Yesterday I went to visit Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg of Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant The Kitchen at Maison, to hear more about his new restaurant Janse & Co he plans to open on Kloof Street in Cape Town in December. We stayed for lunch, and enjoyed Chef Arno’s three-ingredient focus of his dishes.

Chef Arno has been at Maison since the wine tasting room and restaurant opened six years outside Franschhoek. He has built up the standard of the cuisine over this period, and was rewarded with the inclusion of  The Kitchen at Maison in the prestigious Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list 2016. One of the reasons for this accolade was his annual trip to an international food destination during the period in which the restaurant was closed over winter. The countries which he visited and in which he gained international experience, in doing stages in Top Restaurants, were Peru, Spain, Australia (Melbourne), Denmark (Copenhagen), and Portugal. 

But to return to the new restaurant. Janse & Co is a joint venture with his wife and Pastry chef Liezl Odendaal, and will be located in the former Ocean Basket space on Kloof Street, opposite Jan van Riebeek Primary School. It was last occupied by YUZU Kitchen & Bar, which was only open for a couple of months. It is a large space, with 80 patrons seated inside and a further 40 in a back terrace area outside. Chef Arno leaves Maison at the end of October, and plans to open in Cape Town in December.

Chef Arno has always lived in Cape Town, so he is excited to live very much closer to his new workplace. Chef Liezl will focus on Pastry, while the current Maison Executive Sous Chef Jürgen Snyman will join him in his new venture. He has a Silent partner in the new venture, who will remain very silent, Chef Arno joked. This is the first year that Chef Arno did not travel overseas, using the winter break time to find suitable premises for the new restaurant. 

The decor direction of his new restaurant is under wraps, and he is using Mardre Meyer of Source IBA for the interior design. The two worked together at Ginja some years ago. Chef Arno has total faith in Mardre, who is getting on with the renovations while Chef Arno finishes off at Maison. 

I asked Chef Arno what his food philosophy is, and he irreverently said he has none! He then corrected himself, telling me that he focuses on deliciousness in his dishes (we can attest to that on the basis of our lunch), keeping pûrées to a minimum, letting nature speak, and to keep his dishes to three infgredient ones. I was grateful that Chef Arno sat down with me, and that he took the time to tell me more about his new restaurant. 

He will offer a Tasting Menu, as he now does at Maison, with a choice of a 2-course and a 7-course menu. He has not set prices for these yet. It appears that one can order more or fewer dishes too. No further details about his Menu are available yet. To get a feel for his latest cooking at Maison Estate, my friend and fellow writer Llewellyn Lambert and I tried the three course option (R395), being able to choose our dishes for the three courses, which we shared.

We were served a Bread course, described by the lovely waitress Nyaradzo, who remembered how I like my dry cappuccino made over a year ago, when she served us at a lunch at Leeu Estate. She is studying wine through the Cape Wine Academy, and could give me an excellent understandable explanation of ‘malolactic fermentation’! The Bread board contained ciabatta, cumin and rye crackers, mustard and cheese straws, and soft olive oil butter.

We ordered the following dishes:

#   Octopus with lemon zest, apple, and lemon dressing, a very refreshing cold starter. It was beautifully plated in a black bowl, imported from France.

#   Gooseberry sauce, fresh gooseberries, gooseberry spice, pork, and crackling, again a beautiful presentation. 

#   We chose a dessert of caramel-coated popcorn, lemon zest, lemon dressing, corn ice cream, and corn cake, an interesting use of a savoury ingredient in a dessert. 

My dry cappuccino was perfectly made, and was served with a financier made of coffee grounds and hazelnut.

A complete overhaul of the Tasting Room and Restaurant has taken place, of the Tasting Room in particular.  A dark grey Aniseed Black colour has been used to paint the walls, the long wood tasting table has been removed, as has the glass bottle chandelier, a fireplace has been added, a silver top table previously near the Bar area has been moved to the Tasting Room, and a former lounge area has been turned into further dining tables and seating, doubling the interior seating to 60. Plants have been used above the Bar, and cascade down a new partition wall between the Deli, and the add-on dining area. The Nguni skin carpet has been moved from the former lounge to the Tasting Room. It is anticipated that the restaurant will be open on more evenings in summer.

Staff changes have been radical at Maison, all the old Malawian staff having left due to visa issues. New Restaurant Manager is Jacobus Lochner, previously of Grande Provence. 

From larger dishes in the past, I enjoyed the smaller portion dishes, reflecting Chef Aron’s three-ingredient focus, and perfect presentation.  It is a shame that his work at Maison will not be recognized at the Eat Out Awards 2017, due to his departure. 

The Kitchen and The Tasting Room at Maison, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2116. Chef Arno 072 433 7267. www.maisonestate.co.za Twitter: @MaisonEstate Instagram:@maison_estate Wednesday – Sunday lunch.

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com Twitter: @Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram:@chris_ulmenstein