CELEBRATING IN THE CONSTANTIA VALLEY
The season of promise is a good time to celebrate longer, warmer days and the exciting fresh produce that makes its appearance, plus a birthday and literary success.
When asked to choose the venue for a friend’s milestone birthday lunch, I felt under enormous pressure to make the right decision. Beyond, on the Buitenverwachting estate in Constantia, is exceptional in every way. The sweeping vineyard view, friendly ambience, stellar service, and of course legendary chef Peter Tempelhoff’s innovative cuisine. Simple yet stunning, unintimidating yet complex, it’s all about the ingredients…and it makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it.
There is a wonderful, good-value special on until 30 Sept for three, four or the chef’s surprise menu of six courses. Whilst we debated the choices on the tempting menu and expansive wine list, we nibbled on the bread with smoked sweet corn butter, chives and crispy onion. Uber-delicious, as were the fried long-stem Boland artichokes with hollandaise and local Winter truffles. I discreetly managed to make more than my portion of that disappear…and then the chef’s appetizer of thinly-sliced warthog arrived…oh my word…
I struggled to make my choice of dishes as all sounded so appealing. My hemp dukkah-spiced tuna with Japanese sticky rice, grilled aubergine, mint emulsion and paprika romesco to start, sublime, proved to be the optimum choice. The vine-smoked duck and liver parfait with solera wine pickled mushrooms, seared hanepoot raisins, white miso rice and truffle vinaigrette received resounding reports from the table.
I never order risotto as a main course, finding it quite filling (and often stodgy), but Pete’s young artichoke risotto with baby asparagus, crispy confit garlic and spring herb gremolata was exceptional, with mascarpone instead of cream, making it so much lighter. Beyond delicious.
Chocolate and passion fruit petit fours with coffees sated my sweet tooth. I know that the delectable-looking dark chocolate and hazelnut tart with cacao nib bavarois and mandarin curd ice cream gives me one of many reasons to return.
The birthday boy described his lunch in one word. Outstanding. I stretched to two words – beyond exceptional. I went to sleep that night dreaming of artichokes, warthog and risotto!
The Steenberg Estate always beckons, but it is usually to Bistro Sixteen82 and the tasting room that I usually head. This time I lunched at Tryn, to celebrate my friend Annelee’s recent book launch. Named after Steenberg’s 17th century founder, Catharina Ras, known as Tryn. A crisp Spring day, we chose to sit outdoors and enjoy the beautiful setting, over the stylish indoors option. Executive chef Kerry Kilpin has always wowed me with her bistro food, uncomplicated yet carefully thought out, her Asian and Middle Eastern flavours always harmonious with local produce. Here too is a three-course Winter special that includes an amuse bouche and signature chocolate truffles at the end. The menu is divided into the approach, sojourn, trimmings and sweet merriment.
Refined and relaxed
After toasting literary success with a glass of Steenberg’s rosé, Annelee chose the oysters, undecided about which option, Kerry suggested she try two of each – with shallot vinaigrette and lime and ponzu granite. They were declared equally delicious. I vacillated between the two prawn options, so Kerry chose the pan-fried version with cauli puree, peas, potato and nori crunch on a creamy parsley veloute. Loved it. Knowing what a passionate ABALOBI supporter Kerry is, and her talent with fish, I was delighted by her Cape bream with black rice, sesame, lemongrass vinaigrette, spinach and peanut salsa. Annelee’s sojourn was the broccoli and caramelized onion risotto. Thumbs up for that too. We shared two desserts, the warm dark chocolate sphere with vanilla mousse, caramel sauce and peanut praline (delectable) and the lighter almond and lemon frangipane with white chocolate cremeaux, matcha ice cream and candied zest. The choc truffles were presented on a plate with ‘congratulations’ piped in chocolate for my favourite author – what a lovely, personal touch and high note on which to end our sojourn at Steenberg.
First Lady of the Springboks is in store – an appetizing read if you love rugby!
If you missed my interview on FMR Fine Food with chef Tracy Gaag, owner of Four&Twenty, listen to the podcast www.gourmetguide.co.za/fmrfinefood. She shares her tips on how to perfect the egg part of their legendary Eggs Benny. Lunch at the second Four&Twenty, on the Constantia Uitsig estate, only two days after opening, was a delicious affair. Their expansive view and outdoor setting is sure to lure some of the regulars from the Chelsea site for a look-see. A fireplace indoors will be a win in Winter. The same exemplary standards, friendly service and a small deli are sure to lure newbies too. Like my children, I love both, equally, but differently. See for yourself.