We recently wrote about Maison Estate, and the visit in winter by its Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg to Portugal, Spain, and Australia, from which he has brought back new menu ideas. These ideas have been incorporated into their menu, and a clever way of attracting attention to them is to incorporate them into a Tapas menu which greets one when one arrives in the Tasting Room. The quality of the Tapas is the best I have experienced to date, and is excellent value for money.
As one enters the Tasting Room and The Kitchen building at Maison, a lounge area to the immediate right has been transformed into the Deli, with a High Table at which one can sit with bar stools, and ‘decorated’ with scientific looking equipment and preserves made by Chef Arno and his team. A large shelving unit ‘divides’ the Deli section from the remaining (now much smaller) lounge, the shelves being filled by the hard work of Chef Arno, including green tomato atchar, pickled broad beans, marmalade, aubergine and courgette chutney, green figs, vinegar, chili relish, pickled Jerusalem artichokes, onion relish, spiced tomato ketchup, plum chutney, olive oil, courgette relish, yellow tomato atchar, olives, lemon cordial, and fresh ciabatta. The items on the shelves are interspersed with home decor items from Weylandts stores, owned by Maison owner Chis Weylandt, including tea sets, glass jugs, wooden boards, cutlery sets, placemats, bowls, plates, and more. A refrigerated display unit contains jars of duck rillettes, pork rillettes, pork terrine, pancettas, saucisson, salamies, smoked yellowtail, fresh farm eggs, lemons, massive 5-year old Angus six week dry-aged thick 500 gram slices of T-bone (R300), and guineafowl pistachio parfait. Almost all the produce used for the items sold in the Deli was harvested from the farm. The styling of the Deli section was done by Marc-Anthony Hewson-de Swardt, Group Visual Merchandiser of Weylandts.
The Deli table is designed to also seat visitors popping in for wine tastings with sommelier Alice Mfundisi, and elements of the tapas menu are paired with the Maison wines. One can also sit at the outside tables on the terrace as one enters, and the additional ones added on the front lawn.
Each of the Tapas items, written up on a black board, uses up off-cut ingredients of dishes made for the main menu, allowing one to enjoy the special tastes of the Tapas dishes, which one can order as a starter or main course dish on a next visit. While the’off-cut’ description sounded functional, the quality of what I experienced was anything but. I started with an octopus terrine with boquerones (white sardines), black garlic aioli (the garlic having fermented for 50 days), radicchio, on toasted ciabatta (R25). I am not particularly partial to anchovies, but in this tapas dish it tasted of herring, bringing back memories of my mother’s special herring salad.
Alice had been serving guests on the main terrace, while Manager Julian Smith brought my dishes to the table. They swopped roles, and Alice clearly thought that I hadn’t ordered enough, so brought me some ciabatta, and asked me to try the delicious guineafowl and pistachio parfait, and ordered a crunchy smoked chicken pancetta croquette as well as a very rich grassfed beef shortrib cromesquie, which had a chili bite to its taste, both croquette types costing R15 each. I took the croquettes home, as I had ordered another two tapas dishes. The highlight Tapas dish was the cured Hamachi (raw baby yellowtail), served with avocado purée, fennel, corn shoots, clover, and lemon dressing (R35).
The last dish I tasted was ‘Kreef on Toast‘, served on ciabatta, with gherkins (which fell off the toast when one cut them, and dominated the delicate crayfish taste), radish, garlic aioli, and half a crayfish tail (R75).
Other Tapas dishes are a cheese board (R65), and a charcuterie platter (R150), which is made by Chef Arno’s, using acorn-fed free-range pigs from Glenoaks in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, also used by Richard Bosman and Neil Jewell of Bread & Wine. For a sweet taste one can order a platter of choux puffs with almond praline, jivare, and pistachio (R15).
I was extremely impressed with the new Deli and its Tapas offering, which will make Maison even more special. From this week onwards Maison will be added to the Franschhoek Wine Tram itinerary, and the new Deli Tapas menu should be very attractive to these wine tasters too.
Disclosure: Julian comped the cappuccino and croquettes.
The Kitchen and The Tasting Room at Maison, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2116. www.maisonestate.co.za Twitter: @MaisonEstate Wednesday – Sunday lunch.