I was very excited to sit with Chef Darren Badenhorst yesterday morning, to hear more about his new restaurant Le coin Français By Darren Badenhorst, which will open in Franschhoek on 11 October. Continue reading →
The Stall opened in Franschhoek at the beginning of this month in the old Pippin Farm Stall at the entrance to Franschhoek, alongside Franschhoek Cellars. It is an informal eatery, serving only Franschhoek wines, and is decorated in French colours.
Owned by Tim Adams, the owner of Essence higher up on the main road, The Stall attracted attention during its renovations. The building belongs to Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, and it was rumoured a few years ago that Chef Reuben Riffel would make a steakhouse of it. The builders shared that three potential tenants had been to see the building: Chef Reuben, Tim, as well as the owner of Kalfi’s. Whilst Essence concentrates on Breakfast, light lunches and cakes, The Stall is open for lunch and dinner.
There is ample parking, especially in the evening when the Franschhoek Cellars is closed, and outside seating is provided, with a play area for the children. The branding is not very prominent from the R45, but most of the locals should know where it is by now, many having been invited to attend the opening function, at which a selection of the restaurant’s foods were offered. The interior is plain, with white Greek style chairs and wooden top tables. A Brugge sign brightens up the interior, Tim not knowing why Marc added this decor touch, not really making sense. A fireplace will be cosy in winter. Vases of fresh flowers on the window sills are a nice touch. One long table with red chairs is for larger groups. A surprise is material serviettes, with red stitching. The walls are painted white, and the kitchen wall is tiled in the French colours of blue, white and red, covered with racks for the glasses. The cutlery is very basic, as are the salt and pepper cellars.
The chef is Marilie van Niekerk, previously of Van Hunks in Cape Town, at the Tsitsikamma Lodge and at Storms River. She is bubbly, and a very good hostess. On the day we returned to eat there, some of the staff had not arrived at work due to the farmworker unrest outside Franschhoek, for which Chef Marilie apologised profusely, yet the service was good. Her biggest excitement is that the country’s Eat Out Chef of the Year, Margot Janse of The Tasting Room, had been to eat at the restaurant three times already. Chef Marilie has a herb garden she is developing in wine barrels outside the restaurant. The menu is simple, focused on flat-based pizzas, with interesting topping combinations, such as a delicious spinach, bacon and avocado (R75); an unusual roast lamb, mint, caramelised onion, grilled aubergine and feta (R79); and white anchovy, capers, olives and oregano (R65). The pizza base is very thin, and I found some of the shards when cut to be very sharp. For starters one can order a selection of salads, ranging from R49 for Greek salad to R72 for a carpaccio salad. A variety of burgers is available, made with beef, chicken, vegetables, lamb, and cheese, ranging in price from R65 – R75. Platters are available: cheese with preserves and nuts (R90), antipasti (R120), and mezze (R95). For the main course one can order a 250 g rib-eye steak with pepper sauce and chips at R95; grilled baby calamari (R85); and pasta dishes. I ate the best ever Tiramisu at The Stall, served in an Illy branded cup, and being thick and creamy (38). One can also order chocolate pudding, banana split with butterscotch sauce; and pecan nut flap jacks, the dessert prices ranging from R32 – R45.
It is not a surprise that the Wolftrap wine by the glass comes from landlord Boekenhoutskloof, inexpensive at R15 per glass/R65 per bottle for the White, Red, and Rosé. The sparkling wines offered are a 375ml Graham Beck Cuvee Brut (R110) and Brut Rosé (R180), as well as Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Brut (R150). No vintages are listed for the wines. White wines range up to R 160 for the Stony Brook Cask Selection Semillon, and to R280 for Boekenhoutskloof’ The Chocolate Block for the red wines. The Stall offers a good opportunity to taste a cross-section of wines from fifteen Franschhoek wine estates, including award-winning Chamonix, Glenwood, Lynx, La Bri, La Petite Ferme, and Holden Manz.
