Paulina de Villiers was the first woman farm owner in the Winelands, now called Rickety Bridge, having received the farm in 1797.  The wine estate has named its premium wines and its new Bistro restaurant after this feisty lady, whose spirit is said to still be felt in her vineyards!

We experienced the Paulina’s Reserve wines on Saturday, visiting Rickety Bridge on the new Franschhoek Wine Tram, and having been brought to their wine tasting centre with their Dodge converted into a vehicle with seating to transport the Wine Tram visitors from the train track.  We were invited by Sales Manager and Restaurant Director Jacqui Rabe for lunch on Sunday, to experience the new Paulina’s restaurant.

We sat on the terrace, under Rickety Bridge branded umbrellas, and the area filled up quickly, showing how popular the restaurant has become since it opened officially three weeks ago. Even winemaker Wynand Grobler, also a Director of the restaurant, came for lunch with a group of his friends.  The slatted tables and chairs are wooden, with no table cloth or place mat. Each table has a wooden salt and pepper grinder, with paper serviettes.  We met the new Manager Joanna Hurlston, and the new Chef Melissa Bruyns, who has previously worked at The Westin hotel, and Haute Cabriere.  Chef Melissa sources produce locally, and has a vegetable garden on the farm, from which she harvests carrots, herbs, and baby marrow, and will be speaking to Daniel Kruger about sourcing some of his herbs and vegetables from La Motte’s herb and vegetable garden too.

The menu is printed on strong A3 recycled board, and has the winelist on the reverse side.  A blackboard announces the weekly special, which was delicious marinated char-grilled artichoke hearts on Sunday.  In the starter section, each item comes as a half and full portion, in a tpas style, and are meant to be shared for the table. The main courses and desserts are offered in one size only.  Each item on the menu has a suggested pairing with one of the Rickety Bridge wines.  The menu will change regularly, to tie in with seasonal produce changes.

Jackie ordered the artichoke special; a variety of tempura vegetables served with three dipping sauces (R38/75), the pairing suggestion being Paulina’s Reserve Semillon; and Seafood Risotto served with braised fennel and topped with Café de Paris butter and pecorino (R45/R88), best paired with the Paulina’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.  Guy shared a taste of his delicious Crayfish Bisque deglazed with Rickety Bridge Chenin Blanc (R50).  Other starter options, available in half and full portions, are Caeser salad (R36/R72), cute-looking Franschhoek salmon trout fish cake burgers served on a beetroot roll and topped with lemon aioli (R43/R85), Saldanha mussels (R50/R95), and a leek and asparagus flan drizzled with chive oil and greens (R40/R83). We shared our main courses too, being the crispy pork belly with fried greens, wasabi mash, and sweet chilli and ginger sauce (R112), which was paired with Rickety Bridge The Foundation Stone; the most tender Karoo lamb chops with creamed potato, wilted baby spinach and Rickety Bridge Merlot jus (R135), paired with Rickety Bridge Merlot; and Grilled Baby Calamari served with chourizo, rocket, roasted cherry tomatoes, and coriander dressing (R87), paired with Paulina’s Reserve Chenin Blanc.  Other main courses include 250g grilled Chalmar rib eye steak (R125), Grilled line fish (R108), and linguini (R75).  Sauces cost R30, and side orders R15 – R25.  Guy and I shared the Tasting trio of chocolate desserts, consisting of a dark chocolate brownie, milk chocolate tart, white chocolate mousse, served with chocolate ice cream (R40), accompanied by a LavAzza cappuccino.  Other dessert options are a trio of baked puddings, a trio of tarts, and a seasonal fruit platter, all costing R40.

The winelist offers Rickety Bridge and Paulina’s wines, with a R20 mark-up only relative to the cellar door pricing.  In 1996 Rickety Bridge launched its Paulina Reserve range, and it is 30% wooded, we were told.   Most wines are available by the glass and bottle.   The Rickety Bridge Brut Rosé costs R38/R135, the Rosé R20/59, and the Sauvignin Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and range from just over R20 per glass to R70 – R80.  The Rickety Bridge Semillon, and Paulina’s Reserve  Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Semillon range in price from R75 – R110 per bottle. Rickety Bridge Merlot, Shiraz, PInotage, and Foundation Stone range from R30 to R145. The Bridge costs R395, and Paulina’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon R 200.

It was a lovely afternoon lunch, allowing me to get Jackie and the wine estate better, and seeing staff who had previously worked at other restaurants before again.  The service was good, and the prices at Paulina’s are very reasonable, and the portions generous, making it a definite to return to.

POSTSCRIPT 5/12: The restaurant has provided details of its dinners starting tomorrow.  The 4-course Tasting Dinner Menu costs R 280/R360, the 6-course R 380/R500 (the second price includes wines).

Paulina’s, Rickety Bridge, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2129  www.ricketybridge.co.za Twitter: @PaulinasRB  Monday – Sunday lunch.  Dinners will be served on Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays from 6 December.

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