In December 2017, Janse & Co opened its doors to the public, which makes this new Kloof Street eatery just a few months old. Yet, judging from the peaceful atmosphere, beautifully executed décor, and warm, confident service, you really wouldn’t think so!
Janse & Co is the brain (and heart) child of experienced Cape Town chef, Arno Janse van Rensburg who spent six years heading The Kitchen at Maison, a 2016 “Top 10 Restaurant” in Franschhoek. Together with his partner and talented pastry chef Liezl Odendaal, Arno decided to venture into his very own legacy right here in the heart of Cape Town. The culmination of their experience, efforts, and passion for good food is Janse & Co.
The vibe and décor
Walking into the restaurant, one leaves the bustle and honking traffic of Kloof Street and becomes immersed in the peace and simplicity that is this gorgeous venue. Here, the décor is contemporary, minimalist – almost Japanese-inspired – and favours a dark, sultry colour palette with the occasional pop of colour, such as the floral wall art mural by Cape Town artist, “Care One Love”.
There are a variety of spaces in which to sit, including a lush outdoor courtyard (complete with hanging garden and sneaky views of Table Mountain), the main seating area, which is well spaced and looks onto the open kitchen (surprisingly peaceful and quiet), and a front section, where a long harvest table provides the perfect seating arrangement for large groups of up to 18. Views of the restaurant’s wine collection and house-made charcuterie heightens the anticipation for good food and wine.
At first glance, it’s hard not to be almost immediately impressed with Janse & Co but, of course, the true test of a restaurant’s mettle is its food and service.
Janse & Co’s menu consists of a choice of around 20 dishes, which allows guests to curate their own three to seven-course tasting menu: a brilliant concept that puts the individual in charge of their dining experience. The menu is varied, yet well balanced, effectively catering to all palates and preferences, which only leaves one with the challenge of deciding which dishes to choose.
We told the team at Janse & Co to take the reins on the experience they wished us to have, which they did with a steady procession of mouth-wateringly good dishes, starting with a house made bread roll, cracker bread, and cheese stick, all served with a dollop of creamy, whipped olive oil. Then, steamed and roasted cauliflower swimming in a velvety Prince Albert Regal cheese sauce, the richness of which was punctuated by sharp citrus notes of lemon zest and topped with a pungent and earthy smoked oyster powder. (Whoever said cauliflower was boring needs a lesson in gastronomy from Janse & Co.)
Next up was a thick slice of trout wreathed in wafer-thin slices of tart plum and sweet grapes, and all dressed with mustard leaves and salmon caviar: gorgeous bubbles of smoky saltiness that add tremendous depth of flavour and a delightful texture on the palate. The meat course was tender Karoo lamb and nuggets of melt-in-your-mouth fat, perched on a swath of aubergine purée with gentle notes of sweetness provided by the caramelised black garlic.
Then, a generous slab of creamy goat’s cheese dressed with wafer-thin shavings of sweet apple, all topped with blueberries and shisho, a vivacious Japanese herb with a basil, mint, citrus, and cinnamon profile. The final course, a most triumphant ending, was a dacquoise dessert cake with layers of local pecan nuts, thick sweet caramel, and tart gooseberries.
Each dish we were served at Janse & Co was beautifully presented, a symphony of juxtaposed flavours (salty trout / sweet grapes), and a celebration of quality, seasonal ingredients presented in an honest way, without fussy embellishment or excessive seasoning. Given chef Arno’s commitment to using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, the menu is dynamic, sometimes changing weekly according to what is available and plentiful in the Western Cape.
The wine list
This philosophy of simplicity is echoed by the wine list. Janse & Co strives to serve guests food and wine that isn’t overly interfered with and so they pair their food menu with the bounty of Cape wineries whose winemaking traditions seek to preserve the integrity of the fruit. This means no pesticides, hormones, additives, and few preservatives. In this way, Janse & Co also provides support to the lesser known, off-the-beaten-track boutique wineries that prioritise quality over quantity; a most romantic notion to any wine-lover.
Casual fine dining
Janse & Co truly embraces the concept of casual fine dining. The food is impeccably considered, prepared, and presented; the service is warm, friendly, and professional; the vibe is trendy yet tranquil, and the venue beautiful and sophisticated, yet laid back. In other words, here, you eat and are treated like royalty, but won’t feel like you’ve broken some crucial rule of etiquette if you let loose a loud sneeze.
Food aside, what is most apparent at Janse & Co is its accessibility and approachability. Chef Arno himself is very warm and friendly, clearly the source of inspiration behind the vibe at his own restaurant. And so, with just a few short months under its belt, Janse & Co seems to have proven itself to be the new “it” spot for an afternoon or evening of casual fine dining – certainly in our eyes, it has.