The Stall is a friendly, casual, and inexpensive eatery in Franschhoek, likely to be attractive to locals in particular, and to tourists with children. I have already returned for the Tiramisu!
The Stall, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-4497. Website and Social Media to come. Monday – Sunday, 12h00 – ‘late-ish‘ (closed on Sunday evenings).
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Franschhoek: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I have the highest regard for the entrepreneurial spirit of Robert Maingard, although he is not Franschhoek’s favourite semi-citizen. Mr Maingard has incredible faith in Franschhoek, judging by his investment in this village, including ownership of Dieu Donné, Le Franschhoek Hotel, Crepe et Cidre, numerous small shopping centers on the main road (one which includes a Clicks and the village’s second Pick ‘n Pay, which has had the residents up in arms), and now owner of Café Benedict and the newly opened Le Coq restaurant. I visited the restaurant three times over two days, to get a grip on this ‘schizophrenic’ restaurant, which is located in the new (as yet unnamed) centre which was built where the old Huguenot Hotel once stood.
The French rooster is the symbol of all things Gallic, Wikipedia informs, and Mr Maingard’s Mauritian roots show in his choice of name for the restaurant in this French-faux village. The rooster that graces the entrance to the restaurant was found under a table in Mr Maingard’s home, Llewellyn Lambert told me. The restaurant is huge, with an industrial feel to the space, with visible airconditioning trunking. The restaurant is divided over two levels, each seating about 60 patrons, probably the largest restaurant in Franschhoek. The upstairs level has its own Grill menu, and focuses on steak. Here too is a coldroom, so that one can see the meat hung for use for grilling, and from which meat can be sold to customers to take home. Downstairs, the menu focus is on affordable light meals.
With its French name, its interior design is a surprise, it is so bizarre! The downstairs section has a fireplace, which will be cosy in the cold Franschhoek winter, and above it hangs a Salvador Dali ‘replica’. Here is where things go dreadfully wrong with the decor, the designer being Carol Cornwall, of Cornwall Interiors in Durban, who has done all Mr Maingard’s Quarters Hotels, Dieu Donné and Crepe et Cidre. Dali was a Spanish abstract artist, now used in a French style Franschhoek family restaurant. There is another Dali ‘replica’ upstairs, a copy of the famous ‘The Persistence of Memory’ above its fireplace, the well-known pocketwatch one, hence all the clocks on the walls. Without the explanation by Lambert, I would not have made the connection. There are more ‘Dali’s’ to come, I was told!
But worse still is the lounge sections that have been created in each of the two levels, for those patrons who have to wait for a table (it will take some time to get to this stage, given that Franschhoek is already seeing its first pre-winter casualties, with restaurants and other shops closing down). The furniture for these two sections looks like it comes straight out of Joshua Doore – a white ‘plastic’ couch upstairs, and ‘velour’ high back chairs in orange and blue downstairs! Going back for the third time, I understood the decor approach, being to pick up the blue and the burnt orange from the ‘Dali’s’ for the chairs, but it is the execution that I cannot understand, in that they make the restaurant feel common and kitsch. The rest of the decor, in terms of the tables and dining chairs (white leather downstairs and beige fabric upstairs) is absolutely fine. Lambert told me that Mr Maingardis an avid antique collector, and antique sewing machines have formed the bases for the upstairs granite-top tables. One can sit outside on the terrace upstairs, with a lovely view onto the Franschhoek mountains, but also onto the large parking area below. Parking is a benefit of the new development, given that Franschhoek lacks parking on its main road.
Mr Maingard recently bought the Lecca il Gelato franchise for Franschhoek, and will be using one of his already vacated shops in the new center in which Le Coq is located for the new ice cream shop. It is so big, that he has decided to make the shop a play and activity centre for children while their parents eat at Le Coq – I could think of nothing better for a kid to play in an ice cream shop!
