On the historic Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West camellias bloom in winter, roses in summer. All year-round chef Michael Cooke shines in the shade of the 300-year-old camphor trees. His tour menu is a sequence of superlative dishes orchestrated to enhance the award-winning Vergelegen wines and showcase the true essence of the property and its surrounds.
Michael is passionate about provenance. “Don’t look for a Canadian scallop when you can do more with a carrot or onion. Explore a product, use different techniques with a singular ingredient. The seasons are hard to follow, constantly fluctuating and unpredictable, so we follow the ingredients instead. In season you can taste the sun in the product, we need to hold the integrity of it and respect the ingredient. An ingredient needs to be true to its own flavour – an apple must be the most ‘apple-iest’ of apples”, says Michael.
Their ethos never changes, it’s about responsible, ethical sourcing and minimizing waste whilst maximizing the menu. Front-of-house and behind the scenes work seamlessly. His origin-based originality is obvious, plating shows provenance – like the estate chestnut with garden leaves and wild herbs served in a wooden bowl surrounded by dried leaves that have scattered on the lawn. A shining example of creating textural contrast is the smoked snoek and oyster – a creamy rendition of a classic served with oyster that has been cured, smoked, dehydrated and shaved over the dish, with crispy sago chips. Desserts will never disappoint, look out for the BBQ quince with yoghurt and ginger, a delicate blend in which every mouthful is memorable.
The menu may only mention three flavours of a dish, but know there will be plenty, and they will pop.
“This is a fun way to cook, it challenges us to show a lot of responsibility to products. Plating is about showing guests where ingredients come from.” Chef Michael Cooke
Address: Lourensford Road, Somerset West, Cape Town, 7130
Telephone: 021 847 2100