Chef Liam Tomlin’s lauded tapas-inspired concept, Chefs Warehouse, arrives in the spectacular Cape Winelands.
One might say that it’s any restaurant’s goal to prioritize taste – although we’ve all had experiences to the contrary – at Chefs Warehouse at Maison in Franschhoek, that focus is taken to stratospheric heights. Executive Chef Liam Tomlin, and his protégé Chef David Schneider allow neither rules nor convention to get in the way of their art, combining flavours and textures in an unconventional fashion to produce dishes that will make your eyes close gleefully as you savour layer upon layer of new, exciting, and absolutely lip-smacking flavour sensations.
Now, with the newest instalment of Chefs Warehouse having opened at the beautiful Maison Estate in Franschhoek, diners are treated to a feast for both the stomach and the eyes.
Within the gastronomical echelons of South Africa’s culinary scenes, Chef Liam Tomlin has established a formidable reputation for himself. Having successfully launched two other Chefs Warehouse restaurants on Bree Street and at Beau Constantia, Chefs Warehouse at Maison is the third, most recently launched iteration of his award-winning tapas concept. Since November 2017, the restaurant, together with Chef Liam’s talented protégé David Schneider, has proudly continued the tradition of absolutely blowing diners away with its sensational food.
“Joining forces with the beautiful Maison Estate in Franschhoek is a great fit for Chefs Warehouse,” says Chef Liam. “It just feels right.”
Combined with its location in an old, rustic yet elegant farmhouse right in front of the autumnal coloured vineyards of the Maison Wine Estate, you’ve got an experience that you’ll rave about for several months to come.
The menu is simple. Diners get to choose from a varied list of starters and desserts, but the main event is a tapas experience for two consisting of three glorious waves of tapas-inspired dishes that explore both local and international themes.
The line-up of dishes undoubtedly changes with the seasonal availability of ingredients but our meal featured seared Franschhoek trout in a Korean spiced marinade with fresh apple, kohlrabi, and ginger; a velvety, rich Jerusalem artichoke risotto that left us both utterly stricken with pleasure; and mini-homemade vetkoek with a rich, smoky African sweet potato and bone marrow slaw, Belnori goat’s cheese mousse, and soured celeriac rémoulade.
We also had linefish sashimi in an atchar-spiced carrot dressing with coconut slivers and curry oil fried onions, and rare blesbok loin on a parsley and spinach purée with green peas, hazelnut, anchovy, and truffle dressing, all topped with long, crispy strings of Kataifi pastry. This is just to list the highlights of the fabulous variety of dishes served to us on our visit.
Chefs Warehouse’s wine list celebrates the award-winning wines produced at Maison Estate, of which we sampled the elegant Chenin Blanc Reserve 2016, the opulent Chardonnay 2016, and the seductive Shiraz 2014. It also features a careful selection of wines from neighbouring farms in the Franschhoek valley.
The farmhouse at Maison Estate was previously the family home of none other than Chris Weylandt of the Weylandt designer furniture brand. This served as the inspiration behind the name “Maison”, which translates to house or home in French. And it’s this beautiful homestead, perched beneath a clutch of towering oak trees, that is now home to Chefs Warehouse.
Inside, the décor is rustic and farmhouse-inspired, yet comfortable, warm, and sophisticated. Outside, a terrace offers ample seating while enormous harvest tables on the lawns offer large parties of guests a gorgeous setting in which to enjoy a meal. Also of special note is the exceptional service and the careful, respectful attention guests are paid by the staff and by Chef David Schneider himself, who makes periodic tableside visits to explain the various dishes to you.
A must-do experience
With two other instalments of Chefs Warehouse much closer to the city, some might question the point of driving out to Franschhoek to experience Chef Liam Tomlin’s tapas-inspired concept. Those people have obviously never been to Franschhoek before and certainly not to Maison Estate, which is one of the most glorious settings on earth, where guests can drink in spectacular views of the vineyards and mountains while drinking, in equal measure, the estate’s beautiful wines.
Several of South Africa’s top echelon chefs count Chefs Warehouse amongst the country’s best restaurants, including Michelin-starred Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, Reuben Riffel (Reuben’s) and Rudi Liebenberg (The Planet, Mount Nelson Hotel). While my culinary prowess couldn’t hold a candle to these powerhouses, I can certainly and most ardently agree with them.
Bookings are essential. www.maisonestate.co.za/restaurant
Photography by Claire Gunn