Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dinner at Forage; Wildekrans Estate, Bot River

The last time we stayed at Wildekrans in Bot River, the chef Greg Henderson had just arrived to open Forage restaurant. A year and a half later we returned, with most of our wine club in tow, to stay in the Lodge for the weekend and have dinner in the restaurant on Saturday night. There were 18 of us seated at three tables. Forage has been gaining a reputation for interesting modern food and it is located in an area rather barren of fine dining
The restaurant is in a large barn like building with a vaulted ceiling, sparkling chandeliers and an interesting mural feature of herbs and spring vegetables
The kitchen is partially open to the restaurant and is so well ordered and quiet as the kitchen staff silently glide about preparing such pretty dishes
The menu. It changes with the seasons and with availability of ingredients. Chef did not insist on this large group having a set menu, which is their usual practice, as it helps the kitchen when they have such a large group staying and dining at the Wildekrans Lodge. Chef agreed that for R350 per person, we could choose three courses from the à la carte menu
Chef goes foraging locally for lots of herbs, vegetables and things from the sea, strand, forest and bush. This was balsamic vegetable infused with herbs, and a mustard butter
These accompanied the ash damper bread rolls - cooked in the ashes of the fire
Our friendly and helpful waitress explains the menu. Other tables ordered bottles of wines to share, our table decided to go with the suggested pairings which are by the glass for each course. The Estate wine pairing is R35 per glass and the Barrel Selection is R75 a glass. We did order a bottle of the Wildekrans MCC to start with; this is made from Chenin Blanc and shows some sweetness from the ripe grapes
One of the chefs taking such trouble with presentation
But first an amuse - under the glass, some smoke from an indigenous sage (sativa) plant set alight...
... a nasturtium ...
... and beneath that the smallest morsel of fillet steak, very tender and smoky on a Hollandaise sauce, on a peppery nasturtium leaf. One lovely mouthful
Chef plating up one of our starters
Shoreline: A mousse of pork jowl, baby clams, champagne jelly and dressed with a foam and kelp caviar. Paired with Wildekrans MCC Brut Rosé NV
Pond Ecosystem: A creamy Waterblommetjie soup, with a bulrush tempura, smoked and cured wild Overberg trout. Paired with Wildekrans MCC Chenin 2014
Duck in the Pines. Paté squares of wild duck liver on a duck skin crumble and topped with a smoked plum jelly and lazy daisies. This was accompanied by a warm pinecone, studded with pine nuts and redolent of pine oil. You sprinkled them over the dish. Served with crisp toasted bread. We both had it and enjoyed it very much, paired with the Wildekrans Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017, fresh and lively
A palate cleanser of orange sorbet dipped in orange zest. Good but very cold when you put the whole morsel in your mouth at once
Preparing the main course. The Renosterbos Lamb was the most popular dish
Thuli Cattle Story: Sous vide Nguni sirloin, fynbos boerewors, beef cheek, smoked Cape Watsonia bulb, dandelion maize polenta and a good dark jus. Served with a Barrel select Shiraz 2014
John chose the Farmlands dish. The very well hung, perhaps a little over hung rabbit and guinea fowl were wrapped in bacon and had been cooked sous vide. It certainly was ripe and rather slippery to cut. This came with a pork hock, Bietou gel, wild onion, baby turnips, veld patat (sweet potato) wild grass and a dark jus. Paired with the Barrel select Cape Blend 2014
Lynne chose the Demersal (fish living close to the floor of the sea or lake) as there was promise of razor clams with the dish. It was a large slice of unskinned hake, which had been steamed, covered with a rather tasteless foam - promised was a champagne urchin foam. The hake was billed as smoked, but there was not a lot of smoke in the dish. Served with tiny clams, a solid smoked salmon mousse, some baby sour fig (edulus) leaves, and an undiscovered secret: some white mussel meat which was absolutely delicious, rather like abalone. We need to eat these more, rather than use them as bait. Next to the fish was the razor clam, finely diced and served with some leek-like vegetable. What this dish needs is some sort of lemon butter sauce or another to add some moisture to the very delicate hake. This was paired with the Wildekrans MCC Brut Rosé
Two choices for dessert. Lynne chose this one as she was assured that there is no dairy involved. Fallen Lime is a white chocolate and sugar candy sphere; you have to hammer to get into it. It is set on a rather stony dark sand (some described this as grape nuts) and one hard piece nearly broke a tooth. Secured to the plate and filled with some creamy French meringue and hiding a ball of soft lime curd. Served with the Protea Potion, house made sweet and bitter Vermouth with Protea nectar
The other choice was Van Noot’s Secret: a small milk tart with cinnamon snaps, a sugar work piece, Herzog biscuit crumble and topped with a vanilla bean and goats’ milk ice cream. Served with the powerful Wildekrans Chenin Blanc Grappa 2013
Chef Greg Henderson. Our group were surprised and astounded at this adventurous meal, the presentations, the ingenuity and the fact that, if one had a meal like this in the city, one would pay twice as much or even more. Thank you Chef and the really superb staff who took care of our every need
The bill for our table of six

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