Tag Archives: restaurants

Mushroom Goats Cheese Ravioli, Butternut Sauce, Confit Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, Basil

9 Apr

This recipe is inspired by a couple of dishes we tried at Reuben’s restaurants in Franschhoek and Robertson. For those of you that don’t know, Reuben Riffel is the Chef Patron of the, now very successful chain of Reuben’s restaurants in South Africa. The first restaurant opened in Franschhoek seven or eight years ago and put the town well and truly on the map as a culinary destination. Reuben’s food is all about flavour and freshness of ingredients and has a definite world influence. His consistency has kept this popular award-winning restaurant at the top of the ever-increasing number of fine-dining establishments in the town. Which is why, I presume they decided to open another one.

Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel is an oasis of calm, serenity and cool styling. I had to physically restrain myself from diving (dream on) into the pool that lies adjacent to the suites as we arrived at the restaurant. Our table overlooked the pool area but luckily the menu was enough to take my mind off of that view.

The menu is typically Reuben. For starters we chose the water, summer & sweet melon salad with poppy-seed dressing, light & refreshing. The marinated mixed tomato, artichoke salad, olive caramel, deep-fried boconccini, pesto, tomato chutney. The deep-fried boconccini mozzarella balls were beautiful (must try at home soon) and came with the best tomatoes I’ve had for a long time. The Washer Up had the double baked gruyere souffle, waldorf salad, raisin puree, vanilla citrus vinaigrette. The souffle was light and flavourful, excellent with the sweet raisin puree which I recreated to go with this tart.

The main courses that lead me to this recipe came from both restaurants. Goat’s cheese ravioli, yellow pepper essence, pine nuts, confit tomato, spinach and olives from The Robertson and Butternut Ravioli, melting goat’s cheese mousse, pine nuts, tomato, yellow pepper essence from Reuben’s in Franschhoek. Mine is a mash-up of both.

Oh, and the desserts are to die for. Bon Courage white muskadel creme brulee, poached plum, plum ice cream.  Heaven.

Vanilla Panna Cotta, lemon thyme poached peaches, apricot sorbet, enough said.

Affogato: vanilla ice cream, Klipdrift gold brandy, hazelnuts, hot espresso shot. I’m going to try this at home but with frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) next time

The thing about Reuben’s food is the flavour. Every dish has a small amount of chilli in it. You don’t really notice the heat it just enhances all the other flavours. I love it. Oh, I forgot about the side dishes they do a Parmesan Truffle Oil Mash which is the most comfortingly addictive thing I have ever tasted. I didn’t get a picture because we ate it too fast.

This is my version of a Reuben dish. I made a wholemeal pasta dough with spelt flour rather than 00 flour. It actually worked really well. I’ve had disasters with wholemeal pasta before but the spelt flour seemed to be better. I did leave the dough in the fridge to rest overnight as well though. This may have helped it firm up more.

I contacted Reuben’s for the recipes and they, very kindly, sent me  a few different ones. The mushroom filling is from one dish (I added the goat’s cheese) and the Cape Malay butternut sauce is from a completely different dish. It may sound odd but it all balances out well and tastes great. The only thing I may do differently next time is trim some of the “skirt” of the raviolis (above) so that there isn’t so much double layer dough, or even use more filling to reach nearer the edges.

The confit tomatoes are intense little balls of flavour that burst in your mouth. I will definitely make these again, for pasta or salads or anything really. You may think life is too short to peel cherry tomatoes and I do kind of agree with you but, it means they soak up all of the garlicky herb oil they are soaked in. You could just saute them in a pan to save time.

Mushroom Goat Cheese Ravioli

Serves 2, vegetarian. Adapted from the Reuben’s recipe

  • 200 gr ’00’ flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 2 large eggs

Mix together in a processor until it forms a dough. Bring together, knead for a minute, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. I left mine overnight.

  • 12 chestnut (or mixed) mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 small sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp soy sauce + 1 tsp sugar (or 2 tsp kecap manis)
  • 2 tsp Worcester sauce
  • about 30 gr goat cheese, cubed
  • 1 egg, beaten for sealing raviolis

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in  a pan over a medium high heat and cook the mushrooms and rosemary for a minute. Add the soy, sugar and Worcester sauce and saute until the mushrooms are dark, soft and the liquid has all been absorbed. Leave to cool completely before filling the raviolis.

