By Naushad Khan
Franschhoek is undeniably one of the most special valleys in Africa and I always thank the gods for allowing me the privilege of living in one of the best regions in the world and a mere 45 minutes from this heavenly green space.
You will find all kinds of quaint village type streets and alleys with shops and shopping options that can absorb you for hours. From antiques, art galleries and hand-made jewellery to chocolates that are made in front of you, not to mention the many eateries that offer a wide variety of foods from all over the world.
No surprise then that one does have a wide range of accommodation to choose from when visiting the valley. From small B&B’s to internationally acclaimed Five Star luxury, Franschhoek can boast having it all.
So when I saw the line “Oliver Cattermole promises a voyage to savour at Le Franschhoek’s Dish and Le Verger Restaurants” in the email that hit my inbox, I could not resist the chance to make the short drive for my very own taste of this new influence in the valley and to visit one of my favourite country hotels in the world, Le Franschhoek.
The one major plus country hotels have and especially the five star properties is the availability of space. Le Franschhoek does well with this and it is evident with the wide walkways, lavish lounges and spacious dining areas throughout the property.
The Spa is operated by Camelot and offers a full menu of treatments to choose from. My pre-dinner back and neck treatment was deeply satisfying. The therapists at Camelot Spa are always so friendly and professional.
The main attraction for my journey to Franschhoek was to meet Chef Oliver and to have a taste of his new winter menu. With over 10 years of experience in the culinary trade, the new Executive Chef at Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa is bringing home exciting global flavours he picked up during his sojourn abroad plying his trade in the UK at some real heavyweight restaurants and on the European culinary circuit, as well as spending time on cruise liners in the Far East. It all started for him in Franschhoek, so this is a return to his roots of sorts. The fashionable use of local produce, especially the fresh produce from the Le Franschhoek Estate, thus really excites him. You will taste this in the delicious menu he has compiled.
As such, diners at Dish can expect, amongst others, starters of a salad of Roasted beetroots, feta and salted orange with pickled walnuts; ham hock terrine with mustard fruit and white bean purée and; a 36-hour cured beef with chicory cress-salad and ginger mayonnaise.
Main courses include a Provence-style plum tomato tart with mascarpone, beetroot crisps and balsamic; dry aged beef fillet with beer braised onion barley and sauté kale from the garden; thyme roasted chicken breast with parmesan polenta and spinach puree; and a rump of Karoo lamb with minted mash and young carrots.
He did spring a surprise or to for me that convinced me that he is not afraid to try new tastes and flavours. I was a little startled to see an egg dish on my taste menu for dinner. But when it did arrive, I was not disappointed. This was the dish that pressed the pleasure button on my taste buds.
The subtle use of a variety of fresh herbs and spices balanced the dish perfectly. Eggs moved up the culinary ladder in my books as a result.
The other thing I learnt about Chef Ole is that he grew up in Birmingham City, the real curry Mecca in the UK so expect some Indian cuisine making its way into his menus in the future.
* For more information, visit www.lefranschhoek.co.za.