The feeling never gets old; shutting down my laptop, hopping in the car and swopping the busy streets of Cape Town for a more relaxed, tranquil environment like the Stellenbosch winelands.
I arrive at Devon Valley’s latest restaurant addition, Café Blanc de Noir – situated on Brenaissance Wine Estate. The restaurant has only been open a few days and already the pace appears to be picking up. I’m scheduled to meet the owner, Hayley Breytenbach, for a chat about her and her husband’s new venture.
It’s a humid, hot day with temperatures soaring above the 30’s and a nasty bout of traffic on the N2 ensures that I’m dishonourably late. My angst soon subsides as I step into the black and white themed café. Greeting me are happy smiles, heady smells and the pleasant feeling of realising I’ve just uncovered a restaurant gem. Before I know it, I have a chilled glass of white wine in my hand. The Lady H Sauvignon Blanc. It’s fruity, fresh and lively and brings me right into the moment. I let out a heavy internal sigh. This is how Summer should be spent.
Hayley comes over to introduce herself and it doesn’t take long for me to see that her passion for the Brenaissance brand runs deep. After she and her husband, Tom, acquired the farm, the pair were married on the estate (which houses a wedding venue, five-star accommodation, and is home to a Boran cattle stud).
As I take in the surroundings – a combination of rustic chic and urban cool, Hayley explains that the café came about organically. “It was supposed to be a tasting room”, she says smiling, but after experiencing her fair share of those, the couple decided to be different and offer something that’s an expression of who they are and what they enjoy as individuals; a place that serves the kind of food and drink that they both relish, in a setting that’s relaxed yet aesthetically inspired.
“We aren’t trying to be anything that we’re not”, emphasizes Tom. I don’t need convincing, as it’s clear that the establishment already holds his and Hayley’s bold stamp. Personal touches come in the form of framed photographs on the walls – some of the couple during happy times, and others of the prized cattle stud. Another element that completes the mix is a developing art collection which is already taking shape at the cafe’s entrance where a large sculpture of a fist (inspired by the Brenaissance coat of arms), welcomes visitors.
After I’ve finished my glass of wine, Hayley brings me some homemade cordial to try. Rose geranium berry bliss and a lemon, lime and mint crush are the two options and I’m immediately struck by how refreshing and delicious they both are. “It’s the best thirst-quencher”, Hayley says. I cannot disagree. Especially when presented in old-school, sturdy glass bottles with cute straws.
My experience reaches a new level when I am asked what I’d like to eat, and even though the menu is focused and small (lunch includes 5 pizza options, 1 sandwich, 4 salads and a meze platter), choices are still difficult. Pizzas are their speciality and so I go for the Cajun Chicken – chorizo, red onion, mushrooms, mixed greens and chilli-infused olive oil (R75). There’s the option to have it “hole-some” – where the centre is removed and replaced with a fresh green salad. “Our pizzas have the thinnest bases you’ll see,” Hayley quips, “and we make them in a rectangular shape”. The slogan? We don’t cut corners. I just love the wit.
I later learn that there’s another thing that sets these crispy, cheesy flatbreads apart. They are served with no utensils. It takes a second or two for my mind to process this information and then I realise that this forms part of the Café Blanc de Noir experience. “We recommend that you pick up and eat the pizza with your left hand, and fold it like a calzone, leaving the right hand free to hold your wine glass”.
Why has no-one ever told me this???!!! Genius.
After giving the technique a go, I definitely get the feeling that I’ve been accepted into the Café Blanc de Noir ‘circle of trust’. Just as my buttons are about to pop, Hayley asks, “Now, how about some dessert?” I’m sure she has no idea that dessert is my absolute weakness, but she’s about to find out.
Today’s menu features homemade carrot cake, and being a fan…I don’t decline the offer. The cake, which comes from an old family recipe, is topped with a sweet and tangy cream cheese icing that clings to the cake fork, making it impossible not to lick off.
As if things at this point couldn’t get any better, a cup of freshly made Tribe coffee garnished with a small chocolate-filled wafer biscuit, makes its way to the table. I’m once again reminded of Hayley and Tom’s fervent attention to detail.
“It’s part of our personalities”, Hayley says. “There are no grey areas” (hense the name, Café Blanc de Noir).
For more information on Café Blanc de Noir, including the menu, prices, and trading hours head to the website. Otherwise Like the Brenaissance Facebook page for regular updates and follow them on Twitter @BrenaissanceSA
Disclaimer: My lunch at Cafe Blanc de Noir was complimentary but all views are my own.
