Chef Nic van Wyk Cellarmaster Takuan von Arnim & Chef Westley Muller
Chef Nic van Wyk Cellarmaster Takuan von Arnim & Chef Westley Muller

In a move that will excite the palates of both hungry locals and gourmet travellers, the von Arnim family of the iconic Haute Cabrière estate has partnered with two of the most talented chefs in the winelands to reaffirm the Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant’s position as one of the finest in the Cape winelands.

Chefs Nic van Wyk and Westley Muller have honed their skills everywhere from fine-dining kitchens to relaxed winelands bistros, and bring decades of shared experience to the Haute kitchen, where they recently launched a new menu of modern classically-inspired dishes that neatly walks the line between inspired Continental cuisine and informal fine dining.

Since taking over the kitchen van Wyk and Muller have completely overhauled the menu, infusing the à la carte offering with their inspired interpretation of relaxed fine dining.

The new menu is all about classic dishes done in a modern way,” explains Muller, who says that while presentation is important, “in the end what counts is working layers of flavour into each and every dish.”

Across the menu visitors to Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant will now be tempted by bold dishes inspired by classical French cuisine. Lamb Loin is served with an intense tomato basil jus, black rice and Provençal vegetables; Smoked Ham Hock with pork belly and Brussels sprout brims with Continental flavours; while a fragrant Cape Bouillabaisse makes the most of abundant local seafood.

Local valley produce is celebrated in the Smoked Franschhoek Trout served with farm asparagus and herb butter gratin, while the chefs’ love of Continental cuisine is evident in the Veal Sweetbreads and tongue with a veal jus and sauce soubise. Memorable saucing is certainly set to be a touchstone of the menu, with the pair pouring hours of labour into creating memorable foundations for each dish.

We love sauces; it’s what really forms the foundation of a great dish,” says Muller, who will happily spend two days carefully reducing and refining a single sauce.

In sauces there are no shortcuts. Nothing must detract from the final product,” adds van Wyk.

A key element of the new menu offering is mirroring Haute Cabrière’s founding philosophy of Sun-Soil-Vine-Man on the plate. Here the estate’s sizeable vegetable gardens have been a boon for the two chefs, with a steady supply of fresh asparagus, tomatoes, leeks, artichokes and herbs making their way from the farm to the prep stations each morning.

In the near future the kitchen will also offer a dedicated ‘Garden Menu’; a daily table d’hôte menu built around whatever is fresh from the fields that same morning.

Fruit and vegetables in season simply taste better than anything imported or frozen,” explains Muller, adding that the à la carte menu will also change with the seasons.

Further, the revitalised menu celebrates the synergy between the cellar and the kitchen that has long been a hallmark of the Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant, combining the talents of van Wyk and Muller with those of cellarmaster Takuan von Arnim.

Success is all about focus, and we see great potential in the renewed focus this partnership will bring to the marriage of food and wine on the estate,” says von Arnim. “While Nic and Westley certainly have the experience and skills for running a successful restaurant, more importantly we also share a passion for food, wine and creativity.”

Perhaps the best reflection of this partnership is in the six-course tasting menu dubbed ‘The Marriage of Food and Wine’, where each dish is paired with a wine from the estate. Here for instance the bright acidity of the Haute Cabrière Unwooded Pinot Noir is a perfect foil for the Asian Venison Tartare, while Braised Chargrilled Octopus in a salsa verde is an unforgettable match for the much-loved Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir. Paired with the Pierre Jourdan Blanc de Blancs, Muller’s superb Orange Soufflé is a memorable sweet ending to the tasting experience. Also available on the a la carte menu, and set to change with the seasons, is the soufflé which looks set to become a sought-after signature dish of the revamped restaurant.

While the tasting menu features wine pairings recommended by the cellarmaster, the à la carte menu offers diners more flexibility, with well-trained waiters on hand to walk diners through the recently expanded wine list that includes the full Haute Cabrière and Pierre Jourdan range alongside a focused selection of local estates.

The grilled linefish on vinaigrette potato salad is just incredible with the Pierre Jourdan Tranquille,” recommends von Arnim. “It’s an explosion of flavour that knocks your socks off!”

Happily, Haute Cabrière’s famed Pierre Jourdan range of Cap Classique sparkling wines makes the choice even easier as the summer days heat up.

If I had the choice I’d pair bubbly with everything!” laughs van Wyk, a familiar face for local foodies thanks to his role in the popular television cooking series Kokkedoor. “It’s the most versatile thing you can drink with food. Take anything on the menu and one of the Pierre Jourdan bubblies will pair beautifully with it.”

Partnering with the von Arnim family and Haute Cabrière in this exciting new venture, van Wyk and Muller are set to bring a steady hand to the kitchens at Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant. Aside from keeping diners happy this summer the pair’s long-term goal is a simple one.

We believe this restaurant has so much potential,” says van Wyk. “We see the restaurant once again becoming one of the best; not just in Franschhoek, but in South Africa as a whole.”

Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant is situated on Franschhoek Pass (Lambrechts Road), Franschhoek. For reservations and enquiries e-mail or call 021 876 3688. Open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday from 12h00 to 15h00 and for dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 18h30 to 21h30.