Roll out the pasta dough, on a well floured surface with a rolling-pin or pasta machine until 1mm thin. Cut out circles about 7cm in diameter. Take a tablespoon of the (cooled) mushroom filling and place on one side of the circle. Top with a piece of goat cheese. Brush the edges with the beaten egg and fold it over to cover the filling. Press down around the filling to get rid of any air bubbles and make sure the edges are sealed and there are no holes in the dough. You can cut off some of the excess skirt of the ravioli if you think there is too much. Place on a tray on a piece of baking paper until ready to cook. Store in the fridge if necessary.

To cook: carefully lower them into a large pan of salted, boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes. They should float and look softer. Drain and serve immediately with your choice of sauce.

Garlic & Herb Confit Tomatoes

Serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 175 gr cherry tomatoes
  • 25 ml white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced finely
  • 1 shallot, sliced finely
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • sea salt & black pepper

Put a cross in the bottom of each tomato, put in a bowl and pour over boiling water till covered. Leave for 20-30 seconds, drain and then shock in iced water for 30 seconds. Peel immediately.

Warm the oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic and shallot over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Pour this over the peeled tomatoes and leave for at least two hours at room temperature before serving. Reheat in a pan with some of the oil. Season with sea salt & black pepper just before serving.

Cape Malay Butternut Squash Sauce/Soup

This makes a lot of sauce so I used it as a soup for lunch the next day as well.

  • 600 ml veg stock
  • 1 tbsp Cape Malay spice mix (see my recipe here)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 celery leaves & tops, chopped
  • 750 ml grated butternut squash
  • 400 ml milk/cream (I used oat milk)
  • 1 tsp palm sugar/brown sugar
  •  a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • 1 tin (400 ml) coconut milk (optional)
  • salt to taste

Put the stock, squash, Malay spices, onion, garlic and celery leaves in a large pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook for about 10 minutes until the squash is soft. Add the milk, season with the salt, sugar and bring to the boil again. Cook for a few minutes to reduce slightly.

Remove from the heat and carefully blend with a stick blender until smooth. You can serve as it is or add a tin of coconut milk to make it more soupy. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and taste for seasoning.

I used a potato peeler to make some courgette ribbons which I heated through with the tomatoes and toasted off some pine nuts. Some baby basil leaves and fresh rocket look pretty for a garnish too.

For more information about Reuben’s restaurants and The Small Hotel visit their website here

Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls, Manchego Thyme Crisps, Roasted Garlic Watercress Mayonnaise

22 Mar

This recipe is inspired by an amazing meal we had at La Colombe in Contantia Uitsig. La Colombe has always been very special to us ever since the first time we visited about five years ago. We had such a great time that we both agreed that it was the best restaurant we had ever been to.

The thing is that it had reached such an iconic status in our memory that I was secretly worried that it wasn’t going to live up to our very high expectations this time. I was actually preparing myself for disappointment.  Silly me, this time actually exceeded my expectations by quite a long way.

The food is, well you can work it out for yourself. This was how it went….

Amuse Bouche: caramelised onion tart with goat cheese, parsnip soup (in an egg-shell), pea salsa

Starter: Beetroot Cannelloni, beetroot mousse wrapped in pickled beetroot, toasted olive brioche, roasted golden baby beets, fromage blanc, poached raisins, 12 yr old balsamic drizzle

Palate Cleanser: Granny Smith Sorbet, pimms foam, cucumber, mint

Main Course: Wild Mushroom Risotto Spring Roll, butternut puree, sous vide butternut, caramelised onion, smoked garlic veloute, thyme foam.

Desserts: Coconut & Rosewater Panna Cotta, rose meringue, rose foam, turkish delight, cashew nut streusel  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Terrine, candied cranberries, apricots, peanuts, chocolate, pistachio nut dust

And if that is not enough for you, they bring around a wooden trough filled with petits fours. Okay it’s not a trough but that’s what we called it. Bring me the trough!!!

Petits Fours: Rose Turkish Delight, mini citrus madeleines, maple meringues, cinnamon marshmallows and espresso pistachio dusted chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel.

Yes, that was espresso pistachio dusted chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel. They didn’t last very long, someone at our table may have stuffed his face with them before I could stuff mine. Not mentioning any names but you know who you are…

I don’t think I need to say that the food was outstanding do I? The beetroot cannelloni was light, elegant, sweet and exquisitely made. The mushroom spring rolls were rich with truffle butter and earthy morels, the pastry was perfectly crisp, I didn’t want it to end.

The desserts were a complete triumph. Everything a dessert should be, playful, sweet and nostalgic with a grown up twist.  The attention to detail is what makes this an unforgettable dining experience. From the amuse bouche (very amusing), the palate cleanser (I mean Pimms!!), all the way through to the petits fours (bring me the trough and leave it please).

