Earlier this week I had a taste of some of the new summer menu items at The Restaurant at Grande Provence, in exchange for some Twitter lessons I shared with Chef Darren Roberts.   By co-incidence, The Gallery at Grande Provence had some works of art in honour of Twitter, and so the visit to Grande Provence in Franschhoek became an unusual marriage of Twitter art and food art.

Artist Hester Viles linked up with fellow artist Emma Willemse in an exhibition entitled “How to”, and in it the artists question the ways in which knowledge is acquired.  ‘Contemporary consumer society (is) addicted to instant gratification aided by technological sources’, says the artists’ notes.  The ability of finding information and ‘quick fix solutions to almost any problem’ at the press of a button, such as searching Google, makes knowledge a ‘consumer item’, they state.  Ms Viles Googled ‘How to’, and used the links that came up for the inspiration for her art.  Her pieces question the connection between information, knowledge and experience.   She used discarded objects which once were important as symbols of achievement (i.e. a musical instrument, a trophy) as the basis of her pieces,  and communicated through them ‘our society’s obsessive social networking through computer technology’. She feels that Social Media has taken away personal and eye-to-eye contact, and though her work “How to Tweet effectively” (two pieces), she ‘raises issues of identity, who we are and what we have become’, encouraging the viewer to go back to communicating via touch.

Chef Darren and I debated more practical issues of Twitter over lunch, such as the timing of Tweets, the power of and the sending of photographs, pre-scheduling Tweets, and the following of Tweeters, interspersed with a new starter, main course and dessert to be added to the Grand Provence summer menu. Currently one is offered twenty choices on the 3-course (R295), 4-course (R380), and 5-course (R450) menu. Favourites that will remain on the menu include caramelised eel and foie gras terrine, tartare and carpaccio of springbok, gateaux of duck and pork rillettes, Masala-marinated quail, slow-cooked duck with grilled lobster, and grilled baby beef fillet.  Grande Provence has featured on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards every second year, and Chef Darren deserves to be listed this year for the good work he and his team create in a very understated way.

I have been impressed with the ability of Chef Darren to create the most beautifully designed plates of food, and his new summery sugar-cured Norwegian salmon presented with a deconstructed Waldorf salad was colourful, and a creative interpretation of a classic. It contained apple dyed with beetroot, celery sorbet, and walnut soil, served with lemon bergamot rind.  The starter had been preceded by the home-baked mini health loaf, which is more-ish, and of which I am a regular purchaser when in Franschhoek. The main course was called ‘Suckling Pig’, and was a fun medley of a double loin chop, belly, boudin blanc sausage on mash, rump, and crackling, with colourful additions of pear, butternut, saffron, and tatsoi, served with an apple and hazelnut sauce.

For dessert I tried the Banana Parfait and banana, with patron anglaise, a roasted macadamia nut salsa, rocky road ice cream, and topped with the most delicate fine sugar spiral.  While the cappuccino is more expensive at Grande Provence, at R22, it is excellent value in that it comes with a surprise slate plate of three treats: Turkish delight, biscotti, and white chocolate fudge.

I admire chefs for their ability to re-invent themselves and their menus, and Chef Darren impresses with his talent of unique combinations of ingredients which are works of food art presented with style .   Most of the restaurant staff have been at Grande Provence for a number of years, and offer respectful and friendly service, guided by Manager Donovan Dreyer.

The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8600.  www.grandeprovence.co.za.  Monday – Sunday lunch and dinner.

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