My previous visit to Jardine, soon after George Jardine had left to start his new Stellenbosch restaurant Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, was not as excellent as I had expected, feeling that George Jardine had left a gap that new chef Eric Bulpitt still needed to grow into. Our return visit last week shows that Chef Eric has got there, and that George Jardine is no longer expected nor ‘present’ at Jardine. The advertised three course Spring Special meal is in fact a 7-course one, thereby offering excellent value.
I was interested in the four week period that Chef Eric had recently spent at Noma in Copenhagen, the number one of the San Pellogrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World and a 2-star Michelin restaurant. It was Chef Eric’s choice as restaurant ‘mecca’, for its focus on ‘natural’ gastronomy, and he worked there without pay, and in the company of many other chefs from around the world, to undergo a ‘learnership’ in this renowned restaurant. The first influence that Noma has had on Chef Eric is sourcing ingredients from nature, by foraging with his team in The Glen as well as in Newlands Forest, to find herbs and plants for his dishes, including wood sorrell, chickweed, Cape Chamomile, and nasturtiums. He also learnt about flavour combinations. The goal orientation of a restaurant such as Noma, which is based on focus and excellent organisation, was a further impactful influence, which Chef Eric wants to strengthen across the board at Jardine Restaurant. He described it as being almost “militaristic”, with strict rules and regulations to work by. He noted how the labour legislation differs in Denmark, in that one can fire staff if they do not deliver, and this is accepted by the staff, unlike South Africa and its restrictive labour law.
Other than the hostess Christina, who seemed to know who I was without welcoming me by name and therefore coming across as unfriendly, the service from new Manager Simon Widdison (Johan Terblanche has moved across to be the Manager at Tokara, which opens today) was friendly, as was that of Hannes the waiter (although he must please learn to not stretch across customers to place the fork on the left, and was not quite au fait about wine and food details). The biggest surprise of all was how friendly and relaxed Jaap-Henk Koelewijn (what an apt surname!), the sommelier, has become. The waiter had incorrectly indicated that the Jardine Shiraz was from Le Riche, to which I said yes immediately, when it was actually from Cederberg. Jaap-Henk immediately offered to replace it with Hartenberg at the Jardine price, and had no problem in pouring the wine at the table and allowing me to taste it first.
In coming to try the 3-course Spring Special running until the end of October, at a most reasonable R180, one does not expect any extras. We were therefore most surprised that we were served three pre-starters, and an amuse bouche, prior to the three course meal, making it a 7-course meal. The first dish to arrive was interesting-looking deep-fried tapioca over which frozen goat’s cheese had been grated. I associate tapioca with ‘pudding’, and not favourably from my childhood, so I was a bit nervous about trying it. I felt it to be a little dry, and so only had a taste of it. The second dish was vetkoek with a gorgonzola centre, which my son loved and I did not at all, finding it rather bland. What I loved was the third treat, being a most unusual Kingklip crisp made by dusting the thinnest slice of the fish in tapioca flour, and serving it with a ponzu dressing, made from citrus and soya. My ‘Larousse Gastronomique’ defines tapioca as follows: A starchy food extracted from the roots of the manioc plant, which is hydrated, cooked, then ground. It is used mainly for thickening soups and broths and making milk puddings and other desserts”. Clearly this is an ingredient that Chef Eric loves. The amuse bouche was a cauliflower spuma, with a very delicate and light taste on top, and a spicy taste underneath.
The three course Spring Special only has one choice per course, and last Friday it was a Confit duck leg terrine served with spicy orange and naartjie chutney as starter; the main course was sirloin steak served with smoked mash, spinach and carrot puree; and the dessert was a selection of three sorbets and ice creams. The duck terrine was served in a circular slice, quite coarse and crumbly, and bound by a leaf. I had it with the lovely Cape seedloaf. My son preferred to not eat the terrine, and Chef Eric made him a Vegetable Patch starter from their a la carte menu, a most beautifully presented Spring-looking collection of baby beetroot, butternut, cherry tomatoes, parsnip, buffalo mozzarella, and a watercress emulsion, on ‘mushroom soil’, resembling that in texture, and made by drying mushrooms, grinding them, and then adding butter and herbs.
I had asked the kitchen to take the photographs for me, due to the softer lighting at our table, and this may have been the reason why both our steaks had lost their temperature when brought to the table. They were immediately replaced, and were excellent, two small pieces, with wonderful carrot puree and spinach, decorated with tiny nasturtium leaves, foraged by Chef Eric and his team earlier that day. The smoked mash was good, but I would have preferred it plain, as the smoked taste was too dominant. The dessert sorbet and ice cream choices were lemon and thyme, espresso coffee and chocolate, coconut milk yoghurt and chilli, and pear and glÃ¼hwein. I felt that of all the dishes served, the desserts allowed Chef Eric’s creativity to come to the fore the most, with the unsual combination of flavours, and beautiful presentation with a ‘birdseed’ crisp on a patterned square plate.
The winelist has a black leather cover too, reminding me of that at Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, and its first page contains the names of the artists whose work is on display in the restaurant and for sale. Its introduction states that the winelist is a personal selection of wines to complement the ‘gastronomic feast’. Wines by the glass include Colmant Brut (R65); Sterhuis Blanc de Blanc (R55); Jardine Unwooded Chardonnay, which comes from Vriesenhof (R30); Lammershoek Roulette Blanc (R45), Trizanne Sauvignon Blanc (R45); Jardine Shiraz (which comes from Cederberg, and costs R 40); La Motte Millennium (R45); Sterhuis Merlot (R45); and Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc (R45). The Shiraz selection ranges from MAN Vintners at R95, to Luddite at R450, the Jardine costing R160, Hartenberg R330, and Miglarina R250.
Jardine is one of twenty finalists for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, and chef Eric is one of four chefs (with David Higgs, PJ Vadis and Chantel Dartnall) that will be cooking for the guests attending the Top 10 Awards ceremony. It is said that cooking at the Awards dinner is a sure-fire guarantee of making the Top 10 list, although Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly specifically denied this when she met with these chefs recently. With Chef Eric’s dedication to his craft, and his recent unpaid ‘learnership’ at Noma allowing him to re-invent himself after four years at Jardine Restaurant, he stands a good chance of making it onto the Top 10 list.
POSTSCRIPT 14/1: It has been announced that Jardine’s will close down at the end of February – its lease comes up for renewal then. The focus will be on Tokara in Stellenbosch. Part of the motivation is the departure of George Jardine to start his own restaurant, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine. Chef Eric Bulpitt will move to The Roundhouse.
POSTSCRIPT 28/2: Jardine has closed, without a whimper or a thank you for the client support from the management.
Jardine Restaurant, 185 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-5640 www.jardineonbree.co.za (It is odd to see George Jardine’s photograph on the website, and to see him listed as an owner, when he is not involved in any apparant way. The website needs to be updated, reflecting the staff promotions and movements, including the Noma visit. The website could also do with an Image gallery, to show off Chef Eric’s cuisine creativity). Twitter @JardineCape Town. Tuesdays – Saturdays.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage