Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lunch at The Restaurant, Newton Johnson Vineyards, Hemel en Aarde Valley

As we were in the valley for the weekend, we wanted to try out this restaurant which we had not visited since its change of chef from Erik Bulpitt to Rickey Broekhoven. They had told us that they wanted to do less fine dining and more artisanal food. Chef Rickey was sous chef to Erik Bulpitt. It is good to see such a young and talented chef - he is only 26 - take charge of his own kitchen. He did his training at the TCA under Rebecca Hurst and has lots of good experience locally and overseas while he climbed the kitchen tree. He has worked in good restaurants in Sweden and with several respected South African chefs
The winter vineyards in front of the winery on the hill. We saw that one of the cover crops is broad beans. Can't wait to have some in the restaurant
Inside the restaurant
It has an informal open kitchen
It has wonderful views over the valley and down to the sea with Hangklip in the distance
The menu of the day. Quite small and simple, but choices for most
First they bring lovely sweet sourdough bread with a good chewy crust, served with whipped lard - bread and dripping!
As we had done two wine tastings already that morning (driver John does spit!), we decided to play safe and go with wine by the glass and, as we were having the same starter, we shared a glass of 2016 South End Chardonnay. The restaurant was happy for us to share a glass and poured it into two glasses. Golden loquats on the nose with orange and tangerine notes on the crisp and rich palate ending with a light toast
We ordered the deep fried duck bitterballen, a great reminder of our holiday in the Netherlands. A crisp crumb crust with a soft, creamy shredded duck centre. Good soft mustard sauce with a little kick complemented the bitterballen and the wine
We decided that each of us would order one of the main courses, eat half then swap. John started with the tender loin of Eland, served nicely pink. This came with seared onion rings and wood sorrel and a lovely onion sauce. We suspect that the Eland had been in buttermilk; it gives it an unmistakable tenderness. John ordered a glass of the Full Stop Rock red blend to go with our main courses
We cracked and ordered one serving of the Hand cut Fries with aioli. They are very good indeed. Nicely crisp
Lynne began with the Beef ragout, covered with a blanket of mashed potato and cream - which reminded her of the Greek Skordalia sauce - braised cabbage and a broad bean pesto. The ragout was intense and very rich. The beef tasted as if it had been smoked and some pieces were almost like ham, and then added to the rich jus rather than cooked together. The pesto added good green notes and was also rich. A great find on the plate was some lovely flakes of crisp roast potato
We skipped dessert and, over our very good double espressos chatted about training, restaurants food, experience and life to chef Rickey and manager Theo van Niekerk for ages. What nice, enthusiastic young men. The menu changes regularly. We will be back
The bill

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