New Chef Archie Maclean creative with colour, goes wild at Catharina’s!


imageI love seeing how restaurants can reinvent themselves, and often a new chef can be the catalyst. Chef Archie Maclean has been at Catharina’s for about four months, and has gone back to the history and origin of Steenberg wine estate and its first owner Catharina Ras for inspiration for his creative new menu.

Catharina Ras was a feisty German who arrived in the Cape in 1662. She outlived four of her five husbands! One of her husbands was killed by a lion, and legend has it that she hunted and shot the lion, as depicted in the 3D design below. In 1682 Simon Van Der Stel leased 25 morgen to Ms Ras, ownership of the Swaaneweide land passing to her eventually. She was known to be fiercely independent, ‘riding bare-back like an Indian….’.  The menu introduction informs that it was Ms Ras’ ‘independence, originality and sense of adventure that we celebrate...’.  Ms Ras arrived in Cape Town in 1662, as a fiercely independent 21-year old.image

Chef Archie moved from Neethlingshof to Catharina’s after former chef Garth Almazan left the restaurant after many years. He has also worked at the Singita School of Cooking, at Le Quartier Français, and at Asara (his worst job ever, he shared honestly). Chef Archie diplomatically said that stepping into Chef imageGarth’s shoes is a hard act to follow.

I was invited to try the new Catharina’s menu, and to meet Chef Archie, by new Steenberg PR consultant Gudrun Clark, who joined me for the lunch. Gudrun and I go back a long way to German and Wellington roots, having grown up  nearby.

The first thing I noticed was the striking 3D cut outs on the walls at the entrance door, as well as on the wall near our table. This one depicted Catharina on her horse, hunting lion, gun in hand! In this way Catharina Ras has been brought into the restaurant. By incorporating unusual meat types into the menu, such as zebra, wild boar, and crocodile, the menu takes one back to Catharina’s era too, in reflecting what was on the farm in her time, and what she liked to eat.image Chef Archie wants his patrons to try other delicious meats that are available, in addition to the popular pork.

Unusual decor is the origami birds on the ceiling. Chairs are grey, tables are covered with tablecloths, and napkins are provided.

The menu differentiates Catharina’s from all other Constantia restaurants. It tells the Catharina Ras story in sections, and offers a Tasting Menu as well as an a la carte menu. Gudrun and I were invited to try the dishes we wanted to, so we had a selection of tasters of dishes from the a la carte menu. Chef Archie was so generous that he offered us a duplicate dish of each of our choices, but I declined the wild boar that Gudrun had selected. We left it to the chef to choose the order in which we ate the dishes. Waiter John paired the dishes with wines, not all of them being Steenberg ones, which was imagecommendable.

Our first dish was innovative, in that seared tuna was wrapped in salmon skin, and served with pea purée, peas, a quail egg, and was infused with truffle, plated on a Japanese plate, and the colour impact was impressive. John paired this dish with Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon imageBlanc 2015, giving tropical flavours.

The second dish which Gudrun and I were served was seared lemon and herb calamari served with tempura green beans, kalamata olive tapenade, squid ink, baby leaves, salmon caviar, lemon vinaigrette, and capers, served with a Steenberg Chardonnay, having a long finish.

This was followed by braised tongue, served with fresh cabbage and carrot chips. image

The colour in the grilled cauliflower dish was outstanding, served with Parmesan gnocchi, beetroot purée, and beetroot, mushroom, and basil ragoût. It was paired with Steenberg Semillon 2014.

Gudrun was on her own in ordering the slow-cooked wild boar belly rashers, served with sautéed Jerusalem imageartichokes, butternut purée, baby carrots, broccolini, cauliflower rice, ash, and blue cheese jus, giving me a little taster of her dish. It was paired with the Steenberg Nebbiolo 2014.

Gudrun declined dessert, but I ordered the attractive guava dessert of a flambeéd meringue base, with guava gastrique, a guava macaron,  driedimage guava, and mint jelly. We were sent a taster of ginger beer, which is being brewed for Catharina’s, and accompanies one of the desserts, clearly Chef Archie’s favorite. The ginger beer dates back to Catharina Ras, in that the Dutch East India Company granted her the licence to brew beer.

I was very impressed with Chef Archie’s Catharina Ras-focused menu, and in reintroducing the wild meats eaten in the time of the Steenberg owner. Even more impressive is his strong use of colour in plating his dishes, each one of them plated in a different style. Chef Archie has achieved recognition in the short time that he has been at Catharina’s, in that he will feature in episode 3 of ‘Recipe for Success’, hosted by Chef Reuben Riffel. Regular visits to our table by Steenberg Hospitality Manager Nicolene Kotze as well as by Chef Archie to obtain feedback were appreciated.

Catharina’s, Steenberg, Constantia, Cape Town. Tel (021) 713-7178. Twitter: @CatharinasR Instagram: @Steenberg_Farm Monday – Saturday Lunch and Dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog:  Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage  Facebook:  click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein


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