Greg Landman savours fine dining in Stellenbosch. He reviews the Western Cape’s Delaire Graff Restaurant and Tokara.
Reviews by: Greg Landman
Delaire Graff Restaurant, Stellenbosch, 021 885 8160
My friend Beryl is an avid collector – of people she finds interesting, places to eat and drink, some art (when she can get it as the artist is “on the up”), and for many years now, pieces of jewellery, most given to her by the grateful men who have been part of her life. So it’s natural that she finds Laurence Graff, the international jeweller and owner of Delaire Graff Estate, of more than passing interest. An added bonus is that talented new chef Michael Deg is in full swing there at Delaire Graff Restaurant.
Perched halfway up Helshoogte Pass overlooking the valley that leads to Franschhoek, the setting for the restaurant is sans pareil. Visitors invariably gasp as they come out onto the terrace where the tables are set.
“Breathtaking, dear, as always,” said Madame, who, thank goodness, can never be accused of being blasé.
The menu changes seasonally and Michael’s food looks fabulous, but not to the point where you feel you can’t eat it for fear of disturbing the symmetry of the dish. Beryl ordered the pork belly starter (R115) which arrived looking like it was longing to be photographed – so she did – very embarrassing, this obsession with capturing the moment. It was served with a delicious, sweet, tangy sauce with sultanas, and a piece of pork sausage that had a delicate fried quail’s egg on it.
“So cute,” said Beryl as she wolfed it down. The breads, warm from the kitchen, with assorted butters and dips are worth the trip on their own. I had the chicken liver parfait (R110), deliciously rich, with poached Granny Smith apples and brioche.
Mains were the slow-cooked beef short rib, (R235) just about falling off the bone, served with oxtail ragout, parsnips, and herb mash, intense and filling, and the ale-battered, line-caught hake (R175) with triple-cooked chips and tartar sauce.We were too full for dessert, despite the tempting options of frozen peanut butter parfait (R85) or roasted white chocolate (R85). Instead we savoured the fabulous wines of the estate.
Tokara, Stellenbosch, 021 885 2550
We had stayed over with friends in Franschhoek so decided to have lunch at Tokara on the way back to town. It’s across the road from Delaire Graff so the feeling of déjà vu was lurking, especially after the amount of wine we had consumed the night before.
The big plus, as far as the setting goes, is that Tokara “faces the other way, dear. Like changing seats on a train,” Beryl pointed out.
The setting is equally sensational, with views all the way to Table Mountain on a clear day. The deck overlooks the Tokara vineyards which seem to hug the hillside in a congenial embrace. The other plus is that the wines of Miles Mossop, who makes them for Tokara, are “just sensational” according to Beryl, who has a soft spot for surfer Miles, though surfing these days is way beyond her. “I can still look – not blind, dear,” is her retort to any suggestion of this kind. Positively endearing.
The kitchen here is under the sure hand of Richard Carstens, an Eat Out Chef of the Year some years ago. He spent time in the Far East and Australia, and has gathered some important Asian techniques that are apparent in the gorgeous food he makes.
We started off with summer tomatoes and mousse with watermelon, goat’s milk cheese, sesame and a yuzu buttermilk reduction (R85). Enticing fresh aromas and a delight to look at on the plate. Beryl had the ponzu-glazed linefish with avocado, wasabi and sushi rice (R85), a delicious melange of flavours and textures. The mains were duck with polenta, radish salsa, pak choi and coconut tamarind sauce (R160), which was superb, and springbok with Parmesan potato mash, strawberries, yoghurt and a black pepper and hibiscus jus, very inventive. For dessert we chose the deliciously refreshing coconut panna cotta with coriander ice cream, cucumber, cashews and cucumber emulsion (R65).