The Cape winelands culinary landscape is set for a shake-up this summer as acclaimed chef Eric Bulpitt opens his hotly anticipated new restaurant, FABER, on Avondale wine estate outside Paarl.
“I’ve always believed that we as chefs are craftsmen,” says Bulpitt, explaining the meaning behind FABER, the Latin word for artisan, or craftsman. “We work with our hands, using produce from the land. It’s the perfect way to capture who we are and what we do.”
FABER also marks the meeting of minds and passions between a chef and a winemaker, paying tribute to the craftsmanship in both the kitchen and the Avondale cellar. With a shared commitment to sustainability, and dedication to their craft, it’s no surprise that Bulpitt and Avondale proprietor Johnathan Grieve ‘clicked’ from the moment they first met in early-2016.
“It’s always been a goal of ours to open a restaurant on Avondale. We’ve looked at it for over 10 years, but never really found the right chef,” explains Grieve. “I’m a firm believer that when the energies are correct the partnership will happen, but up until now that hasn’t happened. When we met Eric we knew we’d found the perfect partner.”
“We have very similar belief systems in our respect for nature and a natural approach,” adds Bulpitt. “We’ll be working hand in hand together in telling the story of Avondale through the food at FABER.”
The Avondale story is one of embracing ground-breaking biodynamic and organic farming practices to produce wines that reflect the terroir; wines that pay tribute to the soils that produced them. The same can be said of the cuisine on Bulpitt’s brand-new menu, where this progressive chef will take inspiration from the seasons, the land, and the finest local produce.
“Seasonality will form the foundation of the menu: what’s in season, what’s available in the field, what’s on the farm, what’s good right now,” explains Bulpitt, who says a reflection of that approach is found in a dish that may be the simplest on the menu.
“It’s a salad of seasonal herbs and vegetables, everything that we can harvest from the fields or pick from the vegetable garden. Whatever’s in season on the day, we’ll bring that onto the plate and tell the story of where it comes from. It’s a dish that sums up exactly what FABER stands for.”
Bulpitt certainly won’t have far to travel in search of fresh seasonal produce for the FABER kitchen. Avondale’s organic and biodynamic food garden has already been extended to produce fresh vegetables and herbs for the restaurant, while stone fruits and citrus from the farm’s orchards arrive with the changing seasons. Eggs are harvested daily from the eco-friendly egg-mobile housing Avondale’s free range chickens, and in time the farm will provide a steady march of broiler chickens and pasture-reared organic beef to the kitchen.
“We’ve always done a bit of foraging, collecting what we know is edible, and we’ll definitely keep doing that on Avondale,” adds Bulpitt.
While seasonality and produce underpin the thinking behind each dish, the move to Avondale has also allowed Bulpitt to flex his creative muscles.
“We have a brand-new state-of-the-art kitchen, so we’re upping our game at FABER, putting more skill and creativity into each and every dish,” says Bulpitt.
However, that creativity is always tempered with the chef’s long-held ethos of embracing simplicity on the plate.
“Not simple food, but simplicity,” he explains. “There are creative nuances throughout the menu and on every plate, but without ever overcomplicating the dish. There’s wonderful simplicity in working with a handful of ingredients, but complexity in the technique in bringing them to the dish, and in the flavour combinations.”
A good example is a plate perfect for the height of Spring. Capitalising on the abundance of young seasonal vegetables, Bulpitt’s pasture-reared beef sirloin served with spring garlic; roasted whole; and garnished with bitter mustard leaves is simply superb.
Fresh fish from Cape waters also makes an appearance on the focused new menu. Blending local produce and Asian inspiration, line-caught yellowtail is cured in umami-packed kombu and plated with amasi and compressed apples infused with local lemon verbena.
While the world-class cuisine is precise, deliberate and ever evolving, the front-of-house service under General Manager Celeste Bulpitt take its lead from the global trend towards a more informal fine dining experience. Service is attentive, yet relaxed, with staff eager to share the story of both Avondale and FABER.
Likewise, the décor of the renovated dining space is a blend of stylish comfort and relaxed country elegance. Grieve worked closely with interior designer Annie Dower to infuse the Old Cape-style space with a bright modern country aesthetic. Bespoke crockery was handcrafted at the Potters Gallery in Kleinmond, while high-end crystal stemware from Schott Zwiesel ably showcases the wine list of terroir-driven wines from Avondale. Artworks by local painter Scats Esterhuyse grace the walls and delicate botanical prints mirror the vineyard palette beyond the spacious terrace.
There’s a sustainable element here too: the table tops, bar counters and wooden planter boxes are all crafted from stone pines on the estate that were felled when a fire swept Avondale a decade ago. From the elegant dining room, tables spill onto the spacious shaded terrace with its impressive views across the vines to distant Table Mountain.
It’s the perfect mirror for this remarkable collaboration between two passionate craftsmen: marrying the terroir-driven wines of Avondale with the seasonal cuisine from chef Eric Bulpitt, FABER is set to redefine the world of Cape winelands cuisine.
FABER restaurant is situated on the scenic Avondale wine estate near Paarl in the Western Cape winelands. The restaurant is open for lunch from Wednesday to Sunday from 12h00 – 15h00 and for dinner from Friday to Saturday from 19h00 – 21h00. Reservations recommended.
For bookings and more information phone 021 202 1219 or email email@example.com. Visit FABER on Facebook and follow faber_sa on Instagram.