A quick Easter Hot Cross Bun and coffee at Pierneef à La Motte was a double treat when Chef Chris Erasmus came to say hello and joined me at the table to share the news about his new Folliage restaurant, which he plans to open in the heart of the Franschhoek village just before the Bastille weekend in mid-July.
Chef Chris was beaming, clearly excited about his new project, even though he says that he is a little nervous about running his own business for the first time. Chef Chris worked at Le Quartier Français, at Pied à Terre in London, and at Ginja in Cape Town before he joined Pierneef à La Motte almost four years ago, and took the restaurant to Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant last year. He leaves La Motte on 15 June. He is opening his restaurant on the corner of Berg Street and main road, just two blocks from our Whale Cottage Franschhoek, in walking distance for our guests, who prefer to walk to the village for dinner than to drive to any of the good restaurants on the wine estates just outside the village. The restaurant will seat up to 70 for lunch, including outside, and 40 inside at night. The building belongs to the owners of La Petite Dauphine, and one of its owners, Gert Gertzen, is a highly regarded interior designer, and he is working with Chef Chris in planning the decor, which will have a wood ceiling, and wood furniture, on a concrete floor.
Right next door is the IS art gallery, which moved into the same building a week ago, a large open space compared to its previous cramped home at Le Quartier Français, a space from which certain art lovers were banned due to Le Quartier owner Susan Huxter’s small-town Franschhoek politics! Huxter must feel threatened by the strong competition to come diagonally across the road from her, not only in having another Top 10 chef so close by, but also because she is vulnerable in losing Linda Coltart, her GM of close to 18 years, and in having lost the IS art gallery, leaving her with an open empty space now! Interesting is the crass Le Creuset branding on its signage outside the restaurant entrance, overpowering the branding of its hotel, The Tasting Room restaurant, and bar, and cheapening the establishment generally! No doubt Huxter will redecorate her interior, to match the competition, her normal way of dealing with changes near her restaurant, the opening of Reuben’s ten years ago being an example! Reuben’s too will feel the squeeze for the little business he still has, being located just a few doors away. Ryan’s Kitchen however should benefit from attracting more attention to that section of main road, and from the purchase of Rusthof, in which the restaurant operates, by Analjit Singh, who bought into Mullineux Family Wines last year, and who has bought other Franschhoek properties too.
Chef Chris is known for his dedication to sourcing seasonal ingredients, for foraging mushrooms and herbs, and for serving local cuisine. He wants to do more Spanish (especially Catalan) cooking, and will continue smoking and curing foods, techniques which he learnt while doing the stage at Noma in Copenhagen two years ago. ‘I want to cook what’s in my gut’, he said, expressing that he will be spontaneous in his menu offerings. He will offer à la carte lunches and dinners, but on Sundays it will be family lunches only, with fresh salads, and a roast chicken, or gammon, to be shared by a family. On those days he will be on the floor, chatting to his patrons.
His wife Alisha will play an important role, in that she manages the IS art gallery. If they need the space, or have functions, they can use the Gallery for these at night. A gallery assistant will be his waiter at night, and can open for patrons should they wish to look at the gallery. His wife comes from the hospitality industry herself, having worked as Front of House and Bar Manager as well as at the former ici at Le Quartier Français, at Terence Conran’s Zinc restaurant in London, and at the now closed down Five Flies restaurant. Alisha will be able to flit between the restaurant and the gallery. The gallery also allows Chef Chris to create partnerships with certain artists.
For Bastille Chef Chris is planning more take-away style dishes, such as moules mariniere, before he opens the sit-down restaurant after this busy weekend. He wants Folliage to be known as a friendly and welcoming restaurant at which one can relax. Thank goodness Chef Chris accepted the invitation to open in this space, as the unthinkable alternative could have been an Ocean Basket!
Folliage restaurant, corner main road and Berg Street, Franschhoek. To open mid-July.
POSTSCRIPT 28/5: Chef Chris has changed his mind about the spelling of his new restaurant, and informed us today that he is dropping one ‘l’ to call it Foliage from now onwards.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage