Tag Archives: Jan van Riebeeck

Haarlem & Hope changes its name to The Company’s Garden Restaurant!

Haarlem & Hope Table outside Whale CottageSocial activist Zackie Achmat has managed to get the name of Haarlem & Hope changed to The Company’s Garden Restaurant, three weeks after its opening earlier this month, after he complained that the original name included reference to the Haarlem ship, which brought the first slaves to the Cape!

Achmat wrote angrily: ‘I wish to register my anger and outrage against this unthinking, callous celebration of colonial power. The indigenous Khoi and San people faced genocide. Colonialism is part of our history. We can’t turn the clock back. But many white people’s failure to acknowledge the pain and injustice of colonialism, apartheid and capitalism angers me not simply because it is wrong, but because they are preparing the seeds of increased social violence‘.

The Madame Zingara Group reacted quickly on its Facebook page, posting the following statement: ‘We’ve come under fire once Continue reading →

De Oude Bank Bakkerij transforms, expands into artisanal market Schoon De Companje in Stellenbosch!

Schoon de Companje interior Whale Cottage PortfolioWhilst in Stellenbosch yesterday, I popped in at the new Schoon De Companje, the expanded De Oude Bank Bakkerij which opened three years ago and which is now a collection of mini artisanal ‘shops’ under one roof, whilst retaining its cosy restaurant section at the back of the restaurant.

The entrance is now on the corner of Bird and Church Street, where the Dylan Lewis art studio used to be, and opens into the market style space, with different section, each branded separately, most on a Dutch theme. A mat on the floor says ‘Die Kaap is weer Hollands’, reflecting the Schoon family’s Dutch roots.  One of the staff told us proudly said that owner Fritz Schoon’s mother Jenny had planned the old-world character wood-dominant interior, and has done an excellent job, not being an interior designer.  Design quirks Schoon de Companje Jan van Riebeeck Whale Cottage Portfolioattract attention, like a picture of Jan van Riebeeck in the upstairs seating area.  The menu introduces the thinking behind De Companje:  ‘Schoon means beautiful in Dutch. It is a fitting description for what we do here, the way we do it, where we are and our opinion of you, the people we do it for.  De Companje is a collaboration of artisans in the Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 20: Predict who will be chopped, and win with Pierneef à La Motte!

Masterchef-sa-all-finalists-300x169MasterChef SA Season 2 is the talk of the country, and we have another four weeks of viewing to look forward to. To warm things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 26.

We are also running a weekly prize for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be chopped out of the MasterChef SA. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 20 on 14 August, Pierneef à La Motte has generously offered a R500 voucher for two, making the correct prediction. The restaurant was featured in episode 10, when Chef Chris Erasmus conducted a MasterClass, preparing a terrine.

Pierneef à La Motte opened almost three years ago, and has made the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist two years running.  It pays homage to the master artist JH Pierneef Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 18: Predict who will be chopped and win with Pierneef à La Motte!

masterchef-sa-all-finalistsMasterChef SA Season 2 is the talk of the country, and we have another four weeks of viewing to look forward to. To warm things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 26.

We are also running a weekly prize for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be chopped out of the MasterChef SA. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 18 on  7 August, Pierneef à La Motte has generously offered a R500 voucher for two, making the correct prediction. The restaurant was featured in episode 10, when Chef Chris Erasmus conducted a MasterClass, preparing a terrine.

Pierneef à La Motte opened almost three years ago, and has made the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist two years running.  It pays homage to the master artist JH Pierneef Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 15: Blue Team cooks Red Team under the Table (Mountain)!

MasterChef 2 15 Table Mountain Olympic chefs Whale Cottage PorfolioWhat a beautiful setting the Company’s Garden and backdrop Table Mountain was to last night’s episode 15 of MasterChef SA, fantastic marketing of Cape Town to the rest of the country’s TV viewers!   The Red and Blue Teams had to prepare a dish reflecting our country’s cultural food heritage, and the scoring was pretty close, or so the viewers thought!

