Gabriëlskloof is a beautiful modern winery set on top of a hill just outside Bot River, and on that farm is a restaurant owned and run by Frans (in the kitchen) and Mariaan (front of house) Groenewald, where they specialise in hearty, honest, soul food prepared with love.
The Groenewalds are passionate about everything local and source most of their produce from neighbouring farms and villages, and the menu changes frequently. There’s also a gorgeous little deli adjoining the restaurant where you can admire the cakes and bakes and stock up with some delicious goodies to take home.
Following our wine tasting, we settled in for a lovely lunch where the hardest decisions (such first world problems) were choosing what to have. My friend ordered the fried pork and duck rillettes with mustard aioli and deep-fried capers (such tiny morsels of deliciousness to cut through rich dishes). I had the pea soup with oxtail tortellini, bacon crumbs (all the bacon is free range and cured by meat master Richard Bosman) and dressed with a drizzle of truffle oil. Often this ingredient is promised but the distinctive flavour and aroma doesn’t follow through; this was not the case here, as the dish delivered everything the menu description promised.
I seldom order soup as a starter because it tends to be very filling, especially such a thick one as this. I know we broke Frans’s heart because we didn’t order any of his fabulous main course items like lightly cured hake served with mussel, chorizo and prawn paella, Asian-style duck leg with harissa pumpkin puree and pickled beetroot, or pork belly with spring onion mustard mash and pickled apple and fennel salad. No, not even a pulled pork neck burger from the deli menu, tempting though it was.
Instead we shared a cheese and charcuterie platter. While it doesn’t do the kitchen any justice because it’s hardly a challenge to put these things on a plate, it was what we were in the mood for; with artichoke, sundried tomato and olive salad, and a huge basket of amazing breads, as well as preserves, it was perfect to be enjoyed slowly with a glass of wine.
The method in our madness was to reserve space for some interesting desserts. What on earth are milk tart souskluitjies? Thank you for asking. They are milk tart “dumplings” served in a bath of burnt honey custard. Intensely sweet, they are a popular pudding here. After all the bread, the waitress probably thought I was mad to order the gluten-free pear and almond cake with Chantilly cream, but there you go. The joys of not having dietary restrictions means I can be whatever I want, whenever I want.
The restaurant also serves breakfast, with the usual dishes like a Farmer’s Breakfast, fabulous omelettes, and eggs Benedict, as well as eggs Gabriëlskloof which swops out the ham or Royale salmon for bobotie mince. Other local twists on traditional favourites include pancakes with milk tart ice cream and banana bread French toast.
* Gabriëlskloof is just outside Bot River, on the Swartrivier Road, off the N2, and open Wednesdays to Mondays from 9am to 5pm.
During September and to celebrate Heritage Month, the Gabriëlskloof tasting lounge will showcase homegrown flavours with a unique Mzansi Tapas Taster featuring familiar snack bites with a local twist, paired with four estate wines. The dishes – snoek ‘n patat croquettes with amasi foam and chakalaka; bobotie poppers; tangy pickled fish tacos; and biltong in red wine will also be available as small plate starters or sides to a main meal in the restaurant.
On September 24, a single, continuous table of unity will line the shaded veranda that surrounds the lush courtyard, where chef Frans will serve a heritage braai feast including meat on the spit, snoek and mussels on the coals, garlic rolls, roosterkoek, pap-en-sous and of course, all the tasty trimmings that go with a good old South African braai. And, as tradition demands, such a fantastic meal would be incomplete without a delectable sweet note brought by South African all-stars such as melktert and malva pudding.
The Braai Feast costs R350 for adults and R100 for children. Tapas Tasters are R250 a couple including four wines.