Do you ever have those days when one thing seems to fluidly blend into the next, leaving you wondering what you actually did?
This happened to me on Saturday. I awoke just as the sun began to rise and got myself ready for a run along the promenade with Sierra. We met outside Café Neo and it was REALLY misty and foggy. I anticipated rain but thankfully it stayed away. It felt so good to be out getting some much-needed exercise.
And I say much-needed because I had a 10h30 reservation at Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch for an indulgent ice cream and wine pairing experience. This was followed by some wondering and eating at the Stellenbosch slow food market and shopping at Canal walk.
But let’s back-track… ice cream! Wine!
Now I’ll tell you straight out, I’ve always been a rather adventurous eater. I’ve done cheese and wine pairings, chocolate and wine pairings, nougat and wine pairings… but up until Saturday I’d never done an ice cream and wine pairing. I won’t lie when I say the idea itself had me feeling rather skeptical but I went with no expectations and an open mind.
I was pleasantly surprised.
The experience was well-worth it and I will definitely recommend it to my friends and relatives who are looking for “something different” to do in the winelands.
Here’s how the tasting works:
For R55 you get to taste 4 wines, each one paired with a different ice cream. We were served all the wines (as well as the ice creams) all at once which made it easy to compare the wines.
To kick off proceedings, we were invited to sample the preserved lemon and basil ice cream which was paired with the Clos Malverne 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. I thoroughly enjoyed the fruity, tropical notes that I picked up after eating the ice cream but I’m not sure if it was churned properly as it was “icy” in texture. This wasn’t the end of the world though because the presence of preserved lemon chunks was amazing, all mingled with specks of sweet basil. Overall a very refreshing pairing and I’d imagine it to be perfect as a small pre-dessert in a fine-dining degustation menu.
Next up was my favourite… and this I found to be strange as I normally don’t find Pinotage so enjoyable, especially if it’s deemed a “coffee” Pinotage. But, the Clos Malverne 2011 Le Cafe Pinotage paired with a pistachio and butternut ice cream was pure heaven. I was seriously in love with this ice cream and it really offset the coffee flavour in the wine so well. I got lots of cinnamon notes hitting my palate and I LOVE cinnamon so it was definitely right up my alley. I could have had an entire bowl of this ice cream. In fact, maybe one day I’ll go back and do just that!
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should explain the 3rd wine. It happened to be the estate’s flagship, a Cape blend called Auret. I still have vivid memories of the day I first tasted this wine, but that’s another story for another post. The Auret was served with a banana caramel pancake ice cream. What I loved most about this pairing was that the wine really did a great job at cutting through the incredible richness of the ice cream which also happened to be very very sweet. The tannins in the wine provided the same feeling you get when sipping sparkling water after eating chocolate; it immediately refreshes your palate a bit.
The last ice cream (and this, we found to be quite daring of the chef!), was a dark chocolate and chilli flavour. It paired with the Clos Malverne 2009 Pinotage Reserve. I must say it didn’t work for me. I enjoyed the ice cream and the little flecks of dark chocolate were a great touch but together with the wine, it fell short. (Perhaps it was the Pinotage repugnance in me? Maybe. Who knows?)
All in all I was highly impressed. My only criticism is that the ice creams are all served at once, which means that you have to rush your way through them before they all melt. And they do melt.
Next time I head out to Clos Malverne though, will be for their R178 4-course menu with wine pairing. (Nope, that ain’t no typo!) Such unbelievable value!!!!!
Click here to check out the menu.
You know those celebrity chef Q&A’s you always see where it says, “What can always be found in you fridge?”… Or “what ingredient could you not live without?”
They often lead me to think about what I would say if it were me being asked the questions. Hmmm…. I definitely always have hummus in the fridge. Always. And fresh fruit of some kind- which indelibly becomes part of breakfast every day.
There’s something else though, that’s sneakily crept into my breakfast territory lately. Chaloner Seville orange marmalade.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was given a jar a few weeks ago and since then have been enjoying it on crispy pecan rye toast. One of the the reasons I love it so much is that it’s not too sweet. It’s got a slight bitterness with hints of tangy tartness, mingled with natural fruit sugars of orange. The product, I discovered, is made right on my doorstep- in Stellenbosch. And like all things trendy these days, is made in a rather artisanal style, hand-crafted by the Chaloner family with no added preservatives or sugar .
