New Chef Maryna Frederiksen is focusing on her vegetable and herb garden and fruit orchard at Holden Manz, to offer her Franschhoek Kitchen clients the freshest possible fare, a dream come true for chefs seeking to be sustainable as far as possible.  She has brought the herbs and vegetables grown at Holden Manz into her new menu, and is planning to expand what she has planted and what she can source in Franschhoek.

She is so passionate about using the freshest ingredients in her ‘farm to fork food‘ cooking that she has already met with Daniel Kruger from La Motte, who created and manages their herb and vegetable garden, and sells produce to the leading restaurants in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. Daniel has advised Holden Manz about which herbs and wild edible flowers such as stinging nettles and wild sorrel to plant, and has provided seedlings.  La Motte supplies vegetables with greater quantity requirements, being root vegetables in the main, but also runner beans, Chinese long beans, golden beets, purple carrots, and more.  Chef Maryna is challenging Daniel to source vegetables which she got to know in America, including burdock root, for which she was able to source seeds from Germany.  While she would love to cook with tropical vegetables, Franschhoek is not suited to them.  Chef Maryna loves to infuse her dishes with herbs such as thyme, mint, lemon verbena, and geranium.

Maryna grew up in Sasolburg, and qualified at Potchefstroom College at the age of 20, thereafter setting off to see the world by becoming an apprentice chef on cruise ships.  She was encouraged to continue in this field, her bosses saying that she showed talent, and she went to Switzerland for French culinary studies. She moved to San Francisco, working at a seafood restaurant, and a six month planned stay became a 23 year love affair with America, including nine years in Seattle, and five years at the Herb Farm restaurant in Woodinville Washington.  She knew she would return to South Africa some time, and did so because she was missing her family in Pretoria, taking on the running of the restaurant Lucit.  She had spent some time in the wine country in California and Washington, and had a dream to work in our wine region, jumping at the opportunity to join Holden Manz, food and wine being her passion: ‘you can’t have the one without the other’, she said.

Chef Maryna has evaluated what was on the Franschhoek Kitchen menu with GM Wayne Buckley, and some Holden Manz favourites have been retained but redesigned by Chef Maryna, for example the ‘Franschhoek Kitchen Trio’ (R150), which consists of the linefish piccata, chilli jam squid, and grape vine smoked pork belly.  Chef Maryna said that she is a ‘Slow Food cooker’, and proudly shared that she cooks her sauces over two days to get the reduction.

The menu is printed on recycled A3 board, with an imprint of the Holden Manz elephant trunk logo.  Starters include a soup of the day (hot pea and mint, and cold Gazpacho) at R45; a beautifully plated Ceviche de Veracruz which Gideon enjoyed, yellowfish having been marinated in a lime, coriander, tomato and jalapeno salsa (R65); Portuguese spiced squid with a most unusual lychee and rocket salad, a sweet chilli jam, and green garlic aioli (R65), a Caprese salad (R60), sardines (R60), a five spice duck salad served with pickled shimeji mushrooms, local berries, and a garden fresh herb salad (R100); a crispy prawn salad enjoyed by Wayne, with sugar snap peas, strawberries, ginger and coriander (R100); and a steamed garden vegetable platter with lemon butter sauce (R45).

The Franschhoek Kitchen Trio is one of the most popular main courses on the menu.  I ordered the Duck Duo, being a duck breast scaloppini and a citrus-stuffed duck braciale confit with a Holden Manz Good Sport sauce, and parsnip purée (R155);  a pan-seared fillet mignon with crispy duck fat fried new potatoes, king oyster mushroom, and Bordelaise or Jack Daniels sauce (R155); linefish of the day costs R120, served with a saffron mussel sauce; Pasta caprese (R80); and Sicilian prawn marsala, with fennel, carrots, capers, tomatoes, and currants topped with marsala sauce (R120).

I loved the unusual ‘Coffee and Doughnuts‘ dessert, being an espresso semifredo served with mini cinnamon doughnuts.  One can also order a Pavlova, served with meringue, rose geranium cream, fresh berries, and Holden Manz Port gastrique; coconut panna cotta with passion fruit gelée; chocolate mousse cake with brandy and a berry couli, all desserts costing R45.  The cappuccino was made with Terbodore coffee, a special Holden Manz blend roasted in Franschhoek.

After only a month at Holden Manz, Chef Maryna is already showing her passion for fresh and seasonal produce, and this can only develop as her own vegetable and herb garden grows at Holden Manz, and she sources more unusual vegetables from Daniel Kruger at La Motte.

Disclosure: Holden Manz GM Wayne Buckley refused to accept my payment for the dinner.

Franschhoek Kitchen, Holden Manz, Tel (021) 876-2729. www.holdenmanz.com Twitter: @Holden Manz  @MarynaChef   Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.

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