George Jardine is a highly respected chef, and has been a regular on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards list.  His move to the Jordan Winery in Stellenbosch, to open the mouthful of a brand name ‘Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine’ in November last year probably cost him the Top 10 listing, but has been a welcome lifestyle change for him and his family.  The new restaurant has added substance to the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route, and to Stellenbosch taking over the Gourmet Capital crown of South Africa.

The setting of the Jordan wine estate at the end of the Stellenbosch Kloof Road is special, with lots of birdlife, and no traffic noise.  A huge dam in front of the winery and the restaurant attracts even more birds.   The parking area reflected the popularity of the restaurant, filled with cars on a Friday afternoon.   A compliment to the chef is that Hein Koegelenberg and his wife Hanlie (Rupert) of La Motte had brought some of their staff for a treat (their new Pierneef a la Motte restaurant opens in the next few days), whilst Gary Jordan (Jordan Wines owner) also had a table of eight in the restaurant.  I enjoyed chatting to both.

When I reviewed Jardine’s in Cape Town, I noted that George Jardine was not visible in that restaurant, despite marketing information which led one to believe that Jardine would be looking after his Cape Town restaurant a few days per week.   This does not seem to be the case, as Jardine is very hands-on in his restaurant at Jordan’s (one has to remain sober to get around the Jordan/Jardine brand names)!

The restaurant brand name is on the building near its entrance door (but not visible from the parking area), in silver lettering, adding a modern touch to a building that is not!  It looks functionally designed and built from outside, and this perception does not change when one is inside.   The interior is a Jardine’s Cape Town deja vu – the open plan kitchen (much bigger preparation space here though), functional interior, some paintings of pomegranates and figs, very functional kitchen counter from the customer perspective, almost old-fashioned, not particularly attractive lightwooded chairs, and modern stacking glass doors. The lovely overlay over the white tablecloth reminded me of Overture’s new tablecloths.  The glassware and cutlery is average, but I noticed David Walters’ ceramic touch in the square side plate.  The serviette seemed superwhite, of very good quality.  The waiters look neat in white shirts, black pants and black aprons.

The waiter Andrew was perfect – not pushy, not arrogant, helpful, informative, patient in answering all my questions, just disappointing when he did not e-mail the winelist on the same day, as promised (it appears he had delegated this to Jardine’s wife, who did not attend to it until I called for it).  He presented the menu on a black leather holder (similar to that of Overture, Majeka House and others I have seen recently).

The first thing I noticed on the menu was the date with a weather description “A misty 23rd July”.   One has two choices on the menu – a three-course Menu Du Jour winter special at R 180, and R220 if one has two wines – one does not have any choices on this menu.   Alternatively the three-course a la carte menu allows one to choose two dishes for R 200, and 3 courses for R225, and one has up to four choices per course.   There is little difference in value between the two options, and therefore I ordered from the a la carte menu.

The winelist is cute and neat, a small square size, bound in a black leather cover, and each page has a quotation relating to wine on it.  Corkage is indicated at R50, and only one bottle is allowed.  The winelist is introduced as follows: This is a selection of wines we enjoy. Each bottle is full of love, passion and a story and if you listen carefully with your taste buds some part of that story may show, explaining terroir, slopes, altitude, climate and other interesting details. A wine however is not made by one person alone, much like the food you are about to enjoy. Thousands of people from farms, most of which can be seen from where you are sitting, have had an effort in making your wine – whether that is planting, pruning, squashing or bottling it. Please enjoy our effort in presenting their effort.”

The wine range contains a mix of Jordan and other wines, and the price band is such that it offers an affordable wine for every pocket.  Wines-by-the-glass are surprisingly affordable, a glass of Chameleon (a Jordan brand) Rose’ costing R25, and a glass of Jordan Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mellifera does not cost more than R40.  White wine bottle prices start at R90 for a Chameleon Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, peaking at R700 for a Jordan CWG Auction Reserve Chardonnay.  De Waal Pinotage costs R85, a Jordan Sophia R963.   While the winelist shows vintages, it does not describe any of the wines. I ordered a glass of Jordan Syrah 2006, which was very smooth, smoky and full-bodied, reminding me of a shiraz made the old-fashioned traditional way.

The bread plate was the most creative I have ever seen, refreshingly different, and reflects that Jardine is an ardent bread baker.   The square bread plate had a bowl of aoili, a block of farm butter, crisp strips made from sweet potatoes, and a breadstick made from vetkoek dough.   It wasn’t just the individual items that looked amazing, but the way in which they were presented made it look like a course in itself.

What I found interesting, having been at Jardine’s in Cape Town where “organised chaos” seemed to dictate food presentation, is that Jardine is very angular, his food presented in square containers.  The starter, for example, was presented on a black slate tile (I remember slate at Jardine’s in Cape Town for the cheese platter) and this was set inside a square glass container, with a serviette neatly placed between the two containers, making its presentation look very smart.

The duck liver parfait starter, with a confit duck bonbon rolled in sesame seeds, served with prune and celeriac chantilly and tiny slices of toasted brioche, was melt in the mouth (the bonbon had been left off the plate by mistake initially).  Other starter options were Saldanha Bay mussels, pan fried west coast mackerel, and hand rolled fettuccini.   The main course arrived after about a 45 minute wait, which seemed long, in that I had run out of questions to ask, been to the bathroom, and read all my Twitter updates.  My main course intrigued me, in that it was not any old pork, but “Penny Verburg’s suckling pig roasted”, which was served with braised cavolo nero (a type of black cabbage), parsnip and gremolata.  Penny is the wife of Botriver-based Luddite winemaker Neels Verburg, and she has a good hand with organic pig rearing, Andrew told me.  The pork was thinly sliced, and every now and again one had a bite of the thinnest pieces of crackling, giving good mouthfeel as well as taste. Other starter choices were Chalmar ribeye, hake, and gnocchi.   I felt that I had hit the jackpot in both choices, they were so outstanding.   I didn’t have any dessert, but I could have chosen between chocolate souffle, an interesting sounding baked Pimm’s creme catalan (just saw a very similar dessert on the La Colombe menu), or a cheese board.

The Menu du Jour was Vichyssoise with a warm salad of sauteed tongue, gnocchi and gremolata; braised veal brisket; and chocolate hot pot with vanilla ice cream and praline.

I will go back to Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, on a summery day, so that I can sit outside, and try more of Jardine’s creations.   It is a pity that Jardine is so hands-on that he does not allow himself to leave the kitchen at all to greet his customers, a contradiction as he is visible to all diners, but he makes no eye contact, and barely responded when I thanked him for the lovely lunch when I left.

Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, Jordan Winery, Stellenbosch Kloof Road, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 881-3612.  www.jordanrestaurant.co.za (The website is not operational.  Surprisingly, no information about the restaurant is available on the Jordan Wines’ website www.jordanwines.com ). Open for lunch Wednesdays – Sundays, and on Thursday and Friday evenings for dinner.   On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route

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