I could not help but think that the large industrial-style two-tier restaurant reminded me of my own joke that the two Franschhoek Pick ‘n Pays have two target markets: one serves the ‘bodorp’, and the other the ‘onderdorp’, and so too the restaurant’s upstairs grill and downstairs Light Meal section is likely to see a similar divide!
The managers are a collection of staff from Maingard properties. Lambert came from Quarters in Durban earlier this year, to open Café Benedict. Manager Nikki Leu comes from Durban too, where she did staff training for Mr Maingard’s businesses. I found it very hard to connect with her. Food & Beverage Manager Alan Smith comes from the Grill Room, opposition to Mr Maingard, previously owned by Matthew Gordon and the late Trevor Kirsten, who was also a Franschhoek property mogul, vying for the same high street properties. Chef Albert van der Loo comes from Dieu Donné. He said that running a kitchen for a 120 seater restaurant is no problem, especially as the orders are staggered over the evening, compared to the 240-seater Dieu Donné, where all guests wanted to order immediately after the sun has set, creating huge pressure on the kitchen. He has a massive downstairs kitchen for the light meals, and the steaks are prepared upstairs. Chef Albert is excited about the new challenge he has in running his own kitchen, and says he worked hard on creating the right balance of dishes for the Light Meal menu. He is bringing in a sushi chef from Japan, a relative of the sushi chef’s girlfriend from the ‘bodorp’ Pick ‘n Pay. His vision at Le Coq is to offer good quality affordable meals for Franschhoekers.
The tables do not have table cloths, but material serviettes and St Tropez cutlery. A very light weight steak knife by Victorinox seemed too light to be effective, but did a good cutting job. There are no condiments. Only a little glass candle holder is on the table. No one offered pepper on any of my three visits. My first visit was for lunch on Saturday, in the downstairs section, and I had a most delicious pea and mint soup from the Cold menu selection (good value at R35, but when Etienne Bonthuys charges R30 for the thickest and creamiest Avocado soup with prawn, it is not!). I asked the waitress whether it comes with bread, but she said it did not. I returned on Saturday evening, on my way to Stellenbosch, and tried the Tempura prawn from the Hot menu selection. I asked specifically if it is de-shelled, and the waitress checked that it would be. The tempura batter is around the prawn tail as well, and I was talking so much that I bit into the tail which did have the shell over it, which spoilt the dish for me. I had a good Cuturra coffee, with a strong coffee flavour. If one sits downstairs, one may order from the Grill menu, but one may not order from the Light Meal menu if one is sitting upstairs, which seems odd and inflexible. Other Cold Meal options (R35 – R75) are smoked salmon salad, roast beef and blue cheese salad, Caprese salad and Bruschetta of Beef Tartare. Oysters cost R90 for six. The Hot Meal menu prices range from a most affordable R60 – R75, and include mussels, fish and chips, oxtail, beef burger, Cape Malay chicken curry and penne pasta carbonara. Gelatos, jellied sparkling wine, chocolate brownies and ‘American Dreams’ cost R30 – R40.
The Grill menu has three starters: The Prawn cocktail was wonderful, with six juicy prawns, at R65, but I did suggest to Chef Albert that he take off the tails; beef carpaccio (R50), and a Chef’s salad at R55. There are seven grilled meat options, served with chips and onion rings, ranging from R75 for an Algerian spatchcock baby chicken to R105 each for a 500 gram T-bone steak, and 250 gram fillet. The weight of meat is not specified on the menu, but the waitress told me the weight when I asked her, unfortunately getting the weight of two items wrong, one of them being for the fillet I ordered. The fillet was good, served alone on a plate, and the sauce and mash came in two extra dishes. I had ordered the steak Medium Rare, but it tended to Medium, and Chef Albert (who commendably came to check after every course) explained that it has to do with the ageing of the meat, taking away some of the pink colouring of the meat. It was very tender, and Chef Albert told me that they source their meat from Tomi’s near Hermon, where they farm with Angus cows. Le Coq is the first Franschhoek client, and Chef Albert was very impressed with the marbling of their meat. Sauces cost R15, and one can choose Hollandaise, Bourbon mushroom, Classic red wine steakhouse, and green peppercorn sauces. Desserts here are simply one of four Gelato flavours, costing R35.
The menus and winelist are beautifully presented, and Chef Albert worked with photographer Eddie Wilson to create covers for them using beautiful photographs, one taken from the restaurant. The winelist covers has a photograph of three Dieu Donné wines, but has a good selection of mainly Franschhoek wines. It has a description of the wine, but no information on regions or vintages is provided. The white wines range from R30/R100 for Overhex Balance and R30/R110 for Flagstone Noon Gun, to R 380 for Graham Beck Pheasant Run Sauvignon Blanc. Other wines by the glass are Dieu Donné Chardonnay (R35/R110), Protea Chenin Blanc (R30/R90) and Ashton Kelder Chardonnay (R35/R115). Red wines start at R 30/R110 for Ashton Kelder Satynrooi and R30/R110 for Avondrood Blue Whale, up to R 500 for Chamonix Pinot Noir Reserve. I was surprised to see Chocolate Block Shiraz blend charged at a pricey R390. Other red wines by the glass are Diemersfontein Pinotage (R50), Perdeberg Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon (R35/R130), and GlenwoodMerlot at R40/R165. Sparkling wines are not sold by the glass, which is a shame, and include Dieu Donné Blanc de Blanc Brut (R200), Graham Beck’s Brut Rosé (R240), Colmant (R280), and Moët “en” Chandon (R950). One can also order “Le Coq-tails” and “Le Moq-tails” at R35 – R45.
To celebrate the opening of the restaurant on Friday, live music will be played in the lower section every weekend day and evening. I found the band from Wellington terribly loud, as did the chef, and they were asked to tone things down a little. Every month there will be new groups playing.
Le Coq is a restaurant out of the usual Franschhoek mould, and one wonders if there are enough locals with families to support this large restaurant, currently being supporters of Kalfi’s, Col’Cacchio and Allora. It offers very good value for money, especially in the downstairs Light Meals section. Its staff service and training needs attention. Its French/Spanish decor conflict needs drastic help. It will survive the winter and any continuation of the downturn, as Mr Maingard is the owner of the building, so that his cost structure is different to that of any other restaurant. It needs a stronger leaderto run the restaurant. It lacks focus, trying to please too many tastes under one roof, and creates confusion with two-restaurants-within-one. It will be interesting to see if they receive the support from the anti-Clicks ‘bodorp’ Franschhoekers living in a village known for its nasty politics!
POSTSCRIPT 21/5: I popped in for a cappuccino this afternoon, and immediately noticed the addition of a massive “Dali Atomicus” print by photographer Philippe Haselman, featuring Dali, three thrown cats, and a thrown bucket of water – what a weird composition! From a Google search I learnt that the photograph took 26 takes over five It looks very impressive behind the bar, and much nicer than the Dali painting copies hung in the restaurant. The Manager Alan has already left the restaurant, for a job elsewhere.
Le Coq, 32 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-4224. No website yet. Tuesday – Sunday, lunch and dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The Franschhoek Wine Valley (the new tourism body name, the “Tourism Association” part of the name recently having been dropped) Food & Wine Route has been launched to the media, and soon will be presented in a new map, that will reflect the wealth of 42 restaurants, 48 wine estates and 3 delis and shops that sell foodstuffs in and around Franschhoek. The new Food & Wine Route is a good marketing reaction to the increasing dominance of Stellenbosch as the new gourmet center of South Africa, and its large number of wine estates, even though the tourism association’s website still refers to Franschhoek as the “Gourmet Capital of South Africa”!
