Thursday, March 22, 2012
Lunch at Babel - amazing Gardens and Food
It can often be disappointing when you finally get to a restaurant which everyone has been talking about. Other than missing the garden tour (mea culpa, says Lynne who got the start time wrong), Babel absolutely lived up to expectations. Babylonstoren farm is officially in Paarl, but it is on the other side of the N1, on the same apparently unnamed road near Simondium as Backsberg and Glen Carlou, on the way to Franschhoek. We could not find a name for the road on the many maps we consulted, including Google Earth.
Someone brilliant planned and planted these amazing gardens
and a huge staff of friendly, well trained people manicures and tends them, producing the most amazing looking fruit and vegetables.
There are also chickens and ducks and, soon, there will be mushrooms. The tour of the gardens starts at 10, so you need an early start from Cape Town and the tour takes about an hour and a half, which then leaves one rather tired and hungry, with quite a long gap before lunch unless, of course, you have a snack at the small Conservatory café or book lunch for 12 o’clock. We wandered through the gardens unguided and had lots to admire, as the mixed plantings are done sympathetically and in a very orderly manner. We sat down for a cup of coffee in the café and, finally, it was time for lunch.
All the food is sourced from the garden or locally and the menu is seasonal. Some of our friends had been before, so they knew the drill of ordering each of the three coloured salads, a Green (R50), a Yellow (R60) and a Red (R55) as starters.
These are a mix of fruit and vegetable, raw and cooked in the appropriate colours, fairly plainly seasoned and they are a great meal option for vegetarians. The eight of us all had large main courses, which were also accompanied by huge platter of roasted aubergines topped with basil pesto, roasted pears and rather chewy raw fennel
and with another platter of the most delicious crisp (duck fat?) chunky chips. Yes, Lynne succumbed to a couple. There were huge lamb cutlets, perfectly pink (R140) in a gooseberry, lemon, caper & mint pesto,
Franschhoek Trout with a Kei apple (a miniature indigenous apple tree) sauce.
Lynne had a huge portion of rather fatty and rich belly of pork in a superb Vygie (local sour fruit from a succulent) liquor, with fresh figs and crackling.
John’s choice was a huge sirloin steak with an olive and shiraz sauce. This was ordered medium rare, but arrived close to bleu, so it was a tiny bit chewy. The portion was so large that he could not finish it.
Saucing is very good, but sometimes a little sparse. None of us could cope with dessert so we ended on good coffees. The bill was R415 per couple including 3 bottles of Anura Sauvignon Blanc (at a very fair R70) and service, which we think is very reasonable for this level of cuisine. You do have to book well in advance to get a table.
Posted by John Ford at 11:27 pm