Casual-style eatery Protégé is the newcomer to watch this summer

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PROTÉGÉ (noun), a person who is guided and supported by an older and more experienced or influential person…that person being award-winning chef Scot Kirton, and Protégé being the newest restaurant in the La Colombe bouquet, with Stephen Raaff heading the kitchen team.

It opened last weekend and we couldn’t wait to get out to beautiful Franschhoek to check it out. Stephen has been with the group since 2013 and Scot says he couldn’t be prouder: “He has given me so much over the years and now it’s time for me to help him achieve his dreams.”

Protégé is casual, easy and comfortable; and prices are affordable  – particularly so for incredibly creative and beautiful dishes that would not be out of place in a upper level fine dining establishment.

The cured trout

The concept is small plates for sharing (not compulsory of course, and you may not want to allow anyone else to stick their fork or paws into your delicious food) which can be ordered individually as you please. Alternatively, put yourself in Stephen’s capable hands and let him decide on eight plates for R475 a person. Protégé also serves breakfast, nibbly snacks, cocktails, MCC by the glass and beer on tap so it’s an all-day any-time destination.

The space is light and bright and airy, opening up to a lovely shady courtyard at the back which is just perfect for the season, as well as tables in front overlooking the main road through the village. Rabbits are everywhere (sculptures, cannot confirm nor deny real ones), and the menu is in the form of a mini newspaper (complete with a comic strip) with the large wine selection filling the centrefold, so there are some nice stories to read too. We handed all the decision-making over to the kitchen and they did not disappoint.

The squid three ways with chorizo

We had edamame beans with sriracha and sesame oil; gorgeous cured trout with horseradish, hazelnuts, endive, verbena, apple and roe; spiced squid done three ways with chorizo (made on the premises), guacamole, cucumber and lime; Korean-style sticky-sweet fried chicken drumstick lollipops with coriander dipping mousse; tuna tataki and tartare scooped into the mouth with a strip of pork crackling; and Kerala-style fried line fish (kingklip) full of delicately balanced flavours. Stephen himself came out to explain the dishes, which he says he likes to do whenever possible.

Our wines were excellent – first the bubbles of course (birthday month and all that), then Mullineaux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc, followed by Fable Mountain Jackal Bird, a multiple-blend white. To finish, Mizz Biondi was served the panna cotta with meringue straws and compressed strawberries (among lots of other elements but it was the compressed strawberries that did it for her), while I had a cheese platter which I said I’d never be able to manage and then promptly ate almost all of it.

Highly recommended, book immediately.

The tuna tataki & tartare

Protégé is at Leeu Collection’s Le Quartier Français boutique hotel, where guests’ breakfasts are included. For more information, call 021 224 0801 or click here.

PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©

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