Faber: Celebrating the chef as craftsman and the use of seasonal produce
By Bianca Coleman
Earlier this year it was announced that award-winning chef Eric Bulpitt would be opening a restaurant on Avondale, a 300 year old family-run farm on the slopes of the Klein Drakenstein Mountains. Last week we were invited to a media lunch on its very first day, well ahead of the scheduled date of November 1.
Bulpitt won his first Top 20 Eat Out Awards nomination for Jardine in 2010 and then in 2011, alongside chef PJ Vadas, he made the Eat Out Top 10 while at The Roundhouse. In 2013, having taken the opportunity to branch out on his own, Eric moved to Hermanus, where he opened The Restaurant on the Newton Johnson wine estate in the magnificent Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. During its first year they attained ninth position in the Eat Out Top 10. Expectations were thus rather high, and they were met.
Faber is a small, elegant space in what was previously the tasting room, with additional tables on the patio outside which overlook a headily-scented rose garden and the vineyards beyond. It was the most perfect day, with distant tiny puffs of cloud hovering nonchalantly in the bright blue sky. Inside, the open plan kitchen shows the chefs at work so you can watch their careful and intricate plating of each dish.
“I’ve always believed that we as chefs are craftsmen,” says Bulpitt, explaining the meaning behind Faber, the Latin word for artisan, or craftsman. “We work with our hands, using produce from the land. It’s the perfect way to capture who we are and what we do.”
Faber also marks the meeting of minds and passions between a chef and a winemaker, paying tribute to the craftsmanship in both the kitchen and the Avondale cellar. With a shared commitment to sustainability, and dedication to their craft, it’s no surprise that Bulpitt and Avondale proprietor Johnathan Grieve clicked from the moment they first met in early 2016.
“It’s always been a goal of ours to open a restaurant on Avondale. We’ve looked at it for over 10 years, but never really found the right chef,” explains Grieve. “I’m a firm believer that when the energies are correct the partnership will happen, but up until now that hasn’t happened. When we met Eric we knew we’d found the perfect partner.”
After sipping bubbly in the brilliant spring sunshine, we took our seats for a fresh and light starter of kombu cured yellowtail with watermelon (inspired by Bulpitt’s mother’s love of a combination of fish and fruit), crispy onion, watercress, and olive tapenade. It was paired with Avondale Cyclus 2013, a white blend of Viognier, Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon.
A note on Avondale’s wines: biodynamic and organic farming practices are employed to produce wines that reflect the terroir. This in turn is mirrored by Bulpitt’s menu, which will use what can be harvested from the fields or grown in the garden. “Whatever’s in season on the day, we’ll bring that onto the plate and tell the story of where it comes from,” he says.
Avondale’s organic and biodynamic food garden has already been extended to produce fresh vegetables and herbs for the restaurant, while stone fruits and citrus from the farm’s orchards arrive with the changing seasons. Eggs are harvested daily from the eco-friendly egg-mobile housing Avondale’s free range chickens, and in time the farm will provide a steady march of broiler chickens and pasture-reared organic beef to the kitchen.
The main course continued the spring theme with shoulder of Karoo lamb with pumpkin seed pesto, and wilted greens. It was served with Avondale La Luna 2010, a jolly fine Bordeaux Blend made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
The dessert was a symphony of cheese and berries – cream cheese and honey sorbet, blueberries, coconut crumble and a blueberry macaron. The wine was Avondale Camissa 2015, a beautiful blanc de noir made from Muscat de Frontignan, Mourvedre grapes and Grenache.
This is not simple food, but simplicity says Bulpitt. “There are creative nuances throughout the menu and on every plate, but without ever overcomplicating the dish. There’s wonderful simplicity in working with a handful of ingredients, but complexity in the technique in bringing them to the dish, and in the flavour combinations.”
Faber restaurant is on the Avondale wine estate near Paarl and is open for lunch from Wednesdays to Sundays, 12pm to 3pm; and for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, from 7pm to 9pm.
Reservations are recommended. For bookings and more information, call 021 202 1219’; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.