Last Monday Leeu Estates hosted writers to try their new Summer Menu, curated by Leeu Collection Executive Chef Oliver Cattermole. The new menu is dominated by dishes created with fresh produce from the estate. The new Conservatory added to The Dining Room is also complete,  and is set up for meals. 

We were invited to the lunch by Leeu Collection Vice President, Marketing and External Relations Nicolette Waterford, and she has an amazing knack of choosing perfect weather days, at 34C, one of the first hot summer days (in the photograph with Leeu Collection founder Mr Analjit Singh). 

Many of us were dressed in black, in solidarity with the Support the Farmers campaign. Nicolette welcomed us to Leeu Estates, one of the properties in the Leeu Collection, and introduced Chef Oliver to us. Chef Oliver walked us through the menu, telling us which ingredients went into each dish, as we were to choose one of three starters, one of three main courses, and one of two desserts.  

The Leeu Collection was founded after Mr Singh fell in love with Franschhoek during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and has grown to include accommodation establishments Leeu House and Le Quartier Français on the main road in Franschhoek, Restaurants Marigold and Tuk Tuk Microbrewery, as well as Leeu Estates and the Mullineux & Family Wines cellar and Tasting Room set further back closer to the entrance to Franschhoek. The latter property opened just over a year ago. Internationally the Leeu Collection owns Linthwaite House in the UK, with a hotel to open in London in 2020. In Florence a Leeu luxury hotel is set to open in 2021.

Long-awaited Leeu Estates opens in Franschhoek, love at first sight!

We were served three canapés at the table, shared between a number of us:

#   Courgette (from the Leeu Estates vegetable garden) chips and a tomato dip

#   Smoked beef ‘potjie’, containing everything a potjie would, with smoked beef, onion, carrots, and leek.

#   Whipped Stellenbosch cheddar gougères, defined on Wikipedia as a ‘baked savoury choux dough mixed with cheese’, on a ‘nest of straw’ created with the finest pickled onion crisps (photograph).

Fellow writer Llewellyn Lambert and I made sure to order different dishes so that we could taste and photograph each other’s dishes. We met new Leeu Collection Group Sommelier Anton Visser, who moved to Franschhoek four months ago, from Conrad Hilton Pezula in Knysna. 

Despite having given up on eating bread, I could not resist the bread basket containing five bread types, which we shared at our end of the table:

#   Seeded bread sticks 

#   Five grain loaf

#   Mini baguette

#   Ciabatta

#   Rye roll

The butters served with the breads were excellent, especially the salted smoked one (smoked with French oak barrel shavings), and the BAS House Red Wine  and Babaganoushe butters received acclaim as well. 

I had chosen a vegetarian starter, made with butternut (‘Garden squash’), a slice of cooked butternut forming the foundation on which tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella, grains, and seeds were presented, in beautiful golden sunny colours. 

I had persuaded Llewellyn to order the watermelon-cured  in Geometric Gin (a new gin brand in which Leeu Collection has an interest) starter, which was accompanied by whipped feta, and homemade bacon. We felt that the gin taste did not come through strongly enough, and that it was a pity that the home-made Bacon was placed on top of the melon, hiding the strong red watermelon colour. The blue plate colour brought out the best in the presentation of this dish. The third starter option was cured yellowtail, served with onions, and a fynbos vinaigrette.

Geometric Gin and Symmetry Botanical Tonics launched at The Gin Bar!

My main course was my favourite fish kingklip, which was served with carrots and beetroot, topped with gnocchi, and velouté sauce made with white wine and fish stock, a generous portion.

Llewellyn ordered the fingerling (described as small, stubby, finger-shaped potatoes) ‘tortilla’, Rösti-like in texture, on which was plated sweet tomatoes, and cauliflower hummus, and unusual set of ingredients in this vegetarian dish. The Karoo lamb ‘skilpadjie, a very traditional South African dish of lamb liver wrapped in ‘netvet’, the membrane surrounding the kidneys, was the third main course option, served with peas, beans buttered potato, and lamb gravy. 

With the main courses hand-cut chips with truffle oil and Parmesan were served, but were felt by my table neighbors to not be crispy enough. Large bowls of salad greens from the Estate’s ‘Bokkie Garden’, with aged Boerenkaas shavings, pickled onions, radish slices, beetroot slices, and toasted seeds, accompanied the main courses, shared by groups of diners. 

I chose the passion fruit soufflé, perfectly and deliciously made, was served in a beautiful copper dish and was served simply with white chocolate ice cream, a highlight ending to the Lunch, and accompanied by a perfectly made dry cappuccino. Llewellyn is not a dessert eater, but ordered the Valrhona chocolate fondant, offered with rum and raisin ice cream, a chocolate meringue shard, and cocoa nibs, which we shared parts of. We both loved the ice cream of this dish. 

In the media release Chef Oliver explained his Summer Menu approach: ‘The focus of our new summer menu is simplistic elegance. This means the core ingredient in every dish will be the star on the plate. From the core ingredient, we simply build on to create a modern South African dish, but the emphasis will always be on farm to table taking the produce and treating it simple yet getting the best flavor and texture out of it’. 

I liked the variety of summer dishes offered on the new Menu, and it appealed to my far more healthy eating approach. 

Disclosure:  Our Media pack contained a loaf of ciabatta, a container of the BAS Red Wine butter, and a butter knife. 

The Dining Room, Leeu Estates, Dassenberg Road, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 492-2222 www.leeucollection.com Twitter: @Leeucollection Instagram:@leeucollection 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein

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