Laura's World Blog

We enjoyed an absolutely superb French-inspired dining experience at The Vine Bistro this past weekend, looking out across the amphitheatre of Glenelly Vineyards!

Ambiance:
The Vine Bistro's terrace, complete with a petanque court and the relaxing sound of gurgling water from their water feature nearby, makes for the perfect outdoor venue in the summer. 
Alternatively, their interiors are swayed towards catering for rainy, wintry months and offer a cozy ambiance complete with a fireplace for the winter, comfy leather banquettes and a traditional bar.

Wines:
The Glenelly range of wines is comprised of the Glass Collection, Estate Reserve and of course the Estate’s flagship Cabernet that is sourced from a single vineyard, the Lady May. Glenelly offer a range of wines that will pair well with a wide variety of meals, and you are bound to find something that suites your taste during your meal. 

Food: 
From the name, you will note that The Vine offers classic bistro lunches and dinners with a menu that changes regularly. On Sundays, The Vine Bistro offers an affordable set menu with a small range of options to choose from, but the other days are generally a la carte. 

To start, I selected the Quail and mushroom galantine with chicken liver parfait, baby leaf salad and pickled vegetables. For me, the highlight of this dish must have been the light and fluffy chicken liver parfait. Superb! 
For mains, I chose the Cape Linefish and Tarragon nage with summer vegetables. This dish had a rich, creamy sauce which complimented the linefish well. 
The plating of these dishes was exceptional! 

Service:
Hands-on, professionally trained staff, to match the theme of this top notch bistro. I expected nothing less, but was glad to see it in action. 

In Summary, The Vine Bistro has it all.. Stunning panoramic vineyard views, kitchens expertly headed by Chef Christophe Dehosse and Chef Alex Rykaart, May de Lencquesaing's private art collection (including pieces by Salvador Dali and Lino Tagliapietra), and of course their exceptional range of wines to compliment every dish.

 

I am still daydreaming about the delectable Seafood Bisque that I enjoyed at Roca Restaurant surrounded by 360 degree views of Franschhoek this past week!

Ambiance: 5/5. 
In addition to their already iconic views of the Franschhoek Valley, they've gone and added a third level, referred to as “Roca 360 on the Roof”, complete with a comfy couch set up for your viewing pleasure to take it all in. At this point, Roca is almost just showing off now, and I like it! 

Service: 5/5. 
Our smiling and knowledgable waitress could not have done more to ensure that we were comfortable at all times, that our wine glasses were never empty and to make knowledgable recommendations on 'must-try' dishes. 

Food: 4/5.
My photographs attached should hopefully go a long way in giving you an idea of plating, and presentation of the dishes so this rating below is purely based on taste. 
My starter, the recommended Seafood Bisque made with local Linefish blew me away.  Seafood Bisques of any kind are a firm favourite of mine and I religiously try the lobster or fish alternative at any venue that offers it! The Bisque had lots of flavour, and had the right balance of creaminess and saltiness with generous portions of Linefish in it. 

Next, it was onto the Seared Sesame Crusted Salmon served with slow roasted cherry tomato, grilled fennel bulb, parsley pommes purée, pickled ginger and a lemon salsa. The salmon was the right combination of crunchy and softness inside, and cooked to perfection! It was exactly what I had imagined a dish with that description to be and the only conjecture that I had was over the portion size as this is a main dish.  

Wood-oven Roasted Mozambican Chicken: Free range deboned chicken, roasted vegetables, peri-peri sauce and hand cut chips. The chicken was simple but full of flavour and spicy without overpowering the dish. 
We left thinking that we had selected the best three dishes and absolutely content, which I can't say after every meal. 

*Recommendation: Even, if it is simply for sundowners, Roca Restaurant is a must-visit for anyone heading to Franschhoek!

As this was my very first visit to Piccolo Mondo, I could not help but have gotten my hopes up, and last night, as I walked into elegant, well-designed interiors with marble finishings and sophisticated high ceilings, I was impressed. 


Once we were seated, I realized that Piccolo Mondo offers a unique (and well-priced) meal selection for dinners which is broken down into:
1.  Whether you would like a two course or three course meal combination with a selection of meat, fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes, which change every four weeks and
2. Whether you would like the food only menu or a paired menu (for those of you who like me enjoy their wines but aren't experts). Food and wine pairing has become the latest trend as far as fine dining is concerned so what could be more enjoyable than an expertly paired selection of the perfect wine to go with a gourmet meal?  A good pairing also manages to enhance the flavors, both of the meal and the wines that you get to enjoy. 

