With culinary competition always stiff in the Franschhoek Valley, a revamp and a change of chef has breathed new life into the venerable cellar restaurant at Haute Cabrière. Richard Holmes paid a visit…
With its glorious position on the Franschhoek Pass, Haute Cabrière’s restaurant has always seemed out of place; buried into the hillside with foreboding décor and views only into the wine cellar below.
And while the heart of the restaurant is still indoors, the addition of an informal lounge area and new windows into the tasting room have given it an altogether brighter feel. Heavy chandeliers and wooden furniture are out; crisp white linen and crystal chandeliers are in.
Crackling fireplaces still add cosiness to wintry winelands days, but the addition of terrace tables with panoramic Franschhoek vistas now make this one of the valley’s best al fresco spots for summer.
“I’m thrilled to be back in the valley,” says executive chef Ryan Shell (28), who cut his cooking teeth in the kitchens of Le Quartier Francaise. “There’s a wonderful camaraderie between chefs, and it feels like I have another family here!”
And keeping things local is key for Ryan, who says he plans to capitalise on valley produce wherever possible: “We’re doing our best to be a Franschhoek restaurant and use what we can from the area. We have wonderful salmon trout right here in the valley, berries come from down the road, and in early summer we get guys coming to the back door with baskets of freshly picked porcinis!”
With a healthy respect for the classics, Ryan isn’t shy to combine local produce and global influences to keep diners’ palates entertained, and his signature dish is a perfect example.
“It’s a beef wellington, but it’s slightly different,” explains Ryan. “We soy cure the fillet, and then roll it in shiitake duxelle. It’s then wrapped in a pancake and pastry, then baked until golden and served with wilted bok choi and grilled daikon.”
It tastes even more delicious than it sounds, and will certainly have me going back for more. And, at R125, offers good value for cooking this skilled; where delicate plating and restrained saucing ensures dishes don’t overwhelm the palate.
And it’s value that carries throughout the menu. Other standouts include an open lasagne of salmon trout (R110), and porcini-crusted wildebeest loin with a bitter chocolate jus (R145).
The à la carte menu will change with whatever fresh produce comes Ryan’s way, but also look out for the seven-course tasting menu.
“There the focus is as much on the wine as it is on the food,” says Ryan. “It’s all about the pairings, so you’re sitting down to drink the wines foremost, and then see which food goes well with them.”
Pierre Jourdan wines from the estate are paired with each dish, offering surprisingly good value for fine dining in Franschhoek.
Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant.
021 876 8500
First published in Food&Home