We continued our culinary journey in South Africa at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français.

The kids had the safari, so the parents should also have something to look forward to, right? 😄 It did take some effort and proper planning to fit it in our itinerary, but I was lucky enough to get us reservations at all the top 3 restaurants of the 2015 Eat Out Magazine Awards: lunch at The Test Kitchen in Cape Town and dinner in both La Colombe in Constantia and The Tasting Room in Franschhoek.

Last year the Dutch-born Margot Janse celebrated 20 years at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, and the restaurant has regularly appeared on the San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants in the World, residing in the top 50 from 2005 through 2011, peaking at #31 and now at #88. Of course, The Tasting Room has also been ever-present in the Eat Out Restaurant Awards most recently taking 3rd place – as well as winning the Service Excellence Award – in both 2014 and 2015. The staff is indeed well trained, very friendly, but also quite chatty and in for some jokes without being intrusive. It adds to the relaxed atmosphere on the floor and among the guests; I think it was one of the noisiest crowds at a fine dining restaurant we ever encountered.

The Tasting Room specializes in dishes that are inspired by local fair and with abundant use of indigenous ingredients (using that premise much more than the other SA restaurants we visited), but Margot Janse does combine it with “European”  preparation, cooking techniques and plating. In 2013 we also visited the restaurant, and we were served a delicious and beautiful herb salad with only the comment that it all was picked earlier that day in the restaurant’s garden. The dish was aptly called “A Walk in the Garden”… For such a thing to work, the food must be engaging and bursting with (un)familiar flavors. It did, and to our great surprise, we got a pop-quiz by the waiter afterward about its ingredients and got an explanation on the ones didn’t get.

In about 3,5 hours we spent in the restaurant this time, we got served 8 courses with perfect wine pairings (👍 = favorite dish of the evening, 4+⭐️ wines in Platter’s 2016 are denoted). But first, after being welcomed with a glass of rosé MCC from Graham Beck, we got some appetizers:

Black Pepper “Snow” with Caramelised Onion Tuiles
Mousses (Prawn and Vegetables), Steamed Buns (Red wine and Cheese / Spiced Aubergine), Puffed Black Rice Crackers
Much to our enjoyment, the Tin-baked Cornbread with Caramelised Butter is still being served. Truly amazing flavors!
👍 1. Sweetcorn Potjie, Madagascan Pepper ‘Popcorn”, Kohlrabi, Black Sesame
Cederberg Bukettraube 2015 (Cederberg)  Bukettraube is a rare cultivar with only 77 hectares remaining left in the world! 
2a. Broccoli, Broccoli, Broccoli
Trizanne Signature Wines Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Reserve 2014 (Elim) Platter’s 4⭐️
2b. Confit Tomato and Potato Tumbleweed, Buchu, Spekboom
Vuurberg White 2014 (Stellenbosch) Platter’s 4⭐️
3a. Octopus, Radish, Cucumber (all obscured by..) Sorrel Nori
Graham Beck Brut Zero 2010 (Robertson)
3b. Beetroot, Granny Smith, Almonds
NV Franschhoek Pass Winery Morena Brut Rosé (Franschhoek)
4a. West Coast Crayfish, Sour Fig, Butternut
Stony Brook Vineyards The “J” 2015 (Franschhoek)
4b. Leek, Barley, Potato and Lemon Puree
Restless River Chardonnay 2013 (Hemel en Aarde Valley) Platter’s 4.5⭐️
5a. Joostenbergvlakte Duck in Salt, Boere Kinders, Buckwheat, Kapokbos
“4 incarnations of grape” cocktail (with verjus, juice, wine and vinegar) 
5b. Butter Roasted Cauliflower, Amasi, Hazelnuts, Currants
Lynx Grenache Noir 2014 (Franschhoek)
6a. Great Karoo Black Wildebeest, Celery and its Roots, Juniper Consommé
Joostenberg Philip Albert Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Paarl)
6b. Samp and Mushroom Cake, Walnuts, Celeriac
Môreson The Widow Maker Pinotage 2013 (Franschhoek) Platter’s 4.5⭐️

For some reason I missed out on taking pics of our 7th courses:

  • 7a. Pépé Charlotte Buche, Packham Pear, Mebos, Onion, Curry flakes. The menu said that it was supposed to be paired with a Haut Espoir Sémillon White Port 2014, but I got mine paired with a My Wine, My Robyn 2012, a yummy fortified Shiraz (Franschhoek)
  • 7b. Huguenot Cheddar, Caraway Crisp Bread, Tarragon, Watercress that was paired with a Saboteur Shiraz, Mourvèdre & Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Bot Rivier)

I did get pics of the wines, so likely I got a bit preoccupied with the 2014 Saboteur Syrah blend from Luddite, one of my favorite South African wineries, that was paired with Chantal’s cheese course. I have the 2012 and 2013 Saboteur vintages still cellared, but 2014 is already ready to drink and very nice indeed (as well as an unexpected yet magnificent pairing with the Huguenot cheddar!)

8a. Granadilla, Chocolate, and Buchu
Lynx Golden Lynx Naturel Sweet Viognier 2015 (Franschhoek) 
👍 8b. Snow Globe, Num Num, Ginger, Rice Pops
Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Collection Muscat de Frontignan 2014 (Franschhoek)
Sweets: Salted Caramel Almonds, Chocolate-coated Marshmallows, and Raspberry Meringues served with rooibos tea

The 8-course menu is R875 per person, R1.390 with wine pairing. Including the glasses of bubbly, water, coffee/tea, and gratuity the dinner set us back R3.350 (€190/$215).

Many reviews of the restaurant mention that you haven’t honestly tasted South Africa until you have dined there. We fully concur!!

2 replies on “Around the World – The Tasting Room – Franschhoek, South Africa (May 2016)

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