I had not been to Fyndraai at Solms-Delta for a while, and an invitation to join a Franschhoek friend in celebrating her birthday was an excellent way to try out the new winter menu of Chef Shaun Schoeman. Exciting news is that the restaurant is raising its bar, with a location move on the wine estate and opening for evening fine dining from November.

The Fyndraai winelist and menu are impressive in their design – they are large (A3) with black and white covers with beautiful photography, and a mix of colour and black and white photographs inside.  Immediately the menu gives the restaurant a classy image.  The positioning of Fyndraai serving ‘food of origin’ is proudly placed on the menu and winelist covers, and refers to its focus on local South African food, the only restaurant with such a specific focus in Franschhoek.

Chef Shaun Schoeman came to say hello, despite a photo shoot taking place, and we laughed at his response when my friend asked him if he would become the next Chef Reuben (Riffel) of Franschhoek, when he told us about the restaurant move and opening in the evenings, and wanting to compete with the best restaurants in Franschhoek.  His spontaneous reply was: ‘No, I will never use Robertsons’, without him knowing what we have written about Chef Reuben’s endorsement of Robertsons!  The restaurant is to move to the building in the Oesfees section of the wine estate, and is set to open on 18 November.  The most interesting news for the restaurant is that Chef Shaun will be spending two weeks at the end of this month at Noma in Copenhagen, the number one World’s 50 Best Restaurants for the third year running, a tremendous honour. It is a restaurant at which Solms-Delta co-owner Professor Mark Solms, who recently won an international award in New York for his contribution to psychoanalysis, has eaten a number of times.

We were offered ‘roosterbrood’ with wild garlic and farm butter whilst studying the menu. My friend enjoyed her Kingklip topped with ‘suurlemoen pelargonium‘ crust, served with a crushed potato and crab meat salad, drizzled with a slow roasted tomato and olive dressing (R98).  The Karoo Lamb Wellington was delicious, served with a mushroom and asparagus sauté, steamed spinach, and a wild herb sauce to which the Solms-Delta Africana flagship wine had been added, excellent value at R98.  The dish was one of two options on a specials board. Every dish on the menu has an Afrikaans word or more, emphasising the South Africanness of the menu. Solms-Delta has been clever in giving its wines predominantly Afrikaans names. Starters cost about R45, and include pan-fried pickled ox tongue, bobotie springrolls, West Coast mussels cooked in a Cape Malay ‘tamatie bredie’, and baked Camembert salad with a ‘pers vye salsa‘.  Scallops cost R78.  The Fyndraai tapas platter sounds delicious, a selection including ‘bloukaas tert’, ‘boerewors’ roll, olives, ‘bokkom‘ salad, a vegetable pancake, ‘droëwors’, and biltong, served with ‘blatjang‘ (R98).  Main courses start at R92 for a wild mushroom and ‘knoffel’ risotto, and the ‘bokmelkkaas’ wrap is under R100 too. Other options are grilled calamari (R119), free range chicken and tiger prawn masala (R122), ‘Wilde roosmaryn’ crusted Karoo lamb rack (R132), ‘Wildsbok-skenkel’ (R127), and grilled beef rib-eye steak (R142). Desserts range in price from R39 – R48, and each sounded delicious: ‘yskas tert’ with a ‘koeksister’ and melon ice cream; ‘heuningbos’ cheesecake; ‘Rooibos’ panna cotta; cocoa coupe with mango, Amarula and strawberry ice cream; and the most delicious and refreshing orange blossom flavoured crème brûlée, served with chilled fruit stew, and a lemon and rose petal sorbet.  Cappuccino was served in a Terbodore branded cup, an excellent coffee brand roasted outside Franschhoek.  Picnics cost R145 per head, and are a collection of local treats, including a shared bottle of Solms-Delta Lekkerwijn. Half a page of the menu is a glossary of culinary terms, each of the Afrikaans terms translated for non-local visitors.

Only Solms-Delta wines can be ordered, at very reasonable prices. White wines range from R25 per glass/R75 per bottle for the Solms-Astor Vastrap 2011 to R43 per glass/R130 for a 500 ml bottle of Solms-Delta Koloni 2010.  Red wines range from R25/R75 for Solms-Astor Langarm 2011 to R74/R220 for Solms-Delta Africana 2010.  The Solms-Delta Lekkerwijn 2010 Rosé costs R28/R82. Under the heading ‘Innovative’, three wines are listed: Solms-Astor Cape Jazz Shiraz NV (R26/R78); Solms-Delta Gemoedsrus 2010, a port-style wine (R40/R240); and Dik Delta! Karri 2010, a Khoe fermented honey beverage (R26/R78).

The excellent quality of the food served at Fyndraai and its presentation in the menu unfortunately is not matched by the table settings – a blue plastic placemat, a paper serviette, no table cloth, and ordinary cutlery – but once the restaurant moves into the fine dining arena this may improve.  The service was very friendly, with a collection of staff coming to check on our well-being.  The working visit to Noma by Chef Shaun, and the growth of the restaurant into a fine-dining one, will make this a restaurant to watch for the 2013 Eat Out Top 10 restaurant awards.

Fyndraai Restaurant, Solms-Delta, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-3937. www.solms-delta.co.za Twitter: @Solms_Delta  Monday – Sunday Lunch.  Dogs allowed.

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