Last year we wrote about the Food & Wine Route when it was first announced, and from the initial information it appeared to have a broader focus initially. Now the Route is more focused, and will incorporate mainly the restaurants and wine estates that are members of Franschhoek Wine Valley. Interestingly, the geographic delineation of Franschhoek has been broadened to incorporate the wine estates and restaurants on the R45 between Klapmuts and Simondium, including Noble Hill, Backsberg, and Babel at Babylonstoren, on the basis that they have become members of the Franschhoek Wine Valley association, even if they fall under the Paarl wine district. Strangely, Glen Carlou has not chosen to be part of the Franschhoek Food & Wine Route, it being one of the first properties one passes when driving to Franschhoek on the R45.
Tania Steyn, the Marketing Manager of Franschhoek Wine Valley, explained that this new project consists of two parts. The first is the Food & Wine Route map, in A3 size, which will list all the restaurants and wine estates, the one side featuring those in the village, and the other side those that are outside Franschhoek. The Food & Wine Route map will replace the most handy Franschhoek Wine map, which guest houses and their guests have found to be useful in highlighting all the Vigneron members in Franschhoek. The second part of the project is an e-commerce platform for specific Food and Wine Route Experiences, that one cannot visit spontaneously without a booking. The bookings will be made on the website, and it is hoped that visitors to Franschhoek will book a number of such experiences, and will therefore stay in the area for longer.
The wine estates on the new Franschhoek Wine Valley Food & Wine Route are Akkerdal, Allèe Bleue, Anthonij Rupert Wines (L’Ormarins and Protea brands, and home of the outstanding Motor Museum), Backsberg, Boekenhoutskloof, Boschendal Wines, Chamonix, Colmant Cap Classique & Champagne, Dieu Donnè Vineyards, Franschhoek Cellar, Glenwood, Graham Beck Franschhoek, Grande Provence Estate, Haute Cabriere (with Pierre Jourdan sparkling wines), Holden Manz (previously Klein Genot), La Bri, La Chataigne, La Motte (with Pierneef art gallery), La Petite Dauphine, La Petite Ferme, La Manoir de Brendel, Leopard’s Leap, Lynx Wines, Maison, Mont Rochelle, Moreson, My Wyn, Noble Hill, Plaisir de Merle, Rickety Bridge, Solms-Delta (with interesting slave museum), Stony Brook, Topiary Wines (newest Platter 5-star sparkling wine in Franschhoek), Val de Vie, and Vrede & Lust. These wine estates can be visited without appointment.
Those estates for which one must book a winetasting are Eikehof, Franschhoek Pass Winery (Morena sparkling wine), Haut Espoir, La Bourgogne, La Roche estate, La Vigne, Landau du Val, Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons and Von Ortloff. Bellingham Wines, Klein Dauphine, La Chaumière and Veraison Vineyards are not open to the public at all, but their wines can be bought at the highly regarded Franschhoek wine shop La Cotte Inn on the main road in the village.
The Franschhoek restaurants and food outlets on the Food & Wine Route are Allora, Babel at Babylonstoren, Backsberg, Boschendal Restaurant, Boschendal Le Café and Boschendal Le Pique-Nique, Bread & Wine, Café Allèe Bleue, Cafè BonBon, Col’Cacchio Pizzeria, Cosecha Restaurant at Noble Hill, Dalewood Fromage (but not open to the public), Dieu Donnè Restaurant, Dutch East, Elephant & Barrel, Essence, Fizz Affair Champagne Lounge, Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz, Freedom Hill Restaurant, Fyndraai Restaurant at Solms-Delta, The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Haute Cabrière, Huguenot Fine Chocolates, Kalfi’s, Fromages de France (La Cotte Inn), Le Bon Vivant, Dish @ Le Franschhoek, Le Verger The Orchard Restaurant (Le Franschhoek Hotel), The Common Room, The Tasting Room, L’Ermitage Restaurant, Mon Plaisir at Chamonix, Mange Tout, Monneaux, Reuben’s, Rickety Bridge, Ryan’s Kitchen, Salmon Bar, The Country Kitchen, The French Connection, The Grill Room, The Jam Jar, The Olive Shack, and The Polo Club Restaurant (at La Vie). Oddly, Pierneef à La Motte is not listed, and one hopes this is just an oversight. Other missing restaurants are Café Benedict, BICCCS, Chez D’Or, Cotage Fromage at Vrede & Lust, Crepe & Cidre, Café Le Chocolatier, Café des Arts, and the Franschhoek Food Emporium.