Seville oranges are known for producing high quality fruit so of course that elevated my expectations from the moment my eyes met the label. It’s so good that I felt I needed to showcase it in a better way than just on toast. It was deserving of something better, if you know what I mean?
Having been Easter recently, I grabbed a few hot cross buns and whipped up a hot cross bun, marmalade bread and butter pudding. Sheesh, what a mouthful that was! (Excuse the pun).
I wouldn’t be lying if I said I actually ate it for breakfast. Pudding for breakfast? You bet!
Hot cross bun, marmalade, bread and butter pudding
4 hot cross buns- halved
bottle of Chaloner marmalade
1 ½ cups milk
2 Tbs sugar
5 ml vanilla essence
What to do:
Preheat oven to 180°C and grease and large oven-proof dish.
Smear a layer of the marmalade on the bottom of the baking dish.
Butter both sides of each bun and place firmly and snugly into the dish, ensuring that there are no open spaces. Smear another layer of marmalade on top of the buns.
Cream the eggs and sugar and stir in the milk and vanilla essence. Pour the custard over the buns until it covers them and
They begin to soak up the liquid.
Bake in the oven for 35-30mins until golden and brown.
I had lunch at The Table last Sunday…
Head over to FOOD24 to read my review.
To say that my weekend ended up being rather over-indulgent, is an understatement I think! It kicked off with Margarita’s and spicy deep-fried Mexican on Friday…followed by imbibing 12-year old bottles of Duval-Leroy (amongst others!) on Saturday at the Big Bottle Festival, after which a little Long Street jaunt ensued.
Sunday had me perched at a table at Jardine sipping on yet more wine and ingesting the gastronomic masterpieces that made their way out of George’s kitchen. I was with my friend, Greg, who used to work for George when he still had Jardine in Bree Street, so it was nice for him to check out his new spot in Stellenbosch!
Is this not picture perfect?!!
I just love love love the mountains in and around Stellenbosch. The sun was shining and the weather was warm so all the doors of the restaurant were open leading onto the stone patio that spilled out onto the lawn and dam below. If ever there was a perfect day of food and wine, then this was it.
We arrived a little late but it didn’t appear to be a problem. We were made to feel more than welcome by the maître de. George saw us from the pass so Greg got to chat to him a bit and catch up. (I believe it’s been a while since they’ve seen one another). I’m not going to go into too much detail about the food other than to say it was utterly fabulous.
My starter of Gruyere tart with caramelised onion and pickled baby beetroot was so tasty and it’s at a place like Jardine that one will pick up on small little details that just elevate the dish to another level. In my starter’s case it was definitely the rich but delicate puff pastry that was used; Flaky and crisp, giving the dish just the right texture to contrast the creamy goodness of the Gruyere filling. There was a garnish of apple puree which was just as sublime and added the acidity needed to cut through the richness. Everything was just so well balanced.
Mains were also brilliant but the piece de résistance was, for me, the chocolate dessert. (I knew from the moment I sat down and saw the menu that it would have to pass my lips. Like, Have to!!). Holy Yum! It was a Valrhona guanaja chocolate terrine with hazelnut ice-cream, and has to be by far the best chocolate dessert I’ve had (ok besides for the chocolate brownie at Cafe Roux but that has a firm place in my heart and always will!). What gave the dessert that extra “wow” factor, was the tiny sprinkling of cacao nibs that lightly blanketed the terrine. It was incredible (Big shout-out to my friend Ross who supplies them with the chocolate!)
The others at the table took “a trip to the cheese room” and returned with delicious-looking local cheeses and preserves. Glad I stuck to my chocolate though!! Greg opted for the honey and poppy-seed soufflé which came with a touch of crème anglaise and ice-cream, served devant vous (at the table) There is nothing more visually appealing than observing a freshly baked soufflé coming out of the kitchen. Even if you’ve made them countless times before (with and without success!), there is that small part of you inside that will always smile and go ‘aaaaaaahhh’ !
I could easily have stayed at Jordan the entire afternoon. Oh wait, I did!
After a round of coffees, and witnessing the sun quietly dip behind the trees, we felt it was probably time we gave the front-of-house staff their Sunday evening. I know only too well what it’s like having to deal with so-called “late stayers”.
So, it was with a satisfied and happy sigh that we made our way to the car. I wonder what next Sunday will bring, after all- I’ll be dining at The Foodbarn. I hope Franck has a chocolate dessert… over-indulgent? Spoiled brat snob? *meekly raises hand*… yip, that’s me.