Speaking of attention to detail I have to mention that the level of service we received was actually on another level to anything I have ever experienced before. Jennifer and her highly knowledgable team made our evening a complete joy from start to finish. The waiter actually explained each dish on the menu FROM MEMORY! All those foams, purees and veloutes without reading from a notepad. That deserves a mention by itself.  And it is not at all stuffy, that’s what makes it so enjoyable, it is proper fine dining without the squeaky chairs and pretension.

Can you tell that I loved it?

I managed to acquire the recipe for the Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls from the very talented chef, Scot Kirton. Mine is a simplified version as you can see from the description. I don’t have  a syphon thingy to make foams but I wouldn’t mind if anyone out there wants to send me one. I made some Manchego Thyme Crisps instead.

You could use spring roll wrappers to make these, I used a double layer of filo and Scot uses a special Asian pastry that I am desperate to get hold of. Either way you roll them like this:

I couldn’t get any truffle butter or morels so I used a mix of dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for about 20 minutes and some fresh chestnut or cremini mushrooms. The advantage of using dried mushrooms is that you can use the mushroomy soaking liquid with the stock to give the risotto a deeper colour and flavour.

Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls

Makes about 12 rolls, vegetarian. Adapted from the La Colombe recipe

The risotto needs to be chilled before you roll it so it is best to make it the night before and refrigerate overnight.

Prep time: 45 -60 mins (not including chilling time) Cooking time: 15-25 mins

  • 150-200 gr fresh mushrooms, chestnut/cremini/portobello/morels roughly diced
  • 25 gr dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 mins (reserve soaking liquid) then chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 30 gr white truffle butter (optional)
  • a bunch sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 250 gr risotto rice
  • 250 ml white wine
  • about 1 litre veg stock plus the mushroom soaking liquid
  • 50 gr parmesan/manchego, finely grated
  • 1 packet filo pastry/spring roll wrappers defrosted
  • olive oil for brushing

In a large pan, fry the chopped fresh mushrooms and thyme in a tablespoon of hot oil until nicely browned. Tip them into a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium heat and cook the onions for about 4 mins until translucent then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rice and stir to coat in the onions for a minute.

Put the stock and mushroom soaking liquid in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.

Add the wine and soaked mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid has disappeared. Add a ladle full of the hot stock to the rice and swirl the pan until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladle full swirl until it is absorbed and continue on like this until the rice is cooked.

Stir through the cooked mushrooms and truffle butter (if using). Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir through the grated cheese, remove from the heat. Leave to cool then chill in the fridge, overnight if possible. What I did was make the risotto for dinner, reserved about half for spring rolls for lunch the next day.

Cut a double layer 20 cm square of filo pastry (or use spring roll wrappers) and lay in a diamond shape on a board in front of you. Mound 2 or 3 tbsp of risotto onto the pastry and roll up following the pictures above brushing with olive oil to make them stick.

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, place the spring rolls on the tray, brush the tops with olive oil and bake for 15 -25 minutes depending on size. You can also deep-fry them.

Roasted Garlic, Watercress Mayonnaise

Enough for 2 people, vegetarian

  • 2 tbsp good mayonnaise
  •  a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh watercress (or parsley)
  • 1 large garlic clove (unpeeled)
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Roast the garlic clove in its skin in a hot oven for about 15 minutes (I did it with the spring rolls). Put the peeled roasted clove with the rest of the ingredients in a measuring jug and puree with a stick (immersion) blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning/lemon.

Manchego Thyme Crisps

Makes about 6, vegetarian

  • 50 gr manchego or parmesan, finely grated
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Mix together the cheese & thyme. Put a heaped tablespoon of the cheese on to the baking tray and flatten & spread out slightly. Leave about 1/2 inch between each circle.

Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Leave to cool if you want flat discs and remove carefully with a metal spatula.

If you want you can mould them gently around a rolling-pin while still hot to make them curved.

Enjoy!!

 For more information on La Colombe and Constantia Uitsig visit their website here.

Thanks to everyone at La Colombe who made our evening so special. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next time…..

 

 

My Interview with ELLE Magazine in South Africa

1 Mar

Just a quickie to fill you in on what’s been going on. Very excitingly, since returning to Spain I have had an interview published online in the South African ELLE magazine. Here’s the link if you want to see the whole article with pictures of some of the food and places I mention in the interview

EAT YOUR VEGETABLES

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Introducing Natalie Ward, food writer, Cook Eat Live blogger, photographer and stylist, who specialises in delicious vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Natalie lives in Andalucia, Spain, but recently visited Cape Town where she compiled a list of the best restaurants for vegetarian and vegan food. We asked:

Why do you prefer a vegetarian lifestyle?

