Christophe Dehosse is a passionate owner of his new Restaurant Christophe in the ‘Skuinshuis’ on Van Reyneveld Street in Stellenbosch, adding further weight to the prediction that Stellenbosch will soon wear the crown of the gourmet centre of South Africa His restaurant joins an illustrious collection of restaurants in this Winelands town, which includes Rust en Vrede, Overture, and Delaire Graff. The restaurant opened a month ago.
Dehosse first started cooking at Chamonix in Franschhoek, then was the chef at Au Jardin in the Vineyard Hotel, and moved to Joostenberg Deli nine years ago to join the Myburgh family he has married into, running a good value for money lunchtime restaurant there. While he was very low key at Joostenberg, JP Rossouw of Rossouws’ Restaurants awarded the restaurant his highest rating of 3 stars, awarded to such greats as Reubens, La Colombe, and Rust en Vrede. Le Quartier Francais did not even make his 3-star grade. Christophe speaks with a delightful French accent, and epitomises the French chef. What reflected his passion was that he spent more time with the patrons, after having done all the main courses, chatting at length at their tables, something rarely seen in restaurants these days. He even takes the bookings during the day. Chef Dane Newton of Allee Bleue also understands the art of connecting with his clients.
While his wife continues at Joostenberg, Christophe has set up in the building which also houses a coffee shop, and a decor shop. The transformation of the part of the building that he uses is almost unbelievable. It is a two-room restaurant, the entrance section having three tables and the other section almost three times in size, giving the restaurant the choice of where to seat the guests. Christophe proudly compliments interior designer Liesel Rossouw for the understated yet chic interior. The subtle green walls, tastefully decorated with beautiful works of art which can be bought, and shocking pink and orange chairs (with 5 colour variations) made from wine barrels especially made for the restaurant to give patrons a comfortable seat during the meal. The lamps are unusual too â€“ they are made from woven laminated ads, creating an unusual effect. A simple metal structure serves as the desk at the entrance â€“ slick and simply designed.
It having been a 42C day, and still hot at mid-30C in the evening, all patrons chose to sit outside. The tables were beautifully laid with white tablecloths, silverware, and glassware, and each table had a fresh rose on it. A lovely flower arrangement, in white and pink flowers, was the first statement the restaurant made on arrival. A single palm tree towers above the courtyard, and an almost wild bougainvilla hedge in shocking pink complements the pink and orange chairs.
Darren is the Manager, and he was very friendly in welcoming us, and patiently answered all the questions. He is from Birmingham, and last worked at Umami in Stellenbosch. He served all the tables.
The menu is very simply typed on a piece of paper, and looks unpretentious, and almost contradicts the lovely interior and special food served. It is short, offering four starter choices: quail salad (R 65), seafood salad (R 65), foie gras with Noble Late aspic (R130), and marinated vegetables and goat’s cheese (R 50). The foie gras was outstanding, and a surprise was the complimentary glass of Joostenberg Nobel Late Harvest, served well-chilled with it.
Five main courses were Cape Salmon (R 95), yellowtail (R 95), Bouillabaisse (R 110), beef fillet (R 135), and roast duck jambonette (R 110). The steak was pronounced to be excellent, while the duck was disappointing, probably due to a duck lover’s experience of ˜roasted’ being different to that served. The dessert choice costs R 45, and was apricot and almond tart, chocolate biscuit, and chilled fresh fruit soup, which would have been ideal for such a hot evening, but space did not allow it. A cheese selection is available at R 60. The fruit soup was a berry berry nice lunch the following day. The menu changes every two weeks.
The winelist is equally printed on white paper, and is unlikely to win a mention in the Diner’s Club winelist awards as far as presentation is concerned. It is very understated, yet offers a good selection of South African and even some French wines. A full page is devoted to sparkling wines, Graham Beck supplying the least and most expensive bottles, at R 150 – R 290. It can also be ordered by the glass, in a price range of R 22 – R 35. The Joostenberg wines appear in almost every category, as does a brand not commonly known, called MAN, named after three Myburgh ladies: Marie, Annette and Nicky. Jose Conde’s wines also feature on the wine list, as do Thelema (R 600 for Cabernet Sauvignon) , Klein Constantia, Kanonkop (Pinotage at R 480), Veenwouden (Merlot at R 420), Hartenberg (Shiraz at R 490), Hamilton Russell (Chardonnay at R 350), Paul Cluver, Simonsig and Villiera.
Restaurant Christophe, Skuinshuis side entrance, Van Reyneveld Street, between Nook Eatery and the synagogue, Stellenbosch, tel 021 886-8763. On the Stellenbosch Restaurant Route.
POSTSCRIPT 23/9: Restaurant Christophe has been named a Top 20 Eat Out Restaurant Awards finalist.
POSTSCRIPT 1/6: It was sad to receive the fillowing e-mail from Chef Christophe today, announcing the restaurant’s closure later this month: “It is with regret that I wish to inform you that due to insufficient trading in the last 18 months, I have made the decision to close down Restaurant Christophe as of the 25th of June 2011. I want to take the opportunity to thank long time and new clients as well as friends who have supported me in the last 18 months. I will again be based full time at Joostenberg from the beginning of August. Hope to see you there in the future.”
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com