of Boerenkaas, walnut and cumin brittle, and spekboom chutney, the latter a first for me (R148). My dessert choice was described as a warm chocolate and strawberry sphere, offered with strawberry salsa, unusual basil ice cream, strawberry coulis, chocolate dentelle ( French for lace), and popping candy, which popped when it arrived at the table (R105). Other ‘Sweet Merriment’ options are a passionfruit Namelaka (a Japanese term for a creamy texture, designed by the Valrhona school of Pastry), a saffron poached pineapple carpaccio, dulce semifreddo, and a cheese platter, ranging from R85 to R148.
‘The Finale’ on the Menu offered various post-dessert wine options, not only from Steenberg. Gudrun had an espresso and I an Earl Grey tea instead,
I was impressed with Chef Karry’s Creativity in how she uses ingredients in her dish, and which ones she uses. For example, Spekboom is the in thing, many restaurants planting this waterwise indigenous plant in their gardens, but I’ve never seen it used to make something with it, at best it having been used decoratively. Chef Kerry’s championing for the ABALOBI ethical fish sourcing is commendable, and I like that the menu educates the diner about choosing responsibly caught fish through flagging its fish dishes in this descriptive way. She came to visit our table regularly to check on us and to obtain feedback about our dishes, a rare treat, few chefs coming out of the kitchen to interact with their diners. .
After a three hour lunch it was time to say our goodbyes and thank yous, after an enjoyable and educational lunch experience.
Tryn at Steenberg, Steenberg Estate, Steenberg Road, Tokai, Cape Town. Tel (021) 713-7178. www.steenbergfarm.com Twitter: Instagram: @kerrykilpin @steenbergfarm
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein