Contemporary French food surely goes with French music, and the name of this restaurant reminds me of a French singer and lazy days in the countryside.
Set in the Lowveld overlooking avocado orchards, 10km out of Nelspruit on the road to Lydenburg, Zest combines an African setting with excellent French cuisine. Owner and chef, GT Lundie, has travelled the world working for Relais & Châteaux and Michelin-star restaurants, as well as top South African lodge Singita in the Kruger National Park. He then chose to live in the Lowveld and run his own restaurant, previously called Orange and now called Zest.
For a meat eater this place is heaven so I take my friend the carnivore with me. “We buy venison from local farmers and try not to freeze meat. I mature and home-smoke our own meats,” says GT as he bustles between kitchen and customers.
The menu changes weekly so it’s best to ask GT what is recommended. For starters I order a porcini mushroom risotto (R75)and my partner goes for roasted bone marrow with caramelised onions and Gorgonzola purée (R65). For mains, I choose harissa lamb shank (R145) while the carnivore orders the prime rib (R135). GT likes to do three different ways with one meat or serve three different cuts. The portions are generous and tasty and my wandering eye spies the duck on the table next to us and I have immediate envy.
“You’re only as good as your last plate,” announces GT. He strongly believes in consistency, which is why he has such loyal customers who return regularly to try new things. He likes to use local products as much as possible and is considering opening a small deli to sell some of his customers’ favourites, as well as other local produce.
Apart from being known for good meat, Zest has an extensive wine list with 146 wines to choose from. GT and Zest have won the Diners Club Diamond Award for five years in a row. It’s all so delicious and we have no space for the dessert, but know we will return. – Sue Adams