When I was younger the reason I didn’t want to eat meat was because I didn’t want to eat animals. It didn’t make sense to me. Now it is more to do with the health benefits of a meat-free diet. In 2009, aged 36, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. It made me change my lifestyle completely. I gave up all cow’s milk products, sugar (including fruit), caffeine, alcohol, smoking and all processed foods. By the time I was operated to remove the 2x3cm tumor, it had shrunk to almost nothing.

How would you describe ‘whole foods’ eating?

I see whole foods as real, unprocessed foods – local and organic where possible, and not messed about with. No preservatives, additives or chemicals. It’s just about being more aware of what you put in your body and where it has come from, buying fresh ingredients and cooking them from scratch, rather than buying ready meals and heating them up in a microwave.

Is the whole foods/vegetarian lifestyle a challenge when eating out?

Definitely, but it’s getting better. I moved from England to Spain 11 years ago and it was basically impossible to eat out. The only thing I could eat was tortilla (Spanish omelettes) or a salad. And even that would have tuna in it. The Spanish think fish is vegetarian! I find it a lot easier to eat out here in South Africa.

Have you developed any of your own recipes?

Yes, for my blog, Cook Eat Live Vegetarian. I get inspiration from books, TV programmes and restaurants, but mainly from what I see growing in the fields where we walk the dog in the mornings. I create seasonal vegetarian recipes with a world flavour.

What brought you to South Africa?

My dad lives in Cape Town. We came on holiday here for the first time four years ago and fell in love with it. The food here is amazing. The quality and choice of restaurants and cafes is unbelievable. In Europe we still have a preconceived idea of what Africa is like. I am making it my mission to change that.

How do meat-loving South Africans fare in terms of vegetarian dishes and restaurants?

For a nation of meat eaters you do veggie exceptionally well. Most of the restaurants I have visited or contacted have had a choice of vegetarian options on their menu. A few have even created a vegetarian tasting menu especially for me with wine pairings. I could definitely get used to that!

Which dishes/restaurants/dining experiences have you enjoyed the most?

So far we loved Babel at Babylonstoren. There is a beautiful fruit and vegetable garden that you can have a guided tour of before enjoying a delicious lunch made from the produce you have just seen growing. Planet at The Mount Nelson has a five-course vegan tasting menu, which is unheard of. The Greenhouse prepared a wonderful seven-course vegetarian tasting menu which was a definite highlight. Peter Tempelhoff has made the balance of flavour and texture an art form. Ryan at Haute Cabriere also prepared a special five-course vegetarian tasting with wine pairings for us. Each one of the dishes was created especially to compliment a different one of their gorgeous wines rather than the wine being matched to the food. A real experience. The Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz has a refreshingly modern outlook; the place is absolutely stunning, leading the way in new informal wine farms. It also has a fabulous spa and guesthouse. Ile de Pain in Knysna makes some of the best breads and cakes I have ever tasted. The Portuguese custard tarts (pasteis de nata) are to die for. And finally Reuben’s. We ate at two of his restaurants and I have to say that his flavours stand out for me. His use of fresh herbs and spices is genius.

What makes a restaurant a winner for you?

It’s about the all-round experience for me. It’s a real art to get everything right and to create a positively memorable dining experience.

If you’re interested in the health benefits of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet, Natalie suggests reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Click here to explore Cook Eat Live or follow Natalie on twitter @Foodblogdog

Can you see me smiling and jumping up and down from where you are?

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Sorry for the lack of posts…..

21 Feb

We have been eating lunch and dinner every day in different restaurants but I have not had the time or the WiFi to post anything. What I have to give you is a coming soon, a little teaser of what’s to come. Enjoy….
Tempting cakes at Voila in the new Cape Quarter…

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The Washer Up feeding the elephants in an attractive green poncho and bandana combination…

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Stunning cakes at Ile de Pain in Knysna….

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A delicous pink sparkling on Valentines Day….

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A stunning tomato risotto at Sand at The Plettenberg….

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Startled monkeys….

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Baked Camembert with green fig preserve, honey and almonds amongst the vines at Bramon Wine Estate Plettenberg.

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Exotic birds…

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Beautiful hotels…

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The best Portuguese custard tarts in the world…

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Meet Piccolo, the cutest dog in Montagu….

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A sweet potato brûlée tart with asparagus at Haute Cabriere…..

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An amazing tomato and boconcini salad at Reuben’s…..

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A gorgeous fig and frangipane tart with goats yoghurt ice cream from Bread & Wine…..

