Earlier this week my friend Aurélie Jullien and I had lunch at Delaire Graff restaurant, as part of a two-day road trip to show her Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. For me the lunch was the highlight of our trip, not just its excellent food and wines, but also interacting with the estate GM and hearing about their new expansion plans.
Our experience at Delaire Graff, former employer for four years of my son Alex, was superb, from arriving at the entrance gate, no big number in signing in, and receiving a booklet with information about the Estate.
I love the Reception area, with paintings by Lionel Smit, and the ‘Chinese Girl’ by Tretchikoff. Heavy guard presence inside and outside the Graff jewelry boutique.
There is no doubt that it is one of the most expensive restaurants in the country, and other than a pushy waiter initially, it was an outstanding experience. The waiter Edward was forceful in putting the napkin on Aurélie’s lap, and spoke far too fast when I visibly was taking notes, and even after I asked him to slow down. He did treat us with more respect eventually. I erred in not addressing the problem with a Manager, none being visible to me nor introducing himself to the table.
Edward told us that the soup of the day is Tomato, with beef frikkadels and fennel chutney. The fish of the day was Panga. A special for the day was Venison, with springbok loin, eland neck, mushroom ketchup (I could not help think of Bertus Basson’s Spek & Bone ….), roasted onion, and red wine and berry gel (R395). A special side dish was mushy peas, at R75.
Bread was brought to the table in a big woven basket, with slices of Challah Bread topped with sesame seeds, a type of bread I know as kitke, traditionally a braided loaf, but not on the day we visited. The waiter described it as ‘Jewish bread’. In addition, mini cumin rye rolls were offered. Butter was served on a black slate plate, showing off the honey butter and harissa aioli, but the black salt was not visible against the black background.
GM Johann Laubser came to say hello, praising me on the weight loss, reflecting how long ago it was that we last saw each other. He invited us to visit his office after the meal, to hear more about the plans for their third restaurant. And he offered us their Delaire wines to drink with the meal as his treat.
Sommelier Amy Grobbelaar poured the Delaire Graff 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, exceptional, and I’m not normally a white wine lover.
Aurélie was a most generous lunch host, and we started with oysters (R49 each). The oysters were ordered in one dish of six, for photography purposes, but were served in two plates of three, with lemon wedges on the side, and no Tabasco as promised.
Aurélie ordered Tartare of Grassfed Beef, with beetroot, Parmesan mousse, fennel, and shimijj (R205), and I had the Prawn, Avo and Apple salad, with pea mousse, pea shoots, cherry tomatoes, and baby kos (R205). Presentation of the dishes was beautiful. The beef tartare was rather hidden by the pansies on the plate.
Walking past our table, Osmar from the neighboring table asked if he could photograph our dishes (I have done this in the past too), and told us that he is from Argentina. A lady from their table, a mix of tourists from Haiti and Argentina, came to photograph the dishes too. I then asked for advice on Tango dance schools in Buenos Aires and Havana, and got to know German-speaking Carl, who remembered seeing Auréli and I at Café Roux on the last First Thursday. And there was Sebastian…. such fabulous people, a highlight of our lunch.
Aurélie tasted the Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2016, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 68%, 13% Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot 9%, Merlot 7%, and Malbec 3%, which came joint first in a WineMag Best Bordeaux Challenge, and I their Shiraz 2016.
We chatted to Kieran Whyte the Executive Chef, thanking him for the amazing meal. It is the first time that I have eaten at the restaurant since he joined Delaire, having previously been at Charango and Harbour House.
Then we met with Johann, had coffee/tea with him, and he showed us the grandiose plans for the Banghoek Caffé, an Italian/Mediterranean style restaurant, planned as a 200 seater with underground parking. It will be built behind the Delaire restaurant, where the helipad is currently. David Collins from London will do the interior design, having designed the other restaurants too. We briefly saw Marketing executive Tanja von Arnim.
Then I showed Aurélie Jullien Indochine Restaurant and Lodges, Alex having worked as the Manager of the former before he moved to Chewton Glen in the UK. New lodges and a luxury villa are being added, to be completed by December, bringing the accommodation to 14 single and 2 double lodges, in addition to the villa.
Despite the rainy greyness, the lush gardens, the artwork, the friendly staff, the wine generosity, the beautiful presentation of our dishes, and the lovely interaction with the neighboring table made this a day to remember.
Delaire Graff, Helshoogte Road, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-8160 www.delaire.co.za. Twitter: @delairegraff Instagram: @delairegraff
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein