IT’S time to shed your carapace of winter woollies and emerge into the sunlight. And what better spot to celebrate summer than the friendly Foodbarn in Noordhoek Farm Village, where children and pets are welcome and shorts and slip-slops part of the landscape.
Ours was a lunch worth an ode: to the sun; to indulgence, and to gourmet fare gone casual. For “gourmet”, in Franck Dangereux’s capable hands, has nothing to do with dressing up, whether in terms of dress code or food.
When Dangereux abdicated from star-studded top chef limelight to move to rural Noordhoek, we foodies were gobsmacked. We’d miss him. He’s Mr Culinary Nice Guy; charming, full of fun, with an instinctive flair for food that’s natural, healthy, and utterly delicious. Noordhoek (somewhere down south) seemed a safari away.
But Dangereux knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted a natural, unspoiled environment to bring up his family and an unpretentious restaurant where food would speak to the average consumer.
Both sun-washed restaurant and à la carte menu are a study in simplicity, the dishes recognisable rather than garnished with French phrases, and the ambience relaxed, though table and glassware are chosen to enhance your meal. The food is not tortured but allowed to speak for itself; never intimidating, but always appetising and beautifully plated.
Take your time. Temptation strikes in every category from starters, through mains to desserts. I stopped at the steak tartare, for I’m a fanatic (it has to be hand-chopped) and the Foodbarn version comes with nasturtium pesto and croutons, the plate splashed with the colourful flowers for impact and taste, and the suggested match with a carafe of Jordan unoaked chardonnay ’11 a perfect pairing.
As good was the delightfully crisp prawn tempura, singing of summer on a confited tomato, aubergine and avo tian, finished with a chilli and red pepper syrup and basil salsa. I hogged the offal choice before my foodie friend had a chance, as it was mouth-melting braised ox tongue on a generous helping of boulangère potatoes and ravigote sauce. (Allow Dangereux his lapse: if you’re not familiar with the term, ravigote is a slightly acidic, classic French sauce, based on a vegetable or meat broth with herbs when served warm).
I was forgiven, for the ethically farmed Karoo rack of lamb was a tender triumph, roasted in bread crumbs, and served with field mushroom and broccoli gratin, finished with bordelaise sauce and marjoram swirl.
All herbs, fresh shoots and baby leaves are grown in the kitchen garden, and Dangereux is hoping to expand into a vegetable patch at neighbouring Cape Point Vineyards.
Perhaps we should have paced ourselves with a “boozie drinking sorbet”, for we had to share dessert – though our charming and informed waitress reassured us that this was normal when guests ordered from the à la carte.
After much deliberation, home-made Turkish ice cream lost out to decadent cocoa millefeuille with chocolate marquise and peanut brittle praline cream, vanilla sauce and salted peanut ice cream.