Having won the Best Dairy Dish Challenge in episode 13, Kamini Pather was allowed to choose her team of five for the next challenge, as well as the apron colour,  when the box of aprons was delivered to the Finalists’ house. She chose the colour blue, and the two van der Wat sisters Seline and Leandri, Ozzy Osmond and Jason Steel for her team.  Amanda Beck and Karen Els appeared to be in charge of the Red Team, which consisted of Khumo Twala, Joani Mitchell, and Tiron Eloff too.   The team challenge was to make a dish that would reflect the origin of our country’s culinary heritage dating back to 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck planted the Company’s Garden to serve as a halfway house trading station of fresh foods for ships of the Dutch East India Company travelling between Holland and the Far East.  The South African Culinary Olympic Team, which participated in the Culinary Olympics 2012 in Germany, and returned with 12 medals for our country, was invited as judges.  We recognised Chef Tanja Kruger Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 14: Predict who will be chopped and win with Pierneef à La Motte!

masterchef-sa-all-finalistsMasterChef SA Season 2 is the talk of the country, and we have another 6 weeks of viewing to look forward to. To warm things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 26.

We are also running a weekly prize for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be chopped out of the MasterChef SA. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 14 on  24 July, Pierneef à La Motte has generously offered a R500 voucher for two, making the correct prediction. The restaurant was featured in episode 10, when Chef Chris Erasmus conducted a MasterClass, preparing a terrine.

Pierneef à La Motte opened almost three years ago, and has made the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist two years running.  It pays homage to the master artist JH Pierneef, andPierneef a La Motte interior Whale Cottage Portfolio to the historical roots of South African cuisine, presented with a contemporary twist.  The restaurant is green in many respects, theming carried through into many different aspects of the restaurant.  The furniture outside almost looks custom-made, with a green woven-effect, giving it a nature-look.  The placemats are in the shape of a vine leaf.  The silver container has a green glass candle holder (as well as beautiful hand-blown glass bottles for the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and little silver salt and pepper grinders).  The Pierneef name and theme comes from the priceless collection of 44 oils and other works by JH Pierneef (1886 – 1957), which La Motte bought from Pierneef’s daughter Marita, who now lives in the United Kingdom.  The work is displayed in the Pierneef art gallery on the La Motte property.  Given that Pierneef is synonymous with the pinnacle of South African art, La Motte honoured the artist by naming the restaurant after him, to demonstrate that they wish to follow his high standards.  The Pierneef name and art has also been carried over into a new range of La Motte wines, called the Pierneef Collection. Some of the collection of 1957 Pierneef lino cuts, which owner Hanneli Rupert had received from her father Dr Anton Rupert years ago, have been used for the back labels for these wines. Continue reading →

Wine Tourism Handbook 2012: Enjoying wine at the source!

At the Bouchard Finlayson tasting at the Twelve Apostles Hotel last week ‘Wine Tourism Handbook’ publisher Monika Elias gave me a copy of her 2012 edition.  It is a very handy guide to the wine estates of the Western Cape in particular, but also in the Northern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal.  It is ideal for tourists wishing to get a quick overview of our wine routes and regions, and for staff working in the hospitality industry.

‘The Wine Tourism Handbook‘ introduces the topic by painting a picture of the 350 year history of South African wine, as well as the making of the first wines in the world up to 10000 years ago!  It tells the story of South African wine-making by Jan van Riebeeck, in February 1659 for the first time, the establishment of the KWV in 1918, the creation of Pinotage in 1941, and the launch of the first wine route, in Stellenbosch, in 1971. From these early beginnings South Africa has become the 7th largest wine producer in the world.  It addresses equitable issues of winemaking via Fairtrade, which promotes ‘greater equity for small producers in the international trading arena. The ethos of their work is that trading partnerships should be based on transparency, respect and a sustainable and ethical system of production and purchase’.   The growing trend to sustainability led to the development of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, with land of wine farms set aside for conservation, eradicating alien vegetation, and protecting endangered species such as the Cape Leopard, Geometric tortoise, the Cape Leopard toad, and the Riverine Rabbit.

A chapter is dedicated to winemaking, starting with viticulture, and describing the white and red wine making processes.  The value of the label, in communicating the region and farm from which the wine comes, the alcohol content, the vintage, the variety, the origin of the grapes is explained.  Details about the origin, cultivar and vintage are certified by a seal from the Wine and Spirit Board.  Just more than half of vines planted are for white wine production, and Chenin Blanc is the single largest varietal, at 20% of planting. The methods used to make Fortified wines, Rosés, and sparkling wines are also described.  A ‘South African Bubbly Route’ lists 69 producers of MCC sparkling wine. The best way to store wine is shared, and companies through which one can order South African wines in other countries are listed.

