The Tasting Room, a small fine dining restaurant at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek, has won Best Restaurant in Africa and the Middle East 4 times, and San Pellegrino Top 50 Best Restaurants 7 times. (Reservations are a must, ours made three months in advance for a Tuesday night, which was completely full).
The chef, Margot Janse, has an African Inspired Surprise Tasting Menu, which is what we wanted to experience. After we sat down at our table, one of only about a dozen, we were asked whether or not we were “up for” the accompanying wine pairings, a taste of a local wine with each of the eight courses. I liked that, and enthusiastically accepted the challenge. (It actually did turn out to be a challenge, but I made it through all the wine tastings and most of the food).
Each new course came with a prop, story, or explanation. The bread and butter that arrived first even came with a story. The chef has her own cow, Daisy, at one of the local farms, and uses the milk from this cow to make the butter for the restaurant, carmelized and without preservatives. The bread was baked in a tiny can, a nod to the cans that the corn flour used to be sold in. The salt on the table was from the Kalahari Desert.
Most of the time my sister and I were served the same course, but occasionally we got different tastes. While I had the smoked mushroom flan, she had a soup made with Baobab tree seed pods, and she got the prop.
The dinner did take 3 to 3 1/2 hours. It was fantastic, and I would highly recommend this to anyone visiting Franschhoek. My favorite courses were the poached organic egg yolk (of which I didn’t get a good photograph), the African grains, and the curry dusted kingklip fish course. The little tomatoes that came with the kingklip just melted in your mouth. I asked the server how they were prepared, and after returning from the kitchen he told us; they were blanched in hot water to remove the skins, then cooked slowly in olive oil for about one hour on medium heat. They were exquisite.
Even though the food tastes and the wine pairings were small, it did start to add up, and I just couldn’t eat anymore by the time the chocolate cake and mini cones came around. What a pity. After dinner we walked up and down the main street of Franschhoek, bellies bursting.