Waterkloof: A visit to the “restaurant in the sky” is well worth selling a kidney for
With nine of the Eat Out top 10 restaurants being in Cape Town and our winelands, if you consider yourself any kind of foodie at all, you owe it to yourself to visit at least one of them.
Granted, they all fall into the sell-a-kidney price bracket, but provide an experience commensurate with the cost. Last week we were fortunate to lunch at Waterkloof Estate’s “restaurant in the sky”, so named because the 10 metre high, all-glass promontory perches on the highest hill with views which sweep across False Bay and the surrounding vineyards. Not only is it third – up three places from the previous year – on that prestigious list, but Gregory Czarnecki was named Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year at the awards ceremony last November.
To this French born culinary maestro, innovation and rigorous attention to detail are key and it shows in his summer menu which begins with delicious breads and a selection of butters (one made with straw wine, another with Dijon mustard) and black garlic aioli, and ends with the daintiest petit fours.
You have the choice of a two- or three-course menu, with a wine pairing suggestion for each dish, or a six course degustation with or without wine pairings. I suggest you have the wine pairings; they are just perfect both in terms of matching the food, or quaffing. We began with flutes of the estate’s elegant Astraeus MCC Rosé.
The menu descriptions all sound fabulous, obviously, so set aside some time for serious decision-making. We threw Czarnecki a bit of a curve ball with my friend being vegan, and having some allergies as well. We gave him a few days’ advance warning, which is polite. While I got to choose my own dishes, Czarnecki didn’t just rise to the challenge; he soared above it by preparing her special dishes, from the saffron compressed apple amuse bouche to the final sweet coconut and lime frozen lollies. And not just any old things either; each dish was carefully considered and beautifully presented to ensure Kerry enjoyed the full package of Czarnecki’s expertise. For example, a main course of celeriac which had been baked inside a salt crust. Once it had broken free of its constraints it was served with passion fruit beurre blanc and curry brittle.
Kerry’s starter was Asparagus In Three Ways with parmesan mousse. That is what it says on the menu, which is a very pared down description. The charming and knowledgeable waiters expand on all of these, listing the ingredients and techniques – of which there are many. For example, one of the three ways is “glass”, shards of which garnish the dish. These transparent pale green slivers burst deceptively with asparagus flavour. Quite simply, amazing.
For my starter I had Egg 63, which is an egg yolk cooked at 63 degrees for a long period of time, served with duck skin crumble, Tête de Moine cheese (pale and frilly), spinach oil, charred onions, and accompanied by an onion veloute which is poured at the table.
My main course was kingklip – a fish I feel comfortable eating now, as it has moved from the Sassi orange list to green – with roasted cauliflower, cauli puree, onion rings cunningly connected to look like flower petals, tiny bits of Jamón ibérico which packed a punchy flavour disproportionate to their size, toasted hazelnuts, and beef jus.
Dessert is not just dessert. First you get your pre-dessert, or palate cleanser – apricot sorbet for Kerry, and a medley of cherry-flavoured textures for me. For main dessert, Kerry had all sorts of rhubarb things on her plate. Apologies to Czarnecki for not going into more detail; the typed notes fell victim to odd indecipherable auto corrects. Mine was matcha cheesecake with salted caramel swirls, tiny bits of crunchy mango honeycomb and mouth-puckeringly tart kalamansi ice cream. This was perfect for me, as I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Both desserts were decorated with gold leaf to make them just that much more decadent.
Just when we thought it was all over, the finishing touch arrived – a chocolate toffee studded with more gold leaf, coconut and lime lollies, and a raspberry crème patisserie-filled pastry topped with a macaroon and presented inside a teeny little bell jar, which clearly fills no other purpose in life other than to delight and enchant.
It was a spectacular experience, from the food to the service, all dished up with those magnificent views. Sell a kidney if you have to.
* The restaurant serves lunch and dinner Mondays to Saturdays and lunch on Sundays. Engage with the estate (Sir Lowry’s Pass Road, Helderberg, with very easy directions on Google Maps) on Facebook and Twitter: @WaterkloofWines, and follow Chef Grégory Czarnecki on Instagram (czarneckigregory).
For more information or to book a table, call 021 858 1491; or visit www.waterkloofwines.co.za. Bookings are essential.
**By Bianca Coleman