Brandy production is addressed separately to wine production, and the types of brandy, and tasting it, is covered.  Two Brandy Routes are described – the R62 Brandy Route, and the one including Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Wellington, and Elgin. Twenty brandy producers are listed.

Most of the book is dedicated to the wine routes of the Western Cape, categorised as Central Region, Inland, East Coast, and West Coast. The Central Region consists of Cape Town wine production in Constantia and Durbanville, and also in Franschhoek, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch Berg, Bottelary Hills, Greater Simonsberg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Valley, Tulbagh and Wellington.  Advice is provided on getting around on the wine routes, and drinking and driving is strongly  advised against. Tour guides specialising in wine are recommended.  A Top 10 ‘Things to do’ list is presented, which includes lunch at Jordan wine estae, Staying in a tented camp at Clara Anna Fontein Game Reserve, seeing a show and eating at Die Boer Theatre Restaurant, viewing the Hess Collection at the Glen Carlou art gallery, tasting Jorgensen Distillery’s ‘artisanal drinks’, visiting the first biodynamic farm Bloublommetjieskloof, making wine at Stellenrust, enjoying a braai at Midddelvlei, and going on a game drive at Villiera Wildlife Sanctuary.

Highlights of the Constantia Region include Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Eagle’s Nest, Constantia Glen, Constantia Uitsig, Steenberg, and Cape Point Vineyards, and the restaurants La Colombe, Bistro Sixteen82, and Buitenverwachting.  Some top Durbanville wine estates include De Grendel, Durbanville Hills, Meerendal, and Nitida.  The Franschhoek wine route includes Allée Bleue, Boekenhoutskloof, Boschendal, Cape Chamonix, Colmant Cap Classique & Champagne, Morena, Graham Beck, Grande Provence, Haute Cabrière, Holden Manz, La Motte, Rickety Bridge, Solms-Delta, Stony Brook and Vrede en Lust. Restaurants on this Route include Pierneef à La Motte, Fyndraai, Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant, and Babel.  The Paarl wine route includes Babylonstoren, Backsberg, Fairview, Glen Carlou, KWV Wine Emporium, Laborie, Landskroon, Nederburg, Noble Hill Wines, Perdeberg Winery, Scali, Veenwouden, Val de Vie,  and Vondeling.

Stellenbosch is the oldest and largest wine region, and has a number oif wine routes. Some of the best known estates on these routes include Waterford, Blaauwklippen, De Trafford, Flagstone, Kleine Zalze, Neil Ellis, Stark-Condé, Beyerskloof, Hartenberg, Hazendal, Villiera, Delaire Graff, De Meye, Bartinney, Kanonkop, Mont Destin, Rustenberg, Slaley, Thelema, Tokara, Uitkyk, Warwick, Alto, Dombeya/Haskell, Graceland, Ken Forrester, Longridge, Rust en Vrede, Vergelegen, Waterkloof, De Toren, Dalla Cia, Jordan, Meerlust, Spier, and Vilafonté. Recommended restaurants are the Postcard Café, Terroir, Delaire Graff, Towerbosch, Overture, and Jordan Restaurant by George Jardine.

The Inland region consists of the Breedekloof, Klein Karoo (Boplaas is one of the best known), Swartland, Robertson (dominated by Graham Beck, but also with Zandvliet, De Wetshof, and Van Loveren being better known) and Worcester wine routes.  The Swartland wine route is growing in stature, and very fine wines are being made in this region, including Mullineux, Sadie, AA Badenhorst, and Allesverloren.

Agulhas and Elim (Jean Daneel and Raka are best known), Bot River (Beaumont is best known), Elgin (a wine route with increasing recognition for Almenkerk, Paul Cluver, Shannon, and Iona), and Walker Bay are the wine routes classified under East Coast in the book.  The new Hermanus Wine Route has excellent wineries, including Creation, Hermanuspietersfontein, Ataraxia, Bouchard Finlayson, and Hamilton Russell.

The West Coast region consists of the Darling (Cloof is best known) and Olifants River (Cederberg and Stellar better known) wine routes.  The Garden Route is not well-known as a wine region, and Bramon makes an organic sparkling wine in Plettenberg Bay.  In KwaZulu-Natal Abingdon and Meander wines are made.

Twenty-seven wine-related festivals are also listed, with dates for the year ahead.

The Wine Tourism Handbook is a wealth of wine information, and should ideally be given to all tourists arriving in Cape Town, as compulsory reading about the excellent and extensive wine range on its doorstep.

Wine Tourism Handbook 2012: Enjoying Wine at the Source, World Focus Media, Tel 083 631 3393 www.winetourismhandbook.co.za

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

V&A Waterfront Historical Walking Tours connect Cape Town to its past!

Recently my colleague Charmaine and I were privileged to be taken on a Historical Walking Tour of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront by Willem Steenkamp, a historian with a passion for Cape Town and its past, an ex-editor of the Cape Times, and author (of ‘Poor Man’s Bioscope’ and more). The tour is an interesting way to confirm that the V&A is at the heart of Cape Town and its history, with 22 historical landmarks of interest to both local Capetonians and to tourists.

The V&A is the oldest working harbour in South Africa, and was redeveloped in 1988 by Transnet Limited, with first commercial trading commencing in 1990.  It started as a jetty built by South Africa’s founder Jan van Riebeeck in 1654.   A harbour had to be built when insurer Lloyds of London would not insure the ships coming around the Cape in winter if a safe harbour was not built here, given the winter gales and the damage they could do to the ships. The harbour was named after Queen Victoria and her son HRH Prince Alfred, and he inaugurated the construction of the harbour in1860, with a monument dedicated to him, to mark the occasion.  Ten years later he returned for the official opening of the harbour, commemorated with another monument close to the Amphitheatre.

Willem started the tour at the Chavonnes Battery Museum, beautifully dressed up in a uniform of the 18th century, despite the extreme heat of the day, and certain to attract attention where he went in the V&A.  He said some children refer to him as Captain Jack Sparrow on his tours. He traced the history of the discovery of Cape Town by boats connecting the spice-rich East and Europe in a 6 – 8 month journey, having to come around the Cape, where they picked up fresh water, plants to counter scurvy, and meat. At times the inhabitants were short of supplies themselves, and had to obtain supplies from passing ships.  To safeguard the 25000 VOC (Dutch East India Company) Cape Town employees against the threat of pirates, Cape Town was protected with a battery and heavy artillery, the Chavonnes’ Battery Museum paying tribute to the defence of Cape Town.  The Battery disappeared in 1860 when the harbour was built, and was excavated in 1999 when the Board of Executors built its head office on the site, the Battery originally having been at the water’s edge. The Battery was completed in 1726, and was named after the Marquis de Chavonnes.

We stopped at the Clock Tower, which was originally painted white, and Willem said he did not know why it has changed colour.  We were reminded of Bertie’s Landing, named after well-known sailor Bertie Reed, with a bust in honour of ‘Biltong Bertie’, as Willem called him.  The building is now the Robben Island Museum and Nelson Mandela Gateway ticket office.  Prior to the construction of the Swing Bridge, the Penny Ferry connected the two sections of the harbour.  We were shown the Alfred Basin; the Robinson Dry Dock (the oldest of its kind still in daily use in South Africa, and oldest of the old style dock in the world.  Galas were held in the Robinson Dock in the old days, and it has been a quarry); the Pump House (which pumped water in and out of the Robinson Dock); the Old Power Station (having supplied Cape Town’s power); the Breakwater Prison (built in 1902, and which still has the treadmill to punish the prisoners who were locked up there.  It is now a hotel and the UCT Graduate School of Business operates from there; Portswood Ridge (Moorings Lane has five cottages for small businesses, and we rented one of these called Sea Cottage when the V&A first opened this business section of the Waterfront in 1991); Dock House was the home of the Port Captain; the Time Ball Tower, which was critical to navigation around the Cape; the Portswood Tunnel that few have seen before; the Rocket Shed; the Union Castle Building designed by Sir Herbert Baker’s firm; at Quay 5 hides, fish, and wood were unloaded from arriving ships; and Victoria Basin.  We were not able to see the SAS Somerset boom defence vessel, probably the last of its kind in the world.  Willem was sad that Iziko Museums had closed down the Maritime Museum near the Aquarium. The NSRI uses the same slipway as did previous rescue vehicles in the history of the harbour.  Amidst the history of the Cape in the V&A Waterfront is the history of South Africa’s political transformation, and the statues of Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Albert Lithuli, all Nobel Peace Prize recipients, can be seen at Nobel Square near the V&A Hotel.

We loved Willem’s dry sense of humour and his wealth of knowledge of the history of Cape Town in general, and of the V&A Waterfront in particular.  We would recommend this Historical Walking Tour to all Capetonians and visitors to Cape Town.

V&A Waterfront Historical Walking Tours. Tel (021) 408-7600. www.waterfront.co.za Monday – Sunday 11h00, tour takes about an hour.  R50 per adult, R20 per child 10 – 18 years old. Minimum of 4 persons, maximum 10. Tours start at Chavonnes Battery Museum.

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

Garden of Babylonstoren is its heart, reflects passion of owner Koos Bekker!

I have previously written about the new Babel Tea House and also about Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren.  On each of these visits I did not fully comprehend the wealth of work that has gone into planning, developing and maintaining the extensive 3,5 ha fruit and vegetable garden, with 350 edible fruit and vegetable varieties.

Wishing to spoil my parents, I invited them for a visit to the wine estate, and we were taken around by head gardener Liesel van der Walt, a charming and passionate ambassador for the garden, providing lots of information, and picking edible flowers (Day lilies) and berries for us to eat, and vegetable flowers (carrot and onion) for us to keep.  Liesel was at Kirstenbosch for 20 years, and originally did some contract gardening on the estate before joining Babylonstoren a year ago, managing a team of 15 gardeners.  She showed us the Babylonstoren, a hill after which the estate has been named, and laughingly said that soon they too can have the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’! There are three ponds closest to the shop, and we started the garden tour here. A dam each contains waterblommetjies, tilapia fish, and rainbow trout. Continue reading →

Babel Restaurant: a fabulous fresh feast!

I went to the Babel restaurant at Babylonstoren just after it opened over a year ago, and was in awe with it, but never wrote about it at that time.  Hearing about the opening of the Babel Tea House, it was a good opportunity to return to Babylonstoren, and I was lucky to obtain a table outside for lunch after visiting the Babel Tea House on Sunday.

Babylonstoren was awarded to ‘vryburgher’ Pieter van der Byl in 1690, and he started planting vineyards on the farm.  The current gardens were inspired by the Company Gardens, which Jan van Riebeeck had developed to supply ships of the Dutch East India Company, and ‘hales back to the mythical garden of Babylon’, its website says.  Patrice Tarravella from France, who owns a property with a garden layout which impressed the owners Karen Roos and Koos Bekker, was contracted to do the garden layout at Babylonstoren. The massive garden contains about 350 fruit and vegetable varieties.

The menu is most unusual – first, in terms of its presentation, written on a tiled white wall with a bull’s head painted on the side.  It is also available in printed form for those patrons sitting outside, and the paper looks recycled, in a beige colour, added as a loose sheet within a cover with a decorative drawing of vegetables. The same drawing is also on the billfold.  Second, the menu has two sections, one more traditional, in offering main course and dessert options, and the other something one has never experienced before, salads forming the base of the meal, to which one can add smoked trout (R45), home-made yoghurt cheese (R25), warm smoked chicken (R35), or cured moist biltong (R40).  The Green salad costs R50, and contains green kohlrabi, green beans, cucumber, fennel, pear, celery, avocado, asparagus, and garden greens, served with a mint geranium and yoghurt dressing.  The Red salad costs R55, and contains beetroot, watermelon, strawberry, radishes, plums, bloody sorrel, tomato berries and garden greens, served with a strawberry, pink peppercorn and rose dressing.  The Yellow salad costs R60, and contains, carrots, granadilla, pineapple, paw paw, apricots, corn, butternut, gooseberry, melon, nectarines and garden greens, with a nasturtium, mustard and verjuice dressing.  The menu introduction states: “At Babylonstoren we have luxury offerings of freshly picked fruit & vegetables, as nature intends, from our gardens.  We would like to inspire you with our menu suggestions. Our gardeners will introduce you to new cultivars and our chefs will offer you new, exciting flavour combinations”.

