I have not been to Buitenverwachting for so many years, that I cannot remember when last I had been there. The wine estate has become over-shadowed by its neighbours in the Constantia valley, and seems to have become hidden as a Cape Town restaurant destination in the past few years. By appointing Sandy Bailey as a PR consultant, this is about to change, and resulted in her extending an invitation to food and wine bloggers and to journalists (including the lovely Jos Baker, Angela Lloyd, John and Lynne Ford, Cathy Marston, Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee) to join her and delightful soft-spoken winemaker Brad Paton and his wife Wendy to enjoy the newly launched Sunday lunch buffet last week.
Buitenverwachting was originally part of the Constantia wine farm, belonging to Simon van der Stel. In 1773 it was sold to Cornelus Brink, who named it Nova Constantia, writes WINE magazine. In 1794 Arend Brink bought the farm and called it Buitenverwachting (beyond expectation). Buitenverwachting is now owned by German citizen Richard MÃ¼ller, whose son Lars Maack has been running the estate locally for the past few years, and personally handles the international marketing of the wines, especially focused on Germany. The drive to the wine estate makes one feel that one is leaving the busy city and escaping to the countryside, a beautiful tree-lined lane taking one to the estate, and then one has to drive slowly past vineyards and lawns with grazing sheep, to get to the restaurant.
The chef is Austrian Edgar Osojnik, who came to Buitenverwachting from Grande Roche. A six-month stint at Bosman’s culminated in a farewell party for Osojnik, and it was at this party that he met his future wife, and he decided to stay in South Africa. In 2003 Osojnik was recognised as the Top Chef of the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards for Buitenverwachting. Chef Edgar offers a fine dining menu for dinners, and a lighter Courtyard menu for lunches. He is also offering a special Asparagus menu, which costs R260 for three courses, including a glass of wine, until the end of November.
On Sundays the buffet lunch is set up inside the restaurant, and was a most generous selection of starters, mains and desserts, with a cheese plate to follow, at R240 (half price for children under 12 years). I do not recall seeing so many starter dishes for a buffet before, most unique and special, and not just a variation of salads which one experiences so often. The presentation of the starters and desserts attracted attention. For example, the sushi looked like little gift parcels, as Osojnik created square sushi slices with colourful ingredients such as avocado, rice, and salmon, with a black “tie”.
The starters included Vitello Tonnato, Vegetable-goats feta tian with rucola, Cauliflower-broccoli Royale with Dukkah Chicken Breast, Prawn espuma, smoked Norwegian salmon buttermilk terrine, Bobotie in a ramekin, Duck liver parfait set on caramelized apple, smoked fish, roasted asparagus with Parma-style ham, tomato-mozzarella, Melon with smoked Kudu, Potato salad, Roast Beef filled with French salad, and Caesar salad with white anchovies. Mains are a traditional buffet, with a selection of leg of lamb, Chalmar rib-eye steak, veal breast, roast pork belly, linefish of the day and chicken curry. Potatoes are served roasted and Dauphinoise, there is basmati rice, a choice of five vegetables, and five sauces are served with the main course. Desserts and cakes included Sacher Torte, SchwarzwÃ¤lder Torte, Gugelhupf, Kardinal Schnitte, Chocolate Mousse, Yoghurt CrÃ¨me Catalan, fruit salad with Marsala Zabaglione, Vanilla Pannacotta with fresh strawberries, as well as a cheese platter.
Brad has been the winemaker at Buitenverwachting for the past six years, and his colleague, cellarmaster Hermann Kirschbaum, has been at the wine estate for the past 18 years. Brad worked at Chamonix in Franschhoek with Gottfried Mocke before studying winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany and worked there too, for a total of nine years, now speaking perfect German. He is grateful for his German language skills, as they receive many German visitors at the estate. One gets the feeling that not only is the wine estate steeped in tradition and history, but its staff are loyal, and that consistency in all respects is the success factor at Buitenverwachting.
Brad told me that the recession is hitting wine farms, and the newer small independent operators appear hardest hit, many not being able to pay for their bottles to get their wines sold. He feels that prices of the newer wine estates are too high. Sales to restaurants have been badly hit, he said, as BYO is seeing a growth due to excessive prices of wines in restaurants. He also felt that Constantia restaurants should be more “Proudly-Constantia”, in stocking brands from the Constantia wine estates. Buitenverwachting has recently appointed Meridian for its distribution.
I was surprised to hear how reasonable the Buitenverwachting wine prices are, with entry level Buiten Blanc costing R45, and the Merifort (a lovely smoky Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) costing a mere R55. The other stalwart wines in the Buitenverwachting range are Blanc de Noir, Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Christine, and Merlot. Brad and his colleagues are making “out of the box” wines too:
* Intensity: 85 % Sauvignon Blanc and 15 % Semillon
* Trinity: Riesling, a Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend
* Rough Diamond: 60 % Petit Verdot and 40 % Malbec
Going back to Buitenverwachting after so many years was a reminder of the talent of Chef Edgar and his restaurant team, as well as of the quality of the estate’s wines. I plan to return to try the Asparagus menu. I am a new convert of the Buitenverwachting Merifort, even though I am a dedicated Shiraz drinker.
Buitenverwachting, Klein Constantia Road, Constantia, www.buitenverwachting.com. Tel (021) 794-3522. Monday – Saturday lunch and dinner, Sunday Buffet lunch. Corkage R55.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage