There’s a lot going on at Grande Provence in Franschhoek at the moment: a new winemaker, Hagen Viljoen; the launch of two new Méthode Cap Classiques – a shimmering brut and an enchanting rosé – at last weekend’s Cap Classique & Champagne Festival; glorious art exhibitions; heavenly pairings; a place in Andrew Harper’s Top 100 Hideaways In The World; and a new chef in the kitchen.
Guy Bennett worked his way up the ranks alongside some of Cape Town’s most celebrated culinary masters like Michael Deg, Bertus Basson, Reuben Riffel and top pastry chef André Steyn. He has taken over as executive chef from Darren Badenhorst, who has opened his own restaurant, Le coin Français, in Franschhoek village.
“Cooking with passion, day after day, bouncing ideas off my mentors and watching guests enjoying our food have made me the chef I am today,” says Bennett, who considers his appointment here as his “biggest and brightest venture to date.”
When it comes to his own style, Bennett says he is influenced by classic and modern techniques, both local and international, incorporating old and new school approaches to achieving a finished dish. Creating food for all tastes, he includes light, fresh and rich dishes in his menu.
“I’d like to create an experience, a platform of sorts, where diners can put the rest of their lives on pause for a few hours and experience an amazing meal with good company. Great food and wine, an amazing setting and good times,” he says.
We had lunch recently and it’s safe to say Bennett has already achieved these goals. After coming out to say hello and find out if we had any dietary requests, Bennett sent out a stream of dishes, beginning with an amuse bouche presentation of one of the starters: a hot and cold poke (tres chic at the moment) with langoustine, tempura baby vegetables, picked daikon and wasabi mayo. We then shared three more full portion starters.
My favourite was the beef tartare, which is an unusual take on the classic dish, with variations of mushrooms, cured egg yolk, and Huguenot cheese. My friend fancied the charred yellowfin tuna served with sweet fennel, labneh and black garlic. The third dish was heirloom beetroot and chevin done two ways, complemented with walnut granola and honey.
For our main courses we had utterly divine pork belly with crackling and carrots (an oversimplified explanation for all the different textures and shades of colour on the plate), lightly spiked with masala; and beef, potato and gravy. This is another pared down description for tender meat, slivers of tongue in two styles, baby onions and spinach puree. The pork won this round by a narrow margin.
We finished with a fresh summer berry pavlova – another classic served with a twist, being “upside down” with the meringue on top, the berries and cream underneath – and fabulous sweetcorn panna cotta with peach sorbet, popcorn, and white chocolate soil. Every plate was a work of art, the flavours and textures sublime.
The restaurant is an elegant setting, and the service is impeccable. A note on the menu that should you require a break between courses, to alert the staff, is most welcome.
One of just six South African properties to be included in the Top 100 Hideaways this year, Grande Provence, part of the luxurious Huka Retreats, shares the honour with one of its sister properties, Huka Lodge in New Zealand. Harper describes Grande Provence as an impressive 19-hectare wine estate “that offers accommodations in the discreetly luxurious and superbly staffed Owner’s Cottage.”
Hosted by The Gallery at Grande Provence, from December 10 until 27, the Angels Tears Exhibition will take you into the realm of angels in all their magnificence as portrayed by some of South Africa’s most important artists in a variety of media and styles. To complete your cherubic encounter, the tasting room invites you to spread your wings and savour “A Taste Of Heaven” with a bouquet of enchanting pairings of Angels Tears wines and handmade nougat. As a gift from the angels, visitors will be able to buy a twin pack of Angels Tears wines for just R70 for the duration of the exhibition.
* Lunch is a la carte with two courses costing R350, and three for R450, excluding wines (all dishes have suggested pairings with Grande Provence wines). The Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. To book (recommended – it was full the day we were there, and it’s festive/tourism season now), call 021 876 8600; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Angels Tears Exhibition, contact the curator Myléne Ife on 021 876 8630; or send an email to email@example.com.
The Angels Tears “A Taste of Heaven” wine and nougat tasting is R70 a person. For more information, call the tasting room on 021 876 8600; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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By Bianca Coleman