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And much more to come…..

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Rumbullion at The Roundhouse

15 Feb

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A gourmet picnic hamper filled with your choice of goodies enjoyed while taking in the breathtaking views over Camps Bay.

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Order a bottle of your favourite wine and unwind while the chickens wander around on the lawn and under your feet.

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Your picnic basket arrives with cutlery, plates and napkins and you will be handed a checklist with all the available food. Just tick the boxes next to the items and return it to the waiter.
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My dad ordered the Caesar Salad with a soft poached egg, how could he resist with all those chickens running around, you don’t get much fresher than that.
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We chose a loaf of fresh ciabatta to go with the three dips that we ordered. Jalapeño hummus, feta and herb dip and caramelised onion pâté.

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We also decided on some Fairview goat’s cheese that was accompanied by a delicious watermelon chutney. There is a good selection of charcuterie items and salads as well.

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There are hot dishes too like enormous burgers and their extremely popular pizzas. The Gorgonzola, caramelised onion, fig, rocket and walnut was very tempting. Matt the manager was also very proud of the roasted bone marrow with oxtail marmalade, so much so that he insisted that The Washer Up and my dad tried it.

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They loved it, I enjoyed the salad that came with it!

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This is a relaxed and informal lunch experience, definitely book, it gets busy, especially at weekends. Apparently they do a picnic breakfast at the weekends too. I’ll be back for that, no doubt about it.

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The Garden of Eden at Babylonstoren

12 Feb

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You have to see this place to believe it. It is heaven on earth. An eight acre fruit and vegetable farm growing over 300 varieties of plants, each one edible and grown as biologically as possible. The picture below is of an heirloom variety of pumpkin called Turkish Turban.
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Fruit and veg are harvested year round for use in their restaurant, Babel. The garden is divided into fifteen areas for vegetables, fruits, berries, bees, indigenous plants, ducks and chickens. Gravity feeds water into waterways from a stream into the garden as it has done for 300 years.

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You can take a guided tour of the farm, as we did, before enjoying a lunch made from freshly picked fruit and vegetables you have just seen growing. Don't forget to stop off for a fresh herb tea in the beautiful greenhouse before lunch.

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You can pick your own blend of fresh herbs from the garden. I chose lemon verbena, pineapple sage and mint which was refreshing and light and made up for the beautiful rose water and strawberry cupcake we couldn’t resist to go with it.

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Lunch at Babel is a joyful celebration of fresh local produce served in a natural and generous way.
The maxim of the restaurant’s creator, Maranda Engelbrecht Cape Town’s food and style guru, is that the food should be served as naturally as possible, not messed about with or chopped into oblivion. Pick, clean and serve is her approach and it works. You really get that “fresh from the garden to the table” feeling.

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The restaurant is in a converted cow shed with floor to ceiling glass walls and white painted original brick. It is light, informal and incredibly chic. The menu reflects the seasons and what has been harvested that day. The salads are either red, green or yellow and abundant with beautiful produce in that colour. Speaking to Maranda she told me that she wanted the fruit and vegetables to be the main ingredients and the meat and fish to be additional. We chose the yellow which included edible lilies, passion fruit and carrot, papaya, tamarillo, pineapple, nectarines, yellow heirloom tomatoes, roasted corn and melon. You could add smoked trout, chicken or yoghurt cheese but it was perfect without.

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It is the attention to detail that makes this such a memorable experience. The freshly made bread was served with a herb oil made from a mixture of herbs from the garden.

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We were given an aperitif of chenin grapes and cheesecake mouse which was stunning.

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I ordered the Artichoke & Goats Cheese Tart with caramelised onion, tamarillo & basil for my main.

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The pastry was so crumbly and light and the filling creamy and delicious. All the main courses come with chips and vegetables. Now about those chips….

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They were the best I’ve ever tasted. The Washer Up (who makes amazing chips) was not pleased to be knocked off the top spot but these were special. Thick and chunky,hand cut, very crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle. The perfect chip served with course sea salt, cracked pepper and fresh lemon to squeeze over. The Washer Up insists it must be a superior potato to the one he uses. Something about the workman always blaming his tools comes to mind.

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After lunch we had the absolute pleasure of meeting with Maranda Engelbrecht one of the driving forces behind this incredible concept. She let us have a look around her new venture there that is almost ready to launch. Another converted barn being made into a delicatessen and bakery selling freshly baked breads, homemade charcuterie and cheeses as well as a wine tasting area. Is there no end to this woman’s talents? She is leading the food revolution in South Africa and I, for one, am definitely on board.

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Thanks Maranda, it was a pleasure….

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