THIS week we were at the restaurant at Delaire Graff. Sitting next to Mr Ian Manley of Manley Communications, I displayed incredible journalistic skills by turning to him and asking: “Why are we here?”
It wasn’t an existential crisis; allow me to rephrase: for the record, what was the occasion? Because one always accepts an invitation to a Manley Communications event and explains it later.
It was twofold – the 10th anniversary of Delaire Graff Restaurant, and the installation of Kevin Grobler as head chef, who joins an illustrious line of exceptional chefs who have gone here before him. Already well versed in showcasing the finest South African hospitality to a global audience, Grobler says he is excited to be back on home ground with his family after three years as head chef of the Michelin-starred JAN Restaurant in Nice, France.
Delaire Graff is everything. It has wonderful wines, incredible food, views to die for, magnificent art everywhere you look, even diamonds. Yes, really. It’s been a proper chilly wintry week, but this didn’t detract from any of the aforementioned. Inside, it was warm and cosy, buzzing with conviviality. Grobler told us, in recognition of cellar master Morne Vrey’s 10-year journey developing the brand, he’d used the wine paired with each dish, in the dish itself, which enhanced all the complementary flavour profiles and elevated each mouthful.
“I started with the tasting notes for each of the wines, then worked backwards to come up with the dishes, brainstorming each step with my team,” he explains. “This is not a one-man show,” he stresses. “Everybody works hard, collaboration is crucial, and recognition is freely given to those in the kitchen who deserve it.”
First up was rosé cured salmon gravlax, with cold smoked tomato broth poured at the table, tomato chutney, lemon gel and crispy salmon skin. It was served with the Delaire Graff Cabernet Franc Rosé 2019, a cheeky young wine…kidding, I’ve just always wanted to drop that in somewhere. Seriously, it’s really lovely for something that’s been in the bottle for mere weeks. We can definitely revisit that in summer.
The intermediate course used the Banghoek Reserve Chardonnay 2018 with vibrant pea mousse, marinated fresh peas, black olive crumble, fermented garlic emulsion, and bocconcini. Main course was braised beef short rib (which had been pulled off the bone and reshaped on the plate and didn’t need a knife and was melt-in-the-mouth delicious) with Jerusalem artichoke purée, charred onions, braised mustard seeds, poached baby leeks and onion chips. The wine was the flagship Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2017, perfect for a red wine sandwich. For those who do not know, a red wine sandwich is a glass of red wine between two more glasses of red wine.
To finish was dark chocolate cake, roasted guavas, guava and port gel, Dulcey foam, Dulcey crémeux, coconib tuille and the Delaire Graff Cape Vintage 2016. All fabulous together but that crispy light chocolatey tuille though…I asked for more and received.
Whether you go right now and snuggle up in the warm interior, or wait for a sunny day when you can sit outside on the expansive terrace with its amazing views from the summit of the Helshoogte Pass, you are assured of a memorable meal. Contact details below.
Born and educated in Bloemfontein, Grobler worked under some of the finest chefs in the Cape at the likes of Terroir, Cavalli and Delaire Graff Restaurant, before expanding his horizons and heading to Europe. Grobler has come full circle by returning to Delaire Graff Estate, having earned his stripes under previous head chefs Christiaan Campbell and Michael Deg, who remain his highly respected mentors.
In the glass-fronted kitchen, where a collection of French copper pots and pans glimmer above the well-lit pass, Grobler is in charge of a brigade totalling 44, each clearly inspired and energised by the 32-year old. Grobler’s fervour for sustainability and ethically sourced ingredients is matched only by his overflowing passion for each perfectly assembled, delicious plate that leaves his kitchen.
Creating sustainable cuisine begins with sourcing ethical, natural ingredients, using as much of the product as possible in a variety of ways, and making elements from scratch. Grobler’s modern bistro cuisine is inspired and informed by the freshest seasonal and organic produce, sourced from Delaire Graff Estate’s extensive edible gardens. For added ingredients, the kitchen works with a network of small-scale local farmers, each hand picked for their sustainable, ethical practices. The fish on the menu is all line caught and SASSI green listed. “Our food is very local, earthy and real. It’s about allowing the purity of flavour, local provenance and sheer beauty of the ingredients to shine,” says Grobler.
Following a nose-to-tail, root-to-leaf philosophy to reduce waste is something which Grobler feels strongly about. “Today, we may use sirloin, tomorrow it may be rib eye … It’s about using the entire animal and seeing value in every cut, not just the cuts that have been traditionally prized such as fillet,” explains Grobler.
Sustainability extends to dealing responsibly with food waste and recycling. Eradicating single-use plastic in the kitchen of Delaire Graff Restaurant is one of Grobler’s goals. Daily deliveries of fresh, organic produce now arrive in large, open crates rather than plastic wrappings and organic waste is utilised in the estate wormery. Relying more on the bountiful supply from the gardens is a key focus, with improved crop rotation achieving better yields.
Constantly evolving as the seasons shift, the sustainably-focused à la carte lunch and dinner menus, as well as a new nine-course tasting menu in the evenings, are complemented by an extensive wine list that champions the estate’s own labels.
Delaire Graff Restaurant is open for lunch daily from 12pm till 2.15pm and for dinner from Wednesdays to Saturdays from 6.30pm till pm. To book a table online, click here; or call +27 21 885 8160 or email [email protected]
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©