Of course, I opted for the three course paired option (with wine), on this visit and amongst my choices were:
- The lamb to start: Spicy Braised Lamb Neck Tortellini, Spicy Ragout, Vanilla Espuma, Gremolata paired with Warwick First Lady Unoaked Chardonnay. Spicy, yet lots of great flavors and texture. This ragout was absolutely sublime. 
- For mains, Norwegian Salmon grilled to perfection, served with a fine herb and citrus salad and a Rustic Salsa Verde paired with Newton Johnson Felicite Pinot Noir. I like the summer freshness of the citrus paired with the salmon and it brought out some unusual flavors for me. 
- The dessert needs no introduction as it is one of the signature dishes, and for very good reason. I couldn't resist a taste of the Michelangelo Berry Crème Brûlée: Baked crème brûlée on a mixed berry compote. Perfection!
And of course, my dessert of choice always, cheese. The Artisanal cheese board was actually big enough to feed two people and I loved the generous helpings of cheese, fresh fruit and Walnut bread. 

All in all, this menu was not only comprehensive and beautifully presented, but also surprisingly affordable for a dinner out in Sandton. We certainly received some of the most professional service that I have had in a long time.  

*Recommendation: Piccolo Mondo have taken gourmet wine pairings to a new level, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal here and will return soon. 
 

We arrived at De Warenmarkt one windy evening, not knowing quite what to expect from this collective of merchants all housed in one 18th-century historical building. Needless to say that we were absolutely blown away by what we experienced and ended up staying until closing time!! 

De Warenmarkt is divided into:
1. Simon Wine Bar (tapas and wine)
2. Kaapse Vonkel (MCC and oyster bar)
3. Their Kitchen (comprised of Ryan Boon Meats, waffles, specialty coffees, burgers and almost anything else that your heart could desire).

Food: 
We kicked off our evening with some fresh Saldanha Bay oysters topped with Rozendal Botanical Vinegar and paired with a bottle of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rose 2015 MCC. The perfect way to start any evening really must be at the Kaapse Vonkel MCC and Oyster Bar! 

Then, after examining the 'SIMON' menu (named after their founding father Simon van der Stel), we selected a bottle of Vriesenhof Pinot Noir 2014 by Winemaker Jan "boland" Coetzee to enjoy and some sharing plates:
- Halloumi served with the spicy green goddess dressing, tomato, mint, rocket and lime. 
- Ryan Boon Beef Tartare Perfection served traditionally with a raw egg yolk, and rye bread. 
- Norwegian Salmon Poke: Freshly cut Norwegian Salmon with Asian-inspired flavours.
Such vastly different dishes, but the De Warenmarkt team managed to execute them well and our dishes arrived plated beautifully! 

Service:
Our waiter (all the way from Richards Bay) gave us five star service that one could expect anywhere in the country. He was completely attentive throughout the evening! 

In summary, I love that De Warenmarkt caters for indecisive women like me, who can never decide what we want to eat or drink. I also love that it is so widely supported by the locals in the area (which to me is always a good sign). On a midweek evening, the place was full and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this gem in the heart of Stellenbosch!

*Recommendation: I would recommend De Warenmarkt as having something for absolutely every taste imaginable and excellent quality meals!

 

On Thursday, we attended a gorgeous 'Perfectly Paired' evening at Aurelia's at D'oreal Grande Hotel, Emperors Palace. 

 

We arrived to a full glass of bubbles in the form of our delicious 'Welcome Drink' - Jacques Bruere Brut Reserve. Delicious! 

 

Then it was onto our food journey through Africa with lots of culinary adventures along the way.. 

Crocodile Ceviche: lemon, olive soil, lime custard, bulgur wheat salad, cracked black pepper paired with The Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc. Personally, crocodile is not to my taste and I found this particular dish a little chewy. 

 

Our entree was 'Under The Ocean Cucumber Consomme': Mozambique shredded prawn meat, putu pap quenelle, roasted onion, roasted olives, dried lemon, smoked mussel tortellini, beetroot brûlée, sweet basil oil, black salt and rocket dust paired with the Chardonnay Prestige Cuvee. An interactive dish that allowed for a lot of creativity.

 

From there, it was onto the Rosemary Lamb Rack: truffled mashed potato, thyme infused impala spring roll, grilled cauliflower, chili tomato chutney, and baby vegetables paired with Inkara Cabernet Sauvignon. This lamb was perfectly cooked and so exquisitely plated that I could not help featuring it all on its own my social media handles after the event. Lamb rack perfection!  

 

The dessert, for me was my second favorite dish of the night. Belgium Chocolate Torte: chocolate ice cream, fruit salad, white wine thyme syrup and hazelnut puree paired with White Muscadel. 

 

What a fabulous journey Chef Andre Bezuidenhout and his team provided for us expertly led by Bon Courage Winemaker Philip Viljoen. 

 

Aurelia's tends to have an ambiance all to itself that exudes opulence and elegance and our service matched the experience.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this pairing and although I found some of the dishes a little over-extended, I really thought it was an exquisite evening with lots of new dishes that push the boundaries! 

 

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