I was invited to try the new Tapas Menu at Grande Provence yesterday, a day after it was introduced in the attractive industrial steel-decorated Tasting Room on the wine estate in Franschhoek. While The Restaurant at Grande Provence may be perceived to be on the expensive side, the Tapas Menu is excellent value for money, and in a class of its own, compared to very average offerings generally available.
The Tasting Room was buzzing at the counter made of steel, with its funky bar stools for which the seats are made to resemble tractor seats, very comfortable and stable seating. A group of about twenty filled the Tasting Room, having arrived with the Franschhoek Wine Tram, it being their fifth stop of winetasting. They are fetched from the Wine Tram railway line stop and taken to the Tasting Room by trailer linked to a tractor. The driver told me that they are very busy due to the Wine Tram on weekends.
I sat at the only table in the far corner of the Tasting Room, and Chef Zayne Grobler (deputy to Executive Chef Darren Badenhorst who was out of town for the weekend) came to greet me, and talked me through the new Tapas menu. There is a big board on the right hand wall as one enters, listing the Tapas items and the prices, and a mobile one, which was brought to the table. As Chef Zayne and I went through the menu, we noticed some spelling errors, the Tasting Room team having written the Menu. There are four Tapas dishes, each available for sharing, costing R55 each:
* Karoo lamb croquettes, three offered per portion. The lamb breast is slow braised for six hours at 160°C, the meat taken off the bone, celery, garlic, tomato, onions, and thyme added with the beef jus, as well as dukkah spice, and set. Then it is crumbed in Japanese Panko crumbs and deep-fried, and set on a bed of mustard aioli. This was the highlight of the Tapas I tried, the croquettes being jam-packed with the tasty lamb.
* The coconut and corn crochettes have a soft centre, prepared with corn, coconut, garlic, and cream, and separately Thai green curry, then the elements are mixed, blended, put through a sieve, and set in gelatine, creating a set velouté, which is then crumbed and deep-fried. There are five crochettes in a portion.
* I am allergic to mussels, so I skipped trying this mussel salad, but Chef Zayne sent it through anyway, so that I could photograph it. For the Vietnamese pickled mussels, a sauce is made with Indonesian sweet chili soy, standard soy, red onions, garlic, coriander, Fish Sauce, mirren, and yuzu. The mussels are blanched, and then added to the sauce. Julienne carrots are added, and topped with sesame seeds. This is served with Parisian potatoes.
* As a sweet treat Valrhona chocolate tartlets are made in a sweet pastry base, filled with 40% Valrhona chocolate mousse, garnished with white chocolate shavings, and topped with dark chocolate pop pops. There are two tartlets per portion.
The cheese platter is a larger portion, and pre-packaged, which is ideal to take away as well, being a selection of Dalewood Fromage Camembert, Brie, cheddar, and blue cheese, with crackers, on a board and offered with a disposable knife, at R120. Chef Zayne plated it for the photograph.
The new Tapas Menu at Grande Provence is a delicious perfect late afternoon snack and sundowner accompaniment, served between 3 – 6 pm, which will be particularly attractive to visitors to the Tasting Room. There were some service issues, as the waiters are not used to serving food in the Tasting Room, and the Tasting Room staff are so busy that they cannot see anyone not sitting at Tasting desk. It is not clear if cutlery, crockery, and serviettes should be served with the Tapas. I was offered a tasting portion of the Grande Provence Pinot Noir 2013 with the Tapas tasting.