Passion and Provenance Create Inspired Farm Dining at Boschendal

Few chefs have a pantry quite as impressive as Christiaan Campbell’s. While other winelands kitchens may enjoy a well-stocked store-cupboard or suppliers on speed-dial, Campbell is in a rather more fortunate position. For just a few steps from the pass at the Werf Restaurant on Boschendal Farm lays more than 2000 hectares of lush farmland producing everything from export-quality fruit to pasture-reared Black Angus beef and free-range chickens.

“The sustainable philosophy of Boschendal Farm is precisely the direction I have always wanted to go in,” smiles Campbell, looking out over the nine-hectare vegetable garden that is the culinary heart of the rejuvenated Boschendal Farm.

Between the raised beds a flock of hungry Indian Runner Ducks forage for grubs and pests, while gardeners are hard at work harvesting fresh produce for the farm kitchens. After winter rains, Campbell is often found in the forests alongside the nearby streams, basket in hand as he goes in search of Poplar Boletus and Pine Ring mushrooms.

Chef Christiaan Campbell

“The vegetable garden certainly dictates the menu at the Werf Restaurant, it feeds our creativity in the kitchen,” says Campbell, who relishes the sheer variety and diversity of fresh produce delivered to the kitchen each morning. “The vegetables are amazing, they taste beautiful and come in such interesting shapes and sizes.”

While the vegetable garden under the care of horticulturist Megan McCarthy is certainly impressive, it’s just one ‘shelf’ in the Boschendal pantry.

Boschendal Farm is fast becoming famous for its 900+ strong herd of Black Angus cattle that deliver a steady supply of marbled grass-fed beef to the Werf Restaurant kitchens. The Angus herds are rotated between pastures, with thousands of laying hens following in their wake, producing up to 1000 free-range eggs per day. On another corner of the property hundreds of broiler chickens run freely on pastureland, while a small herd of sheep keeps the farm kitchens well stocked through the busy summer months. In the stands of poplar trees below the vegetable garden a handful of Duroc pigs mark the beginning of another ambitious project, to produce pasture-reared pork on the estate.

“We’re really spoilt with our meat here on the farm,” says Campbell. “But I also think we’ve crossed a bridge with people and their approach to grass-fed beef. People no longer judge a steak by its tenderness, but rather by its flavour. And both the flavour and texture of the beef from the farm is just incredible.”

“In the butchery we work with whole carcasses, dry-ageing the meat on the bone for up to six weeks,” explains Boschendal’s butcher Rainer Raschbichler, standing amid the band-saws and cold-rooms of the farm’s dedicated production butchery. “We farm in a very natural way, so I try to use the same approach in the butchery to really show what the meat is all about. And I make sure nothing goes to waste.”

The butcher and chef are a perfect match, for long before nose-to-tail dining became a global trend Campbell had embraced a more sustainable approach to meat.

“Everything has to be used, whether it’s lamb, beef or pork,” says Campbell. “We do sell prime cuts, but whatever the butcher says we have to use up the team in the kitchen has to come up with a creative way to present it. And you’ll see that feeding through the menu at the Werf Restaurant.”

Campbell’s inspired cuisine and pioneering approach to sustainability have already seen him cement his reputation as one of the leading chefs in the Cape Winelands, but a passion for progression and constant improvement has also sparked a quiet evolution in the menu and dining experience at the Werf Restaurant, the home of inspired farm dining on Boschendal Farm.

“We realised we were still too focused on the visual aspects of the dish, trying to wow diners with smoke and mirrors. So we decided to simplify the style of cooking, to work with fewer components on the plate in focused portions,” explains Campbell. “In reworking the menu I had only two criteria: whatever we do it has to be done with passion, and it must showcase the ingredients coming from the farm. From that starting point the rest just flowed.”

And the new menu is certainly impressive, channelling the skill and creativity of Campbell and his kitchen brigade to showcase the remarkable produce from this historic Cape estate.

While dishes evolve and rotate with the changing seasons, look out for the likes of intense lamb broth with pulled lamb belly and Parisian gnocchi. The beef tartare is equally memorable; thanks to the intense dry-aged Angus beef and Campbell’s subtle flourish of pickled red onions and cured grated egg yolk.

Main courses similarly make the most of the farm’s free-ranging herds, whether it’s a slow-braised lamb shoulder with broccoli risotto or a brisket of Angus beef, hot-smoked for 16 hours and plated with creamy local South African Yellow Maize organic polenta and a salad of wild herbs foraged in between the vegetable garden beds.

The selection of inventive side dishes are also a wonderful reflection of what’s been harvested fresh that morning, and could include anything from caramelized Jerusalem artichokes to baby carrots in citrus and cumin or aubergine hearts roasted in oregano.

There’s a thread of authenticity running through the menu here, a sense of quiet confidence neatly reflected in the style and standard of service. At the Werf Restaurant the accomplished cuisine is matched by a welcome lack of ceremony in the service: kitchen staff come dressed in stylish grey work shirts and denim aprons, no stuffy starched whites or chef’s toques in sight.

Situated in what was once the estate’s original wine cellar, that authenticity is deftly reflected in the décor and setting of the Werf Restaurant. Inspired décor by Barcelona-based designer Lazaro Saviolan celebrates Boschendal’s rich Cape Dutch history, blending heritage touches with a modern country aesthetic. And while diners seated indoors or on the spacious terrace may admire the wrought-iron light fittings and Delft-inspired portraits, the star of the show is surely the panoramic views of the Werf food garden that provides a visual link from farm to plate.

Authenticity is also a word that applies to all corners of this rejuvenated estate. In the Farm shop & Deli visitors will find an array of home-made produce from Boschendal and selected local producers, while the restored Boschendal Manor House will soon accommodate a new tasting room experience that combines heritage, wine and farm cuisine. Here visitors can look forward to bespoke tastings offered alongside selected pairing dishes from Campbell’s kitchen: think Angus beef with a comparative flight of Boschendal Shiraz, or canapés from the Werf Restaurant kitchen matched with the estate’s unique Méthode Cape Classique sparkling wines.

The Boschendal Farm Shop & Deli

“It’s an opportunity to sample the Werf Restaurant’s menu and to entice people into the restaurant, but also a chance for a light bite paired with some of the estate’s wonderful wines,” adds Christiaan.

It’s just the beginning of the culinary journey on offer at Boschendal Farm, so little wonder the farm’s charming accommodation has become hot-property for overseas guests and savvy local tourists. Self-catering options are scattered across the estate, from the family-friendly Orchard Cottages to the elegantly refurbished Werf Cottages, a short walk from this historic homestead.

It’s the perfect location for discovering the inspired farm dining that has quickly come to define Boschendal Farm. Whether you visit for the day, or stay the weekend, Christiaan Campbell would be only too happy to show you what’s in his remarkable winelands pantry.

Boschendal is situated on Pniel Road in Groot Drakenstein outside Franschhoek. The Werf Restaurant is open for lunch Wednesdays to Sundays from 12h00 to 14h30 (guests to be seated by 14h00) and for dinner Wednesdays to Saturdays from 18h00 to 21h00 (guests to be seated by 20h30). Please note that reservations are essential.

For reservations at the Werf Restaurant please contact 021 870 4206 or email werf@boschendal.co.za. To book a table at The Farm shop & Deli please contact +27 (0) 21 870 4276 or visit www.boschendal.com for more information.