The latest coffee shop/deli to open in Franschhoek is the Franschhoek Food Emporium, which opened in Place Vendôme at the entrance to Franschhoek in January.   It offers a sit-down menu service, as well as a deli, with a counter of delicious treats, as well as shelves with home-made preserves, cordials, pies and many other treats.

The Franschhoek Food Emporium is managed by Danielle Rittel, the daughter of Topsi Venter, the esteemed chef who worked at Roggeland Country House for many years, before she opened Topsi’s in Franschhoek, running it until late last year, when Café des Arts took over the restaurant and changed its name.   The connection to Topsi is not spontaneously mentioned by Danielle, and it was only in chatting to her about her background that the family connection emerged.  Danielle worked with her mother at Roggeland and at Topsi’s, so has had long-standing training at one of the most highly regarded South African chefs.   Topsi is retired now, and can be found at the Franschhoek Food Emporium on occasion, and I bumped into her there on my second visit.  An article on Topsi in the Autumn issue of Franschhoek Style tells of her cooking for Ferran Adria, owner of El Bulli, long the world’s number one restaurant, and him saying to her “This is the first time that my Catalonian heart has spoken to a South African heart and understood”.   Some of the 14 dishes she made for him included biltong paté on vetkoek; quail eggs with buchu oil and ostrich; harders with wild sage, seaweed, pickled kelp and bokkom salt; pickled fish with dried banana chips and coconut; gemsbok with samp, beans and sour fig sauce;  springbok tongue with rum sauce; ostrich neck ravioli with mampoer butter; Leipoldt’s milk tart; Smyrna fig and peri-peri tart; soetkoekies and Van der Hum; and Kleinrivier gruyère.

The menu offer is restricted: a ‘wish’ sandwich (R28), croque meuniere (R26), venison pie (R20), and chicken and pork pie costing R 15 each.  I had the chicken pie, and its pastry topping was beautifully decorated, and its content included carrot, garlic and paprika, in addition to the chicken.  It is outstanding value at R15, and is served with a fine cabbage salad.   As Danielle had not yet received her cutlery, she served the pie with a set of disposable wooden cutlery, which somehow fitted the interior, but the knife was not strong enough to cut the pie well.   Samoosas cost R15, shepherd’s pie R28, and spring rolls R22.   Ice cream flavours that are available are apricot, white chocolate, peach, plum, and black cherry.   The cappuccino must be the cheapest in Franschhoek, at R12, and iced coffee can also be ordered.   A beautiful olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper holder is on each table.

The Deli sells Bio-Wheat stoneground flour, nuts, dates, fruit teas, seeds, spices, home-made breads, home-made granadilla cordial, Italian pasta products, chocolates, nuts, caperberries, tinned snails, Italian balsamic vinegar, home-made Turkish delight, exotic salts, tinned artichokes, small portions of cold meats, roast beef, vegetable dips, patés, fresh vegetables, coffees, and all the items on the sit-down menu too.

The Franschhoek Food Emporium is a small and cosy as well as a homely place to pop in for a treat in Franschhoek, or to buy treats to eat at home,  or to serve at a dinner party.

POSTSCRIPT 1/1:   Yesterday I went to buy paté and pies from the deli, and Danielle greeted me, but she was engrossed in doing her month-end accounts.  She did not get up to serve me, and instead left me to be served by her (very new) assistant, who was incredibly slow, forgot to charge for all my purchaes, and was rude in not facing me when she spoke to me.  She stood directly next to Danielle, who did not react to any of this at all.  When I lost it with the assistant, and asked her to look at me when she spoke to me, Danielle became heavy, saying that I could not speak to her staff member ‘like that’. However, she had done nothing to take over or to apologise for the poor service delivery.  I have been a very regular client since the deli opened.  I left my purchases and walked out.

POSTSCRIPT 1/3:  Sadly (but deservedly) the Franschhoek Food Emporium closed down on Monday, due to financial irregularities, and staff management problems.  We had not been back in the last two months since we wrote the previous postscript!

Franschhoek Food Emporium, Place Vendôme, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.   Tel (021) 876-3986. No website.  Monday – Saturday 9h00 – 18h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage