Haute Cabrière has a new chef

Set high on the mountain slopes above the picturesque village of FranschhoekHaute Cabrièrehas long charmed visitors with its perfect marriage of fine wine and gourmet cuisine. Now, with the arrival of new Head Chef Dennis Strydom, this iconic family-owned estate is evolving the menu at its acclaimed Cellar Restaurant to offer a more relaxed bistro-style experience to winelands travelers.

“When I think about food my mind goes straight to my grandmother’s house on our family farm in the Langkloof. Her cooking was all about delicious, honest food” says Strydom, who trained at the historic Queen’s Hotel in Oudtshoorn before taking up chef positions at boutique hotels and five-star lodges across the Garden Route and Eastern Cape. “I want the menu here to be an offering that is consistent, generous, and worth returning for.”  

 On Strydom’s revamped à la carte menu that finds expression in an array of mouth-watering bistro-inspired dishes given a deft touch of culinary class: a generous cut of sirloin steak is cooked sous vide then pan-seared and topped with anchovy butter and Béarnaise sauce, while a slow-braised pork belly is plated atop mushroom ragoût complemented by a crispy white bean croquette. “I want to take the essence of home-style cooking and elevate it to restaurant level,” explains Strydom.      

The Coq au Vin is a perfect example of that authentic bistro-style approach. A seamless marriage of generous portions and bold flavours, this humble peasant stew takes two days to prepare and arrives elegantly plated with fresh seasonal vegetables and crispy pea shoots fresh from the garden. Served with a silky risotto infused with a splash of truffle oil, it’s the perfect dish for wintry days in the Franschhoek winelands. Embracing the Haute Cabrière philosophy of Sun-Soil-Vine-Man, a key component of this young chef’s philosophy is to let the finest local produce shine through in each and every dish.

I want my food to be honest; no gimmicks. Everything on the plate needs to be there for a reason, it needs to add flavour to the dish,” explains Strydom. “I think as chefs we sometimes need to stand back and let the plate and the produce speak for itself.”  

Building dishes and flavour profiles from the ground up is also key to every dish on Strydom’s menu; from the duck that is cured for 24 hours, to the pork belly slow-braised with white wine and mirepoix. Pasta is made on-site each day, and then paired with the freshest produce from the estate gardens. “Right now we’re serving a chevre tortellini stuffed with pine nuts and sun-dried tomato filling; it’s served in a pea velouté and topped with a Parmesan crisp. It’s a dish that will change with whatever comes out of the vegetable garden. At the moment we have some lovely artichokes on the way.”

With fond childhood memories of growing up on a farm, Strydom is eager to incorporate fresh produce from the restaurant’s expansive vegetable gardens into the three- or six-course tasting menu; the upscale option for diners seeking a culinary journey through the farm’s food and wine offering. “The tasting menu will be built around what is available in the vegetable garden on the farm, changing daily to reflect what is fresh and in season,” explains Strydom. “I believe a tasting menu needs to be a different experience to the à la carte, it needs to be a unique offering.”    

While the tasting menu will constantly evolve, the standout starter currently gracing the table is a summery tomato gazpacho topped with a fresh sorbet of Chardonnay and basil. Main courses include a fragrant risotto of exotic mushrooms and truffle crème fraiche, a perfect pairing for the estate’s much-loved blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while the seared kudu loin plated with red cabbage jam and roast butternut mash pairs seamlessly with Haute Cabrière’s acclaimed Pinot Noir. Strydom works closely with cellar master Takuan von Arnim in pairing each dish on both the à la carte and tasting menus with wines from the estate. The Tasting Menu offers two options,R345 for 3 courses or R465 for 6 courses including a glass of the recommended wine with each course on both options. While the new à la carte and tasting offering cement Haute Cabrière’s position as a sought-after destination-dining venue in the Franschhoek valley, the casual Terrace menu remains hugely popular with tourists and travellers looking for a light bite before or after a wine tasting experience in the cellar. The Terrace menu has been tweaked to offer similarly generous bistro fare, with delicious choices stretching to a platter of local cheeses and charcuterie or a homemade burger topped with Healey’s mature cheddar. On warm summer afternoons, the classic salad niçoise is a perfect match for Haute Cabrière’s famous Méthode Cap Classique. The Terrace menu is available from Tuesday to Saturday from 15h00 until 17h30 during the summer season.    

Another welcome new addition is the opportunity for guests to enjoy dinner al fresco, soaking up some of the finest sunset views in Franschhoek from the spacious lawns framing the cellar. The ‘Piccolo’ children’s menu has also been revamped, with a kid-friendly selection including a ‘piccolo pasta’ and finger-friendly toasted sandwiches. With its unrivalled location and a mouth-watering new bistro-style menu to tempt diners, tables at Haute Cabrière’s enigmatic Cellar Restaurant are sure to be snapped up quickly this summer.

Haute Cabrière’s Tasting Room and Cellar Restaurant are both situated on Franschhoek Pass (Lambrecht Street), Franschhoek. The Cellar Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday and on Sunday for lunch only from 12h00 to 15h00. For reservations and enquiries e-mail restaurant@cabriere.co.za or call 021 876 3688. The Tasting Room hours are: Mon - Fri 09h00 to 17h00; Sat 10h00 to 16h00 and Sunday 11h00 to 16h00.