Fresh, seasonal produce is a phrase that gets flung about in almost every food and restaurant story you read. A farm-to-fork experience with FABER at Avondale, however, is impossible be much fresher unless the vegetables are still in their seed form.
A meal at FABER is going to be spectacularly delicious anyway, but you can extend your encounter by booking yourself on a tour of the farm – during which you’ll learn more about the organic and biodynamic principles employed here – as well as a visit to the gardens where chef Dale Stevens will explain the various crops and how he and his team use them in the kitchen. During our visit, he dug a kohlrabi out the ground, rinsed with some water, sliced it on a mandolin, sprinkled it with salt and a squeeze of lemon, and offered it to us to taste. And that, my friends, truly is about as fresh as it can possibly get.
On our meandering around the farm (the journey had begun on a wooden trailer drawn by a tractor), we stopped to see the ducks which take care of the slugs and snails across all 70 hectares of the farm, collected organic eggs from the free-range chickens’ Egg Mobile, and said hello to the Black Angus cattle grazing on the lawn in front of the family homesteads. The farm also supplies organic broiler chickens, ducks and pasture-reared, hormone-free beef to the kitchen from time to time. Anything sourced from beyond the farm comes from carefully researched ethical, small-farm suppliers to ensure the integrity of every dish on the menu.
Back at the restaurant, I was glad to be served the starter as I hadn’t actually picked up my own egg: the dish comprises a 64 degrees C Avondale hen’s egg languishing on a bed of creamed leeks with crunchy pork bits and hazelnuts, and topped with Black Forest ham. In that bowl was every argument in favour of bacon and eggs at any time of the day. Plus it had a green vegetable, so an all-round win.
We’d come from the wine cellar where we tasted the heavenly Anima Chenin 2015, which turned out to be a precursor to even more exceptional wines; the starter was paired with the 2014 Cyclus – a blend of Viognier, Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon grapes.
The main course was seared duck breast with beetroot, charred onion, and mustard and buchu dressing. It too was excellent, despite having a tough act to follow. The wine was the 2009 Samsara Syrah, which was extremely difficult to put down. Instead of the dessert of baked lemon polenta cake with white chocolate mousse and passion fruit sorbet, I asked for another glass of the wine. In my world, where wonderful wines are tasted and drunk on a frequent basis, these all boldly stood out, and I’m still having dreams about the Samsara.
While the food descriptions are lyrical and the presentation artful, the essence of every dish remains as down to earth and wholesomely simple as the origin of the ingredients.
Together with Stevens, Avondale’s proprietor Johnathan Grieve wants to take visitors on an inspirational, thought-provoking journey that celebrates the bountiful goodness of nature. It brings a more in-depth aspect to a visit to the beautiful farm where swarms – really, swarms – of butterflies converge on the flowers in front of the gracious Old Cape-style building which houses the tasting room and FABER (and the cellar below), and the views sweep across the vineyards to Paarl Rock, the silhouette of Table Mountain and the Simonsberg, set against the backdrop of the Klein Drakenstein Mountains.
Here you can learn to better understand, savour and appreciate the origins of good food and wine produced in sync with the rhythms of Mother Nature.
The kitchen at FABER is able to accommodate food allergies and dietary requirements, from vegans and vegetarians to gluten or lactose intolerant, but always appreciates it if dietary exclusions or special requests are made known at the time of booking if possible.
* FABER is open for lunch, Wednesdays to Sundays, noon till 2.30pm; and for dinner, Thursdays to Saturdays.
Advance bookings are recommended. Call 021 202 1219; or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avondale is a 300-year-old family-run farm on Lustigan Road, Klein Drakenstein in Paarl.
Read more by Bianca Coleman