Greg Landman savours summer fare in the Cape Winelands. Here he reviews Cosecha and Blacksmith’s Kitchen in Paarl…
Beryl likes to keep her finger so firmly on the pulse of all things culinary that you would think she might draw blood, which on occasion she has done. She’s always on the lookout for something different, saying with an air of ennui cultivated over decades, “They’re all the same dear, and I am so done with Cape comfort food I could scream.” When she was told by her bridge friends about Cosecha on the Noble Hill wine estate, which serves excellent Mexican food, she said, “Get out the Benz dear, we are going south of the border.”
The setting is delightful; a terrace overlooking rolling lawn down to a small lake ringed by trees. The name Cosecha means harvest in Spanish and there is an emphasis on ingredients as fresh as they can be. The guacamole (R68 for two generous portions) is made at the table in a large pestle with portion size and spiciness determined by you and your guests. Served with warm tortilla crisps, it’s superb and we had to resist the temptation to overdo things. Empanadas (baby pies) are filled with chorizo, Manchego (cheese) and leek, or black beans and feta, and are served two in a portion.
Other starters include bacon-wrapped Medjool dates, chipotle meatballs, Serrano ham-wrapped tiger prawns and, of course, gazpacho, at prices from R50 to R72. The word ‘tapas’ is not to be seen anywhere but that’s the general idea. We ordered them all and dug in with gusto.
There was still room for mains, so Beryl ordered Calamares a la Plancha (R95) – grilled calamari with sweet potato cakes. I had the Beef Enchiladas (R110) – shredded fillet, potatoes, onions, borracho beans (made with beer) and rice in home-made tortillas. It was a generous dish, delicious and satisfying.
The excellent wines of Noble Hill are available at cellar prices at the table and there is a beguiling sangria made with Sauvignon Blanc, fresh fruit and Cointreau at R105 a pitcher, that Beryl said they should bottle. A great range of tequilas is just the way to finish up, but you’ll need a designated driver if you go that route – which we did.
Blacksmith’s Kitchen, Paarl
The next day was one of those Paarl days when the heat shimmers and hangs over everything with relentless tenacity. We needed shade badly and found it, with a local friend, at the Blacksmith’s Kitchen where we sat wearing the largest sunglasses we could find, sipping a couple of glasses of Graham Beck bubbly, “ just to cool down dear,” Beryl pointed out. The terrace is shaded by enormous old trees and a slight breeze was just enough to help things along.
The Retief family have lived on Pearl Mountain wine farm for five generations, and their wines – and others – are served in the restaurant in the old blacksmith cottages dating back to 1747, on the slopes of Paarl Mountain. In recent years they were used as a workshop and tractor shed and traces of their previous life still exist, adding immeasurably to the character of the place. In the corner is a large pizza oven that plays a big part in the Mediterranean-inspired cooking.
We started with a generous antipasto board (R168) with lamb koftas, marinated calamari, mushroom risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella, cauliflower fritters with mint yoghurt, fried Camembert and cranberry sauce, hummus and black olive tapenade with pizza crisps. There are other versions of this in much-scaled-down sizes, but we were ravenous. Small plates of melanzane, peri-peri chicken livers, bobotie balls with home-made tomato salsa, or tempura whitebait with wasabi mayo (around R45) are also a great way to start.
This would not be a successful country restaurant without great meat dishes like fillet, rump, ribs and venison shank, all served with suitable starchy sides of fries, mash and so on (R124 to R165).We, however, went straight for the superb thin-crust pizzas with toppings such as Camembert, bacon, prosciutto and salami. Beryl was particularly taken with the one called Miss Piggy with pulled pork, caramelised onion and feta (R96).
We finished off with a baked cheesecake with Oreo cookie crust and berry sauce (R42) and an ice-cold Blacksmith’s shake with Oreo and peanut butter and went home feeling like spoilt kids.
Read more restaurant reviews here…