AFTER being closed for a month or so for a soft room refurb and the major installation of a new restaurant, Grande Roche in Paarl reopened this week. We attended a very spirited media lunch on Wednesday, when we got a first look at Viande where Pete Goffe-Wood is the chef patron.
The 90-seater restaurant occupies what used to be the hotel’s reception area. There’s a bar area at the back, fireplaces for winter, and the terrace in front for when summer rolls around, when a tapas menu will be introduced. “It’s the first time in 30 years the restaurant has been owned by locals,” said Pete. Those locals, Hansie and Theresa Britz, who have a wine farm in Paarl, made the decision to open the hotel’s dining options to everyone, not only hotel guests as before.
“We wanted to get rid of the stuffiness and fine dining and gloves and silver trays and worrying that someone will shout at you for picking up the wrong fork,” continued Pete. “We also wanted to make sure we were still cognisant of being in a historic building, so the chandeliers and the grandeur remains. We’ve given it a new lease on life, and made it a bit more modern and bit more approachable. We’ve done that with the food as well.”
The lunch featured elements from the menu, which Pete described as “meat-focused” and frankly, I’d expect nothing less from the man. Viande is the French word for meat so it’s right there in the name. “Here it’s very much contemporary nose to tail – curing, smoking, lambs tails, brains and cheeks… but there are vegetarians in this world,” he conceded, so there will be something for them too.
Pete’s desire is that you’ll come to the restaurant and have a noisy, fun time. “You don’t have to speak in hushed tones, come and enjoy yourself, bang glasses on the table,” he urged. I don’t know if he had second thoughts later when some of us showed no signs of leaving, and Elize (Mrs Pete) was taking photographs of us with Pete’s cleavers. Wine and sharp knives – what could possibly go wrong?
Along with the revamp of the decor and food, the wine list has been adjusted to represent the region with about 80% of the wines coming from Paarl. “We want to reflect what is grown here, and that extends to produce and vegetables as well,” said Pete, who is responsible for Grande Roche’s full F&B offerings, from room service to banqueting.
Our meal began with Laborie bubbly (from just down the road) and canapés (sweet and sour pork for the win). Lady Marmalade cocktails with bourbon, Caperitif and orange marmalade were also served. When we sat down at our table, the drink changed to Under Oaks Three Twenty 2015, a Grenache Blanc/Viognier?Roussanne blend from Hansie and Theresa’s farm. The woodiness of the wine beautifully complemented the smoked line fish with fennel and citrus salad and tarragon cream (below).
The second course was gnocchi with fabulously rich veal sweetbreads, mushrooms and house cured bacon; a clever way to serve the sweetbreads, in a little between-courses dish, because any more would be too much. The white wine stayed on for this but once the red – Under Oaks Just B 2015 (which I think I shall claim for myself as being named after me), a Cab Sav/Merlot/Petit Verdot blend – was poured, well that was it for me. Flip, it is delicious. So much so I refused to relinquish my glass when it was time to go, which is how I ended up drinking all the way back to Cape Town. In the bus, people. Don’t drink and drive. You might spill, or worse.
For main course, Pete made us lamb ribeye with a side dish of baked aubergine with tomatoes and cream. The meat was great, but those aubergines were something else. I was glad Elize didn’t want hers because I scored double. The final course was Viande Ice Cream Sundae, which hardly begins to describe the chocolatey yumminess in that bowl. It was served with an Espresso Martini, because why not.
Pete and Elize wanted noisy and vibey, and that’s exactly what they got.
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PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©