The Stall opened in Franschhoek at the beginning of this month in the old Pippin Farm Stall at the entrance to Franschhoek, alongside Franschhoek Cellars.  It is an informal eatery, serving only Franschhoek wines, and is decorated in French colours.

Owned by Tim Adams, the owner of Essence higher up on the main road, The Stall attracted attention during its renovations.   The building belongs to Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, and it was rumoured a few years ago that Chef Reuben Riffel would make a steakhouse of it.  The builders shared that three potential tenants had been to see the building: Chef Reuben, Tim, as well as the owner of Kalfi’s.   Whilst Essence concentrates on Breakfast, light lunches and cakes, The Stall is open for lunch and dinner.

There is ample parking, especially in the evening when the Franschhoek Cellars is closed, and outside seating is provided, with a play area for the children.  The branding is not very prominent from the R45, but most of the locals should know where it is by now, many having been invited to attend the opening function, at which a selection of the restaurant’s foods were offered.  The interior is plain, with white Greek style chairs and wooden top tables. A Brugge sign brightens up the interior, Tim not knowing why Marc added this decor touch, not really making sense.  A fireplace will be cosy in winter.  Vases of fresh flowers on the window sills are a nice touch.  One long table with red chairs is for larger groups.  A surprise is material serviettes, with red stitching.   The walls are painted white, and the kitchen wall is tiled in the French colours of blue, white and red, covered with racks for the glasses.  The cutlery is very basic, as are the salt and pepper cellars.

The chef is Marilie van Niekerk, previously of Van Hunks in Cape Town, at the Tsitsikamma Lodge and at Storms River. She is bubbly, and a very good hostess.  On the day we returned to eat there, some of the staff had not arrived at work due to the farmworker unrest outside Franschhoek, for which Chef Marilie apologised profusely, yet the service was good. Her biggest excitement is that the country’s Eat Out Chef of the Year, Margot Janse of The Tasting Room, had been to eat at the restaurant three times already.  Chef Marilie has a herb garden she is developing in wine barrels outside the restaurant. The menu is simple, focused on flat-based pizzas, with interesting topping combinations, such as a delicious spinach, bacon and avocado (R75); an unusual roast lamb, mint, caramelised onion, grilled aubergine and feta (R79); and white anchovy, capers, olives and oregano (R65).  The pizza base is very thin, and I found some of the shards when cut to be very sharp.  For starters one can order a selection of salads, ranging from R49 for Greek salad to R72 for a carpaccio salad.  A variety of burgers is available, made with beef, chicken, vegetables, lamb, and cheese, ranging in price from R65 – R75. Platters are available: cheese with preserves and nuts (R90), antipasti (R120), and mezze (R95).  For the main course one can order a 250 g rib-eye steak with pepper sauce and chips at R95; grilled baby calamari (R85); and pasta dishes. I ate the best ever Tiramisu at The Stall, served in an Illy branded cup, and being thick and creamy (38).  One can also order chocolate pudding, banana split with butterscotch sauce; and pecan nut flap jacks, the dessert prices ranging from R32 – R45.

It is not a surprise that the Wolftrap wine by the glass comes from landlord Boekenhoutskloof, inexpensive at R15 per glass/R65 per bottle for the White, Red, and Rosé.  The sparkling wines offered are a 375ml Graham Beck Cuvee Brut (R110) and Brut Rosé (R180), as well as Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Brut (R150).  No vintages are listed for the wines.  White wines range up to R 160 for the Stony Brook Cask Selection Semillon, and to R280 for Boekenhoutskloof’ The Chocolate Block for the red wines.   The Stall offers a good opportunity to taste a cross-section of wines from fifteen Franschhoek wine estates, including award-winning Chamonix, Glenwood, Lynx, La Bri, La Petite Ferme, and Holden Manz.

The Stall is a friendly, casual, and inexpensive eatery in Franschhoek, likely to be attractive to locals in particular, and to tourists with children.  I have already returned for the Tiramisu!

The Stall, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-4497. Website and Social Media to come.  Monday – Sunday, 12h00 – ‘late-ish‘ (closed on Sunday evenings).

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