The focus of the Eat Out Top 19 Finalist Restaurants is in line with international trends, and our chefs are experimenting in creating new dishes, and are sharpening their ethics, in cooking what is in season, and in limiting their sourcing to a limited geographic distance from their kitchens, reported Eat Out in evaluating ‘trends’ in our top restaurant kitchens. Imported gourmet delicacies are taking a back seat.
Chef Christiaan Campbell of Delaire Graff is known for his ethical focus, sourcing what he can from Spier’s Farmer Angus. He builds his menus around the honestly-produced ingredients that are seasonally available. Chef Rudi Liebenberg from Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson hotel is also sourcing his produce from Spier, and having guinea fowl and turkey specially bred for his restaurant.
Vegetables and fruit gardens are all the trend, and none can beat the beauty and abundance of Babylonstoren. In terms of unique vegetables and herbs, La Motte’s new vegetable and herb garden developed by Daniel Kruger is leading the pack, with vegetables in unusual sizes, colours, and shapes. A new form of admirable chef collegiality has come to the fore amongst what in reality are competitors, with La Motte also supplying Grande Provence, Reuben’s, Le Franschhoek Hotel, The Tasting Room, Haute Cabriere, and some Stellenbosch restaurants, with specific produce, usually kept secret by Kruger from the other chefs. Smaller vegetable and herb gardens have been developed at Delaire Graff, The Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel for The Greenhouse, and at Majeka House for its Makaron restaurant.
‘Local is lekker’, not only in terms of produce sourced from close by, but also in going back to traditional South African recipes, is another trend. At the forefront is Pierneef à La Motte, which has published ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’, a collection of recipes from our Dutch, British, French Huguenot, and German foremothers, giving them a modern twist. At the House of Mosaic Chef Chantel Dartnall is digging into her gran’s cookery books. Hartford House too is discovering unique ingredients from its region in KwaZulu-Natal. Springbok and other game is popular amongst tourists, and is served at The Greenhouse and Planet Restaurant, amongst others. The Tasting Room is using local as well as quirky ingredients too.
Chef Eric Bulpitt of The Roundhouse and Chef Chris Erasmus from Pierneef à La Motte have both worked stages at Noma, the world’s number one restaurant on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, coming back with a foraging trend, and focusing on ‘lacto-fermentation’, or pickling, a Nordic preservation technique to allow restaurants in Scandinavia to have a food supply in their winter months. Chef George Jardine is pickling too, especially flowers. Chef Bertus Basson is smoking produce in his new smoker at Overture.
Chef Richard Carstens of Tokara has been experimenting for years, studying the techniques of the world’s best ‘cooking masters’, and is experimenting with Komaboko, a Japanese cured processed beautifully-shaped fish dish. Chef Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen has created his own laboratory close to his restaurants, very much in trend with the world’s top restaurant (Noma, ex-El Bulli). La Colombe has created a 5-course tasting menu with elements of earth, wind, water, love, and fire.
Exposure to top international restaurants, as well as visits by international chefs to Cape Town and the Winelands, is upping the local gourmet bar, meaning an exciting summer lying ahead for restaurant diners, as well as a possibly different-looking Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants list this year, given the focus on ethical, local, and seasonal sourcing in particular by the finalist restaurants not previously on the Top 10 list!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @Whale Cottage