On Saturday I tried some new dishes which have been introduced to the menu at Haute Cabriere, reflecting the creativity of the Chef partnership of Nic van Wyk and Westley Muller with the winery, which began on 1 November. I was invited by Manley Communications. The new Summer Menu of the restaurant commences today.
I lunched with Roxy Laker, partner of Chef Nic, and she explained that Chef Nic had initially been invited to evaluate the menu on a consulting basis. The management of Haute Cabriere liked his suggestions so much, that it invited Chef Nic and his partner Chef Westley in this venture to run the kitchen at the restaurant, given that Chef Desmond Strydom had moved to Backsberg. Roxy told me that they need to do some kitchen training to build confidence. Chef Westley will be the Head Chef, spending 90% of his time at the restaurant. Chef Nic will spend one or two days per week there, the rest of Chef Nic’s time going to his Bistro 13. Roxy praised Sous Chef Claire Blinkhorn Street, for her dedication and maturity in looking after the kitchen, and for being friendly and easy to work with.
I arrived early, and was trying to delete photographs on my phone to make space for more to take, when Tamo von Arnim parked next to me. We had not seen each other in more than a year, and he shared that he has recently returned from Portugal, having done the Portuguese section of the Camino. We did a very quick catch up, and while walking to the restaurant we bumped into his brother and Haute Cabriere winemaker Takuan von Arnim, looking smartly dressed in a blue corduroy jacket with a pocket handkerchief. He told me that Graham Beck winemaker Pierre de Klerk and his new wife Julie were lunching inside the restaurant, so I went to say hello.
Roxy told me that Bistro 13 will open a new food offering in conjunction with Stellenbosch Vineyards at the lapa at the dam, with a stationary yellow bus. It will be a casual restaurant, offering craft beer, pizza, burgers, roasts, waffles, and wine infusions. Further yellow buses are likely, to drive to events. It is planned to open on 24 November.
Roxy and I chose to sit outside, enjoying the beautiful view overlooking a section of the Franschhoek valley. We were offered a glass of Pierre Jourdan Belle Rose sparkling wine.
Takuan joined us at our table for a while, and told us that after a ten year battle the Stellenbosch Municipality has finally allowed them to put chairs and tables outside the Tasting Room and Restaurant, having feared in the past that it would be a danger if the attention of drivers would be diverted from the road. Umbrellas protect the patrons sitting outside from the heat and wind. We could not have wished for better weather on Saturday. Roxy praised Haute Cabriere MD Riaan van Niekerk for being open to change. Next year they want to improve the lighting inside the restaurant, enlarging the size of the windows, and adding more overhead lights. Takuan said that they want their patrons to see that there is always something new at Haute Cabriere.
After many years of resisting, Takuan told us that they have decided to add other Franschhoek wines to their winelist, saying that many of the local winemakers are his friends. He used the analogy of a diamond to explain that his parents have handed him the Haute Cabriere ‘diamond’ to further cut and polish. They specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and these are the top varietals, he said. He also proudly shared that his wife Christiane, previously handling marketing for the winery, and then having moved to work at wine distributors Meridian, is now GM of Boekenhoutskloof. Takuan is exited about the new partnership with Chefs Nic and Westley, in taking food to a new level at Haute Cabriere. They have a ‘serious kitchen‘ now, he said.
A platter of baguette, with butter topped with smoked Maldon salt, and aioli was brought to our table.
Restaurant Manager Thobeka Mfazwe came to our table regularly, checking on our well-being. Roxy and I ordered dishes to share, choosing the new dishes on the menu especially. She did most of the photographs, as I was struggling with the capacity of my cellphone. Deleting photographs over lunch, I was able to do the dessert photographs. Roxy allowed me to use her starter and main course photographs.
We started with three starters, each of them being beautiful in colour. The Beetroot cured trout was a bold red, and was served with horseradish crème fraîche, salmon roe, and a baby mustard leaf salad (R85).
The Tomato and Buffalo mozzarella salad, was served with multi-colored fresh and confit cherry tomatoes, basil, mint, and tomato water. It was called Caprese salad on the menu previously, but has now been deconstructed, foam added, and renamed (R90). It had the most amazing vinaigrette, so much so that I requested a spoon to finish every last drop.
Lamb cannelloni with herbed labneh, tomato paste and cumin vinaigrette, peas, and crispy pasta topping (R90) is an unusual starter dish, but colourful with the strong red sauce.
Roxy and I shared the large portion of grilled hake, the linefish of the day, served hot, with lukewarm vinaigrette potato salad, artichoke, and sauce Vierge, made with olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped tomato and basil (R155).
The desserts were a highlight, and we tried the beautifully presented chocolate nut bar, with a cocoa butter base, which was accompanied by peanut butter and caramel ice cream, and topped with moreish caramel popcorn and pansies (R75). The popcorn was so moreish that Roxy organised some more of it while we were waiting for the pistachio soufflé, which was served with rose water ice cream (R70). The soufflé was light and fluffy, and the green tinge added to its uniqueness. It takes 20 minutes to prepare, the menu warns. The pistachio and rose water combination is an interesting one.
A lighter roast coffee is now supplied by Bean in Love in Paarl, and my dry cappuccino was a double strength one, served in new red coffee cups.
Chef Westley visited our table twice, and we talked about the good news of his and wife Chef Carmen’s baby being due in February.
The influence of Chefs Nic and Westley on the restaurant after only twelve days was evident, with exciting new additions to the Haute Cabriere menu, the new winelist being planned, and the changes to the restaurant building planned for 2017. The restaurant offers platters of charcuterie and cheese for the wine tasting guests.
Haute Cabriére, Franschhoek Pass, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-3688. www.cabriere.co.za Twitter: @HauteCabriere Instagram: @hautecabriere Tuesday – Saturday Lunch and Dinner; Sunday Lunch.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein