I was invited by La Motte and Leopard’s Leap Culinary Consultant Hetta van Deventer-Terblanche to try out their new The Rotisserie at Leopard’s Leap for lunch on Saturday, and enjoyed the beautiful display of their salads, made from just-picked vegetables and herbs on the property, and the excellent pork and chicken prepared in their impressive-looking rotisserie.

The Leopard’s Leap tasting room opened a year ago as a brand new tasting centre combined with the Liam Tomlin Food culinary store and cookery school. Chef Liam Tomlin has decided to move back to Cape Town, returning to his Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School. This has allowed Leopard’s Leap to utilise its rotisserie imported from France, and its impressive herb and vegetable garden to source ingredients for a number of salads, and to offer Leopard’s Leap wine tasting guests lunch and sweet treats.  Hetta put together the concept, inspired by CEO Hein Koegelenberg, yet is very modest about her role.

Chef Pieter de Jager has moved across from Pierneef à La Motte, to run The Rotisserie kitchen.  He started at La Motte when the restaurant opened two years ago, having moved across from Le Quartier Français.  He has worked in London at The Waterside Inn Restaurant with Chef Alain Roux.  His father Chef Chris owned Die Fonteine and Chagalls, French inspired restaurants in Pretoria, when he was still at school.

One takes a tray with linen/cotton serviette and modern Sola cutlery and makes one’s way through to the salad bar, which is then weighed and charged, at R15 per 100 gram.  Salad options include a pasta salad, garden leaves, a root vegetable salad, a papaya salad, a potato salad, onion salad, couscous and date salad, marinated mushroom salad, feta, beetroot salad, cucumber and carrot shavings, chicken and bean salad, and stuffed mushrooms, all beautifully displayed.  The names of the salads are written on mini ‘blackboards’, attached to sticks and placed in jars containing miniature white pebbles.  The selection of salads will vary according to what is available in the herb and vegetable garden.  Bunches of herbs add green to the display, presented in a mini watering can, and in little terracotta plant pots.  A Leopard’s Leap ice bucket holds bottles of home-made beetroot, carrot and ginger, as well as pineapple juice, and ginger ale, all made by Chef Pieter’s team.  Three different vinaigrettes add further colour to the display. One is then asked if one would like chicken or pork from the rotisserie, which Chef Pieter and his colleague cut, and then add to the plate.  A quarter piece of herb grilled chicken costs R29, half R64, and a whole chicken costs R128.  A 100g slice of pork costs R25 and 200g R45.  For vegetarians there is a vegetable wrap filled with roasted butternut, carrots, sorrel, feta, sweet potato, and aioli, costing R25. A special children’s menu will be made available too. Miniature ciabatta and wrapped portions of herb butter are available at the till, and are included in the price.

For dessert there is a tempting selection of cupcakes, each in an individual mini bell jar (R15), miniature berry cheese cake (R10), popsicles (R10), berry jelly and custard (R10), brownies (R15), Rice Crispie treats (R9), and lemon tarts (R10).

One sits down at one of the tables, with fun tops of illustrations of knives and other kitchen utensils, the cuts of beef, and even some wine ‘stains’.  Glassware is the German Rastal, which Hetta said brings out the best in the wine for tasting.  One can also sit in a lounge area, with a cosy fireplace for winter lunches, or outside in summer. The tables only have water glasses, so that one knows that it is self-service.  The Leopard’s Leap wines are sold at a small premium to the prices in the tasting room, exceptionally well priced at R15/R33 per glass/bottle of the Leopard’s Leap Lookout range; R20/R38 for the Classic range; R25/R49 for the Family Collection Chenin Blanc and R25/R70 for the Family Collection Shiraz Mourvèdre; and R95 per bottle of the new Culinaria MCC, which was launched at the Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival this past weekend.

Hetta is setting up a shop which will sell culinary, wine and conservation (Leopard’s Leap supports the Cape Leopard Trust, and sponsors literary events) related items. One will be able to pop in The Rotisserie at Leopard’s Leap, and buy a piece or a whole chicken, or even a cupcake or popsicle, to take home or sit down and eat there.  The 24-station kitchen is available to chefs in Franschhoek to host demonstrations, and other events, Hetta emphasising that they are willing to share what they would like to call ‘Franschoek’s Kitchen’ with their chef colleagues. Ideally they would love a cooking program to be filmed in their state of the art kitchen.

The Rotisserie at Leopard’s Leap is a friendly informal restaurant at which to enjoy a light meal for about R100 a head.  It joins an increasing number of Winelands estates offering the convenience of being able to eat after a wine tasting.

The Rotisserie at Leopard’s Leap, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8002. www.leopards-leap.com Twitter: @LeopardLeapWine.  Wednesday – Sunday from 10h00.  The Tasting Room is open from Tuesdays – Sundays.

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