De Grendel wine estate must have the most beautiful view of all wine estates in the Western Cape, with its idyllic setting looking over Table Bay and onto Table Mountain. Now the wine estate owned by Sir David Graaff has opened De Grendel Restaurant in its winetasting centre, not only offering a magnificent view, but also beautiful food.
I was invited by De Grendel’s Public Relations consultant Errieda du Toit to share lunch with her a week after De Grendel Restaurant opened. I had only been to the wine estate once before, more than a year ago, with the Gastronauts, when catering had been brought in from outside. The room was transformed in collaboration with the Graaff family, blue brought into the table legs, into the upholstery fabric of some the chairs, as well as into the magnificent underplates made by ceramist Mervyn Gers (once the head of Radio Kontrei, the predecessor of Kfm). The underplates have the Graff family crest, showing a Paschal lamb, five stars representing the Southern Cross, flanked by the Boer farmer on the one side and a miner on the other, with three spades and armour. The blue pattern on the rim of the plate is repeated in bowls on the tables, and matches the Delftware in the armoire in the restaurant. Matching the underplates in quality is the most stylish, classic but modern, cutlery by Robert Welch, used in Michelin-starred restaurants, we were told by restaurant owner Jonathan Davies, which he was surprised that @Home has the agency for in South Africa. The Graaff family was awarded the baronetcy in 1911 for service rendered to the Crown in South Africa. The first Sir David had introduced the commercial cold storage and transportation of meat in South Africa, was the Mayor of Cape Town, introducing electricity to the city, helped set up the dry dock in the Cape Town harbour, and was involved in the building of the Table Mountain cableway. One wall has a collection of Graaff family photographs, including his son and politician Sir De Villiers Graaff dancing with the then Princess Elizabeth, now the Queen of England, on her Royal visit to Cape Town in 1947. The far end of the dining room has a glass window which allows one to look into the wine cellar, while the kitchen is visible behind a glass window on the opposite end. The ambiance created is to make one feel as if one is dining with the Graaff family.
The involvement of Jonathan Davies raises the cuisine bar for Cape Town, given that he owns the The Crown at Whitebrook, voted the best restaurant in Wales and one of the Top 50 restaurants in the UK, and has been awarded three AA rosettes, and one Michelin star for a number of years. He has worked at Ellerman House, and at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, and has been coming to South Africa for seven years, having married his Pretorian wife. He met the Graaff family via a Bishops function where the respective children and grandchildren are in the same class. The deal was struck when Sir David came to have a meal at the Welsh restaurant. Jonathan has training in both front of house and as a chef, but has decided to concentrate on the former, and has brought in Chef Ian Bergh, previously of Pure at the Hout Bay Manor, Five Flies, and La Colombe. This exciting team has created a wonderful menu of creative dishes, and one senses that they had fun in coming up with new dishes never seen before on a local menu. A classic was Jonathan telling us about his Brandy and Coke ice cream he is working on, having observed how popular this drink is in South Africa, and a guinea fowl burger is planned. Jonathan says he will offer ‘fine dining’, his definition of it being that it is ‘food prepared well and with passion’. They are also bringing the De Grendel wines into the cuisine, and are using the wines to make chocolate truffles, a weakness of Sir David, I was told.
Chef Ian brought out four dishes to give us a taste of his menu, and Jonathan brought glasses of De Grendel wines paired with each dish. We sat in the ‘Conservatory’, a smaller room alongside the main restaurant, overlooking a large dam, and the green fields of the farm, on which Arab horses are kept for an equine remedial therapy programme, helping children with impediments, and in which geese, goats, Nguni cattle, and sheep can be seen too, against the landmark backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain. Grain and grapes are farmed at De Grendel.
The meal started with a slice of roast potato bread, served with home-made butter in a ceramic dish made by another top Cape Town ceramicist Lisa Firer, who also made the salt and pepper pots. The salad of fig, Buffalo Ridge mozzarella, cherry tomato and a raspberry dressing was a fresh starter, and a beautiful medley of leaves, which Jonathan paired with the 2011 De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc, the cool breeze off the sea being ideal for growing this grape variety. The Winifred blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Semillon was paired with a pea ravioli, free range chicken, Gorgonzola spuma, and a creamy De Grendel Chardonnay sauce. The starters range in price from R75 – R130, and other options include scallop, cob, duck liver, and squid.
The pork belly main course was superb, served with apple puree, roasted as well as pickled baby beetroot, and a sage and De Grendel Winifred jus, which Jonathan paired with the De Grendel Pinot Noir. Other main courses are Beef onglet (a French beef cut), venison, lamb, veal, and line fish, ranging from R135 – R155, and guinea fowl with foie gras (R240). The piece de resistance, that impressed with its beauty, creaminess, and simplicity, was the dessert, a basil panna cotta served with pomegranate (a special sweet taste, with a popping sound when one bites the kernels, and a beautiful deep red colour), served with strawberry and basil sprout. Given that Jonathan had told us about his Brandy and Coke dessert, a portion of it was made, which Errieda and I shared, being a malva pudding served with an apricot samoosa, a ball of Coca Cola ice cream, and a Brandy sauce.
For dinner a 6 – 8 course tasting menu is offered. The restaurant is child-friendly, and has sourced a children’s range of cutlery. Children under 3 years do not pay. Child-friendly dishes can be made, or children can order smaller portions of their parents’ dishes. High-chairs will be available for children. A range of children’s activities is planned, mainly to educate the children about vegetable growing and harvesting. They will even be able to plant their own vegetables, and would be encouraged to return to see them grow.
I didn’t look at the winelist, but Jonathan told me that the wines are sold at cellar prices, a most commendable pricing strategy! Errieda told me that the Graaffs started wine farming twelve years ago, making good wines at affordable prices. The farm is 350 meters above sea level and 7 km from the sea. Charles Hopkins is the Cellar master and Elzette du Preez the winemaker. The De Grendel wine range includes MCC, Rubaiyat, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sir David has had a wine made in honour of his wife Lady Sally, called the Winifred, her second name. They have recently launched a Sauvignon Blanc-based Noble Late Harvest. Bottled triple carbon filtered water comes from the farm, and the glass bottles are re-used. Sundays sees traditional lunch fare, and Jonathan will carve a roast or chicken for a family at the table. The Crown at Whitebrook Chef James Sommerin, who was featured in the BBC’s ‘Great British Menu’ series, will do guest visits to De Grendel Restaurant, and will showcase some of his menu items.
De Grendel Restaurant is an exciting new addition to the Cape Town gourmet collection, combining a feeling of history and tradition on the wine estate, with the modernity and creativity of the cuisine offered in its restaurant. I will definitely be returning.
De Grendel Restaurant, De Grendel wine estate, M14, Plattekloof Road, Plattekloof. Tel (021) 558-6280. www.degrendel.co.za Twitter:@DeGrendelWines. Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Tuesday – Saturday dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter@WhaleCottage