Eat Beauty – Terroir at Kleine Zalze, Stellenbosch

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Saturdays are made for pleasure. Saturdays are made for lazy love, shopping, hugging, talking, pleasure and good food. Saturdays are made for soft and kind feelings.

Saturdays have always been my very favourite day of the week.

After the bleached heat of the peninsular summer, I always welcome the first rolling mists and moodiness of autumn. Food and wine taste better in cooler weather too, and with the worst crush of the summer crowds dissipating now, there is no finer time to head out to the winelands for a good lunch.

For the average diner looking for a good time platewise, top winelands chefs and restaurants can be more than a little intimidating. One expects overheated atmospheres and bristly egos, loads of performance anxiety, demanding customers and statement food.

None of this was present when we visited Terroir for a family lunch today.

And that, in itself, was a surprise, seeing as Michael Broughton, the man responsible for the menu that had us in raptures, is one of South Africa’s top chefs.

It’s probably the most deliciously relaxed lunch I have had in years.

According to the press release sent by Manley Communications about current developments at Kleine Zalze, Michael’s food is characterised by deft composition, depth of flavour and harmonious balance of texture, flavour and colour on the plate. (My interpretation.)

If this makes him sound like an overwrought, overthinking chef, my bad. Because his food is sensuous, simple and beautiful. Like a haiku on the plate. There is a serious cook at work here, but so lightly as to be almost invisible behind his ingredients.

And what a cook Michael Broughton is. He cooks for people who love to eat. He is – for me, as a fussy, finickety and totally hedonistic eater – a succinct and confident editor with the most ethereally light touch; so subliminally in harmony with his environment’s moods and subtleties and his customers’ wants and needs as to inspire complete awe. Yes, I was in awe. Subtlety and complete confidence always take my breath away.

What impressed me most about his food is that he cooks for people who have a hunger for something more than just being fed.

All and any preconceptions I had about a starry rockstar chef melted away when Michael himself appeared quietly, unexpectedly, at our table, totally chilled, to shake my kids’ hands and ours, and chat about this and that.

(I feed these two teenagers every day, and that they scraped their plates – and ours – is testimony to the nourishment found in Michael’s dishes.)

The outdoors tables and indoors dining room at Terroir are so plain as to be almost rustic in its simplicity. But it’s not. It’s a smart use of what is available, and maximising the contrast between artistry and craft to intensely heightened effect. Terroir is cosy and welcoming; sophisticated and sleek. The staff and customers seem to be at home in a communal, shared space in that mysterious way of people who know each other really, really well, anticipate all needs and expect them to be met and yet are strangers. This is one of the reasons why I love good restaurants so very, very much.

Terroir’s earthy set-up very cleverly opens up the experience for diners to make their own experience. What a rare experience this is today, in this time of prima donna cheffy egos, competition cookery and unnecessary inventiveness.

At Terroir, everything except the experience of real and own nature is removed: one is left to one’s own senses to navigate along the route of pleasure. I did not see a single unrelaxed or unhappy person at Terroir today, including the staff.

The first impression that leapt to mind was of the Japanese custom of eating with the seasons. A way of being in the world, to celebrate the world. No surprise, then, that Michael’s cookbook, soon to be released, is called Seasons at Terroir.

OK, let’s cut the poetry: we ate like greedy gannets. Two teenagers and two adults feasted and ate off each others’ plates as if we’d never seen food before. We didn’t have dessert, because we are not a sweet-toothed family.

Our bill for 3 starters, 4 mains, a bottle of sparkling water and a carafe of sauvignon blanc  – with generous tasting plates and complimentary glasses of bubbly from the kitchen  – was a ridiculously reasonable R 1 231.00 before tip.

Terroir, Kleine Zalza Wineland and Gholf Estate, Stellenbosch 

Restaurant open for lunch Mondays to Sundays 12.00 to 15.00 and

dinner Mondays to Saturdays 18.30- 21.00

Here are some photos of our dishes:

Bubbly and teenagers at Terroir
Bubbly and teenagers at Terroir
2014-03-22 13.21.37
Amuse bouche of pork samosas
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Smoked bresaola with parsnip, fig and parmesan, truffle vinaigrette
2014-03-22 13.39.50
Prawn risotto with sauce Amoricaine
2014-03-22 14.05.14
Tomato garden salad
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Shoulder and saddle of Karoo lamb with shallot puree, basil + honey carrots
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Fricassee of summer vegetables, potato gnocchi, truffle emulsion, hen’s egg
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Terrine of chicken and foie gras with grapes and artichoke
2014-03-22 14.08.01

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Celebrating life with food, wine, friends & happiness! Writer, cook and blogger. Author of four cookbooks. Passionately South African, proudly Capetonian.