Chef Nic van Wyk
Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
Chef Nic van Wyk Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

SECRET DINER: The best of the Cape pops up in Zimbali

By The Secret Diner Time of article published Jun 27, 2018

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Where: Haute Cabriere Pop-Up Restaurant, Zimbali Lodge
Call: 032 538 5000 

Franschhoek’s Haute Cabrière wine estate, and chefs Nic van Wyk and Westley Muller, have opened a second season of pop-up restaurants at the Fairmont Zimbali, giving Durban foodies a taste of the best of Cape cooking, while the chefs thaw out to a mild KwaZulu-Natal winter.

The Independent on Saturday was fortunate to be invited to a six-course tasting menu devised by Van Wyk to complement the range of Haute Cabrière wines. Many will remember the chef as one of the creative minds behind the restaurant Terroir in Stellenbosch, which scooped Eat Out’s Best Restaurant in South Africa in 2006.

We relaxed in the elegant and intimate dining room with its views out to the sea as chef Nic introduced his menu.

First up was the bread course with an excellent whole wheat ciabatta with quince jam and bocconcini cheese (a type of mozzarella) croquettes with smoked aioli.

The pea soup for many at our table was the highlight of the day. Simple, but good cooking and good ingredients made for an excellent dish. Plus there was a little bit of drama as the soup was poured over the chorizo and pork puff. It was served with the Haute Cabrière chardonnay pinot noir.

Next up was a beautifully fresh, seared scallop with pan-fried calamari in a black tomato sauce. This had been coloured with squid ink. I really liked the sauce and it went very well with the calamari. The Haute Cabrière pinot noir unwooded was a good companion, although it could have been chilled a tad longer.

For me the superb cooking that went into the line fish won the day. It was just so beautifully fresh and the crispy kale and herb butter lifted it. I had groaned inwardly at the idea of it being on a cauliflower purée. We even talked about how the Banters were getting the upper hand. But it was a silky smooth cauliflower cheese “mash” that won me over instantly and the braised red wine lentils gave the dish a nice earthy counterbalance. Great cooking. But the Pierre Jourdan Tranquille didn’t do the dish justice.

Mains was an intriguing rosemary and bay-leaf venison ragout - an eland we were told - served with Parmesan polenta and bone-marrow foam. The venison had the wonderful intensity of slow cooking, while the bone-marrow foam added a richness. A good companion to Haute Cabrière’s pinot noir reserve.

Dessert after all that food was wonderfully light, a little chocolate torte on amaretti crumbs with candied pecans and salted caramel popcorn.

Well done to chef Nic and his team.

The pop-up offers a number of opportunities. On July 7 and 13 there will be a 6-course Indian-inspired tasting menu at Osa. Cost is R595, wine included. There will also be more Sunday feasts at Osa on July 8 and Zimbali Lodge on July 15, featuring a three-course meal paired with wine at R395. July 10-12 takes in the six-course Haute Cabrière tasting menu we tried at Zimbali Lodge. Cost is R595, including wine.

There will also be a cooking class with Van Wyk on July 11 at Zimbali Lodge at R395. This will be followed by a light lunch.

* Reservations at 032 538 5000 or zim.din[email protected]

Food: 4.5

Service: 4.5

Ambiance: 4.5

The Independent on Saturday

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