The more standard menu contains main courses only, the idea being that one orders a salad as a starter, one assumes, and the choices are lightly smoked Franschhoek trout with strawberry and lemon thyme crème fraiche served with a strawberry and Babylonstoren viognier drizzle (R125).  What the menu does not state is that the very large portion of trout is served with bowls of delicious and crispy hand cut chips, tzatziki and carrots, a tamarillo (which is a tree tomato but tastes of peach too), a baked onion topped with herb pesto, cauliflower in the most delicious goat’s cheese white wine cream sauce containing shredded roasted hazelnuts, herb pesto, and two slices of bread, an absolute feast and far too much to eat.   There is also a choice of 300 gram of sirloin (R135) or fillet (R155), served with calamata olive and shiraz butter sauce and olive salt.  Lamb cutlets served with gooseberry, lemon, caper and mint pesto and fresh pear julienne cost R140 for 300 gram. An artichoke tart with tamarillo, caramelised onion, chevin, fresh bloody sorrel and basil costs R85.  For dessert one chooses between a type of taste: Bitter is a white chocolate and bay leaf crème brûleé with warm almond brittle and almond wafer (R50); Sour is an apple, lime, yoghurt, mint and pea popsicle with radish carpaccio (R35); Savoury is a gorgonzola soufflé, served with beetroot infused cream, fresh apple and walnut as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon drizzle (R45); Sweet is a chilled plum soup served with beetroot sorbet and crystallised basil (R40). Wines by the glass are the first Babylonstoren wines, at R20 for Chenin Blanc and Dry Rosé, R33 for Shiraz, and R40 for Viognier.

On Friday and Saturday evenings dinner is served, at R300 per head for a 4-course meal, and the menu is varied for each dinner.  If the restaurant picks up that one has been there for dinner before, they will make sure that the menu is different to the one experienced on the previous visit.  The dinners appear to be excellent value, and Chef Simoné Rossouw printed out three past dinner menus, to give me an idea of what she serves: a ‘petal salad’, and a starter of beetroot carpaccio with goat’s cheese mousse and yellow plum relish, or even a nectarine-poached crayfish tail with cauliflower and vanilla puree, mizuna and crisp leeks.  For the main course a choice of meat (probably a 300 gram steak, or lamb shank), fish (trout with Kei apple hollandaise and eureka lemon) and vegetarian (Gorgonzola soufflé with apple and walnut relish, or grilled parsnip with poached duck egg and gratinated blue cheese) are offered.  For dessert one could expect a nectarine and smoked chilli tart tatin, a plum sorbet, scarlet peach mousse and an almond crisp; or a peach brioche with cardamom and citrus-scented ice cream; or a hazelnut meringue with Port-poached plums, white chocolate yoghurt and fresh berries.  It is the innovative dinner menu that could earn Babel its first Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant listing in 2012.  Chef Simoné sat with me for a short while, being very busy, and explained that they serve ‘honest food’ at Babel, their menus designed around what they can harvest from the garden, and even having to buy in produce on occasion, if the garden produce is not yet ripe.  She sources her meat from Tomi’s abattoir in Hermon, and they have their hens laying eggs, but not enough to meet their demand.  Babel Restaurant is ‘inspired’ by ‘food fundi’ Maranda Engelbrecht, who previously owned Manna Epicure on Kloof Street, says the Babylonstoren website.

I sat outside in the courtyard, these tables being unreserved, and arrived early enough to book one last-minute. A cooling water spray system has been installed, helping to cool one off on the hot Boland days. The Reserved sign was put in a wreath made of woven twigs, no doubt from the farm, and they are sold in the Babylonstoren shop too. The shop stocks an interesting collection of Panama and crocheted hats, fig and brandy paste, spiced plum jam, yellow plum chutney, strawberry and sage jam, scented candles, books (including the book ‘South’ by Karen Roos and Annemarie Meintjies, beautifully ‘wrapped’ with a ribbon), wines from the Simonsberg terroir, toffees, rusks, fresh produce from the Babylonstoren garden (carrots, rhubarb, beetroot and cauliflower), green fig preserve, Boeremeisjes, strawberry and lemon cordial, pickles, and lots more.  Next to the shop is the Library, a quiet space in which one can sit and read or page through the extensive collection of books.   The bathroom is done in cream tiles with a green line, and reminded me of my school facilities, yet the basins are very modern.

The service was slow, with the waiter serving outside struggling to serve all our needs. It was noticeable how many group tables of 6 – 10 guests there were, so the service speed probably was less important to them. The serviette was tiny, compared to the generous size of the serviettes at the Babel Tea House. Impressive was the waiter’s knowledge about the exotic fruit and vegetables served, the preparation thereof, and of the garden.  The visit to Babylonstoren was memorable, in seeing the new Babel Tea House, meeting up with Koos Bekker again, also chatting to the very humble Karen Roos, and enjoying the outstanding food at Babel Restaurant.

Babel Restaurant, Babylonstoren, R45, next to Backsberg on road to Franschhoek. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter: @Babylonstoren Wednesday – Sunday lunch, Friday and Saturday dinner.  R10 entrance fee.

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