* Solms-Delta Cape Music Tour, teaching participants about “Cape rural and vernacular music”. R 50 (minimum of 6 persons). Monday – Sunday.
* Plaisir de Merle “Award-winning wines wine tasting”. R 20, and R40 if cellar tour added. Monday – Saturday
* Plaisir de Merle Flavour Sensation Tasting, food and wine pairing. R 50. Monday – Saturday
* Plaisir de Merle Wine & Chocolate Tasting. R 50. Monday – Saturday
* Charcuterie Tasting with Neil Jewell. R 25 – R105. Daily before 11h00 and after 15h30
* Franschhoek Cellar Cheese and Wine pairing. R 35. Daily
* Huguenot Fine Chocolates Chocolate Tour and Tasting. R 25. Daily 11h00 and 15h00
* Chamonix Grappa & Schnapps Tasting. R15. Daily
* Dieu Donné Micro-brewery and beer tasting. R15 beer tasting and R 35 for full bewery talk and tasters. Daily
* Babylonstoren Guided Garden Visit. R 20, Wednesday – Sunday 10h00 and 15h00.
* Le Bon Vivant Surprise Menu. R 485 for 5-course meal and wine, R360 without wine. Daily except Wednesdays.
* Food and wine pairing at Pierneef à La Motte. R 195 for 5 pairings, extra R 50 for glass of La Motte MCC. Tuesday – Sunday 12h00 – 14h00.
* Cape Gourmet Delights Tour, with stops at Grande Provence, Moreson and Vrede & Lust. R1995 per day includes “light lunch”. 10 persons maximum. Monday – Friday.
A walking tour as well as a talk on ceramics are part of this programme, but seem out of place in not having anything to do with Wine or Food.
One hopes that the Franschhoek Wine Valley Food & Wine Route map will indicate which wine estates, food shops and restaurants sell foods, such as the vegetables, breads and chocolates at the Farm Shop at Pierneef à La Motte; salmon products and breads at the Salmon Bar; the Mediterranean delicacies at The Olive Shack; wonderful freshly baked wholewheat bread at Grande Provence; breads and sweet treats at Café BonBon and Café Benedict; olive oils and balsamic vinegar at Allèe Bleue; heavenly chocolates as well as breads at Café Le Chocolatier; Truckles cheeses at Franschhoek Cellar; and a selection of home-made pies, preserves, dips, cold meats and breads at the new Franschhoek Food Emporium. It would be good if the fortnightly Farmers’ Market at Holden Manz also be listed.
We salute the Franschhoek Wine Valley for putting together this initiative, and trust that the Food & Wine Route map will be finalised and printed as soon as possible, given that the summer season ends in two months’ time. We encourage Franschhoek Wine Valley to add the names of the omitted Franschhoek restaurants, by encouraging them to sign up as members, so that the map can be as representative of the food and wine delights in Franschhoek as possible.
POSTSCRIPT 22/4: The new Franschhoek Wine Valley Food & Wine Route maps have been made available, and can be collected from the Franschhoek Tourism Bureau, or from Whale Cottage Franschhoek. Oddly, it lists the two Pick ‘n Pays too, under the ‘Franschhoek Restaurants & Food section”. Following our recommendation above, the Franschhoek Food Emporium was added, but Café Le Chocolatier, Café Benedict, BICCCS, Chez d’Or, Cotage Fromage, Crepe et Cidre, Café des Arts, and the new Le Coq are not on the map. Other sources of food to buy, as listed two paragraphs above, are not indicated on the map.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage