South African favourites – with a twist – at Spek & Bone

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WHEN it’s a special friend’s birthday, one should always plan a full day – and night – of eating, drinking, and merry-making experiences at multiple venues, and requiring numerous costume changes.

One of our stops on Diva’s Big Day Out was lunch at Spek & Bone, something we’ve been meaning to do for ages. It’s one of Bertus Basson’s restaurants and I love that I’ve known him since before any of them. The first time I met him, he was sporting a fine Mohican and babbling excitedly about micro herbs, which were a new thing at the time. I thought he was wonderful.

Fast forward however many years, and we have a chef who has multiple restaurants and awards, and still as crazy and enthusiastic about food.

It was a hot – as in 40 degrees – day with little respite in the shady outdoor courtyard; inside the restaurant was about the same so we accepted our fate while sucking down flutes of Le Lude Cap Classique and perusing the menu. “Wine Bites” are available all day and a bowl of spice-dusted crackling and maple- and bourbon-basted bacon with peri-peri mayo was a must to begin. They had me at bacon.

The concept is small plates to share, with the focus on contemporary style with a nod to South African heritage. The portions are bigger than Spanish-style tapas, and while it’s great to order a selection for variety, one on its own could easily be a light meal for a single person. The dishes are seasonal so chances are they will have already changed – such as the Genesis heirloom tomatoes, which are only available for a very short time. If you’ve missed them this summer, I’m sorry (not sorry) to say they were fantastic. Served with Gay’s Guernsey mozzarella, balsamic onions, Huguenot croutons, and basil mousse, they were a winner. The plate looked stunning and these tomatoes could convince even the most hardened carnivore to consider vegetarianism.

We also had tempura pumpkin leaves and blossoms with smoked aubergine dip, and raw yuzu-dressed yellowtail – another super summery dish – with avo, radish, mint, spring onion, coriander, sesame seeds and fennel flowers.

Spek & Bone doubles as a wine bar and as such, has a massive list of sparklies, whites, reds, and sweet and stickies. For the serious wine drinker, each is noted with the name of its maker and its region. Our waiter, Georg-e, whose smiled gleamed with a golden tooth, recommended the Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc (2016). The “carafe” is a laboratory flask, which is rather clever; not only does it show the measurement but it looks sexy. I quite fancy a large one to use as a red wine decanter at home; its shape is designed for swirling.

And so we come to dessert. Given the heat – not that we needed an excuse – we had the peppermint crisp king cones. Oh. My. Word. Ice cream, whipped cream, caramel, popcorn…there was some discussion about whether to share or not, and whether we needed spoons. Please. Just shove the whole thing in your face.
Spek & Bone is at 84 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch. It’s open for lunch and dinner Mondays to Saturday. For more information, click here or call 082 569 8958, email [email protected]

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