Coffee Bloc caters for the serious caffeine aficionado writes Bianca Coleman in this week’s Mother City Fine Dining in The Next 48hOURS
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The saying has never made much sense to me once it’s dissected, but we’ll use it as a departure point for this week’s story.
With a busy schedule negatively affected by all last month’s public holidays (deadlines wait for no one), this tough cookie need to get going – out to Buitenverwachting for a break from all the pressure. It’s one of my favourite wine farms, and I visit as often as I can. Not only because of the obvious reasons – the wine, the food, the company – but because there are always exciting developments and changes going on.
The new wine tasting centre opened a few months ago, and now the Coffee Bloc has been officially separated from the main restaurant in terms of a unique menu. In addition, a dedicated coffee tasting/cupping area has been set aside for aficionados who take their caffeine seriously. There is a roastery on the farm, where various blends are concocted. You can buy your favourite beans to take home too, as well as other delicious goodies like Buitenverwachting’s own honey, and the beautifully handcrafted coffee cups, among other things.
The Coffee Bloc previously had a small menu of its own, and you could order from the main restaurant menu as well. Now, there are dishes that are specifically available only at Coffee Bloc. On the one side there are tapas – not-so-small and easily a light meal or substantial starter – and on the other, chef Edgar Osojnik has created a selection of “rustic” affairs” dishes. Both sides of the menu include a dessert section.
Seating is inside (where there is a secluded section for small private parties) or out – on the courtyard side of the restaurant, or on the other, which overlooks the most pristine luscious lawn it’s almost obscene in its beauty, and the tasting centre. Look out for the roaming chickens; they will descend on you if you decide to offer a few crumbs of the biscuit that comes with your cappuccino. That’s farm life for you.
I tried to make my own choice from the menu but Edgar was keen for me to taste more than one dish, and was having none of that. He took some notes based on my preferences and the matter was closed.
Thus it came to pass that the first dish placed in front of me was the mixed salad with broiled haloumi from the tapas selection. The “squeaky” cheese is not to everyone’s taste but I love it, served here with mixed leaves, heirloom tomatoes, baby leeks, zucchini, peppers, confit aubergine and dressed with herb, garlic, red wine and olive oil vinaigrette.
This was followed by the yam salad with Thai-style marinated slices of pink fillet, baby gem lettuce and a diving black garlic dressing (rustic); catch of the day – kingklip – served with potatoes in caldeirada sauce and chermoula fried calamari (tapas); and the salmon tartare fish cake on top of a crouton, with white anchovy, bacon, cos lettuce, poached quail egg, intensely flavoured parmesan cream, and Caesar dressing (rustic). This pleased me mightily because it incorporates Edgar’s own twist on the Caesar salad, which I have enjoyed on many occasions.
My vegetarian partner had the mushroom risotto with sweet corn and parsley salsa verde. It’s normally served with chorizo, but this can be left off. She also had the feta and vegetable tian with rocket pesto, balsamic vinaigrette and pine kernel-parmesan shortbread.
Despite being stuffed, we weren’t being let off the hook with desserts, and anyone who knows him, knows you don’t argue with Edgar. I say that with the greatest affection.
He sent out lemongrass ice cream bathing in a froth of passion fruit espuma, with a crispy banana ravioli nonchalantly leaning against it. The tropical flavours are amazing together, as are the different texture and temperatures, and I loved it. I say this as a non-dessert person.
The other sweet, which wasn’t too sweet (and I especially like this about many of Edgar’s desserts) was chocolate brownies with almond-crocante parfait and Morello cherry compote.
It was all just the perfect antidote to all the stress life can throw our way, and somehow lasted nearly four hours. I don’t know what it is about Buitenverwachting; it seems to happen every time I go there, and I’m certainly not complaining.
* The farm is on Klein Constantia Road in, well, Constantia.
Coffee Bloc is open Mondays to Fridays from 8am to 5pm, and Saturdays from 8.30am until 3pm. Breakfast is served 9am till 10.45am, and lunch from 12pm till 2pm. In between there are cakes, muffins and croissants to stave off the hunger pangs.
For more information, call 021 794 5190; or visit to www.buitenverwachting.com.