THIS week, Diva aka Allison Foat and I were treated to something very special: lunch at The Restaurant at Cavalli wine estate and stud farm in Somerset West.
The stables have a firm no entry sign but it appears the horses enjoy just as luxurious accommodation as guests visiting the restaurant, wine tasting room, and art gallery. Without a doubt a destination brand, Cavalli is a symphony of modern architecture and design, glorious art, award-winning wines, and memorable food combined with sophisticated service and impeccable attention to detail.
For example, when we arrived and began looking around for somewhere to place our handbags, small side tables were magically produced purely for this purpose. When Diva stepped away from the table just after our main courses were served, our waiter Kazz Ncube appeared with a cloche to keep her food warm.
The restaurant is light and spacious, with an outside deck overlooking a dam and the general Helderberg/Stellenbosch/Somerset West scenery. Being winter, we took a table inside next to the fireplace. Chef Calum Anderson has created an “Everyday Gourmet” menu which celebrates “real food that nourishes and excites. Putting a contemporary spin on classic dishes, foodies can expect rich aromas thanks to dishes such as the forest mushroom soup delicately poured from copper pots onto a bed of carrot croutons, porcini chantilly and caraway carrots.”
This is not an oversell; Diva ordered the above mentioned soup and said it was “the finest mushroom soup” of her life. “Puréed to perfection and full of fresh mushroom flavour,” she added.
This was after we began with flutes of Charles Fox 2012 Vintage Brut Rosé, and a platter of tiny breads and mini croissants with paprika and herb butters, and a sprinkling of raspberry salt. My starter was cured sea bass wrapped in pickled radish, with wasabi ago, compressed cucumber, sea lettuce and yuzu gel. Sommelier Farai Magwada paired our starters with Cavalli’s 2015 Cremello Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Verdelho blend (Best White Blend at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show and double platinum winner in the 2017 National Wine Challenge); and the estate’s 2016 Vendetta Viognier/Verdelho blend.
For main course, I chose the cardamom grass-fed sirloin with prune beetroot purée, smoked mash, fermented blueberries and beef tallow. Farai paired this with the newly released (and limited) Colt Cabernet Sauvignon 21015 which already heavenly and will only get better with time. Ten cases were sold in four days from the tasting room, the only place it’s available; it’s not even on the website. Surprisingly affordable at R175 a bottle, I recommend you do as we did and get some while you’re there.
Diva stuck resolutely to her vegetarian guns with the butternut fondant with ginger gremolata, courgette, roasted garlic croquettes and soya dressing. The recommended wine was the Valkyrie (half and half Malbec and Petit Verdot).
We’d ordered our desserts at the beginning of the meal but by this point Diva wasn’t sure if she could manage it. I insisted she push through with the matcha crème brûlée. Wheat and dairy free, it’s made with chia coconut and served with kiwi fruit jelly, coconut-sorbet, and mochi (Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice).
Mine was the winner, however, satisfying the savoury palate instead of the sweet: Gorgonzola mousse sandwiched between crisp lemon thyme lavosh with Boerenkaas fritters, onion marmalade and spiced avocado purée. No doubt this fruit comes from the heavily laden trees just outside which border the immaculate herb garden.
After this lengthy lunch we went downstairs to have a look at the art gallery, currently hosting Justin Dingwall’s fascinating exhibition entitled Albus, and to buy some wine from the luxurious tasting room.
All in all, a highly recommended experience.
The first Green-star rated restaurant in the country by the Green Building Council of South Africa, The Restaurant at Cavalli’s winter special – 15% off a three-course meal plus 20% off all wines and cocktails valid from Wednesdays to Fridays for lunch and dinner – makes “Everyday Gourmet” a real possibility. The Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Wednesdays to Saturdays, and lunch only on Sundays.
Restaurant bookings: 021 855 3218 (9am – 5pm)
Address: Strand Road (R44), Somerset West
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN