An exciting new menu that blends international panache with home-grown excellence has been unveiled at Makaron, celebrated winelands restaurant at the luxurious Majeka House & Spa in Stellenbosch. Inspired by the essence of sublime dining, the latest spread follows chef Lucas Carstens’ return from a culinary exploration of the Mediterranean city of Lisbon.
The menu makes a fitting addition to this renowned five-star destination for leisure and business travellers to the Cape. Not only is the Etienne Hanekom-designed Makaron rated among the best in South Africa, the property itself is internationally awarded for its world-class interior design. Last year, Majeka House & Spa was named Best Design Hotel in Africa & the Middle East at the Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence as a ‘wining, dining and super styling destination’.
Now with a new Spring menu, Makaron elegantly takes its distinct personality and gourmet spoils up a notch. Lucas says his Portugal visit was a reassertion of the simplicity and honesty inherent in all great dining experiences – characteristics that along with locally sourced, ingredient-driven dishes have always been a feature of the Stellenbosch chef’s eye-catching repertoire.
Seafood makes a strong return to the Makaron table. There’s the five-day aged linefish with pickled potato, juicy green olives couched in dune spinach that is locally harvested from the wild; linefish cooked in leeks and served in a delicate fish-bone broth with tjokka (a colloquial name for squid); and, fire roasted octopus cloaked in kohlrabi and apple slithers.
Notably, Makaron has started using the digital seafood platform Abalobi. The revolutionary South African initiative empowers small-scale fishers and provides greater seafood traceability.
“This is the best to have happened for those communities,” says Lucas. “We get the freshest fish while the living standards of artisanal fisher communities have been positively affected.”
Diners can access information about the fish by scanning QR codes offered along with information about the non-profit Streetsmart that Makaron supports. The same theme applies to the restaurant’s lamb, which is supplied with a code certifying its origin.
“Like our guests, it’s important for us to know where food comes from and how it was farmed,” says Lucas
In fact, most of Makaron’s ingredients are sourced within 20 kilometres of the restaurant. This allows Lucas to build long-term relationships with suppliers and farmers. Produce like figs, plums, peaches, citrus, almonds and herbs are often supplemented from the hotel’s own gardens in a layout that co-incidentally re-enforces Majeka House’s peaceful Med village-style.
Knowing the source is of course an incentive to showcasing ingredient excellence, which is Makaron’s mission. Dish listings on the menu reflect the approach: Pea, buffalo labneh and avocado; Golden beetroot, nasturtium flower and gooseberry raisins; Eggplant, shiitake and smoked macadamia.
“There’s no room for smoke and mirrors,” says Lucas.
The South African-ness of his cooking is also important. “We want to retain a connection with older cooking techniques that may have fallen out of fashion,” he says.
The staanrib (Afrikaans for standing rib) features lamb roasted crispy and plated with pickled waterblommetjies and whole lemon. The complementary farm egg-and-hereboontjie uses a South African heirloom bean cultivated in the Sandveld and is served with a snoek-tertjie (snoek tartlet) and avocado wrapped in nasturtium leaf. Two-day whole-wheat sourdough is provided with house-made amasi (the Zulu and Xhosa word for fermented milk) butter.
Having paid his dues to the old, Lucas also applies his explorations of other cooking techniques. For example, there’s fermented strawberries plated with locally harvested kelp and wood sorrel that populates the menu category “to finish”, the latter an encouragement for diners to curate their own meal.
The menu retains the small plates design, a style that dispenses with the traditional starter, main and dessert classifications. Rather, guests are invited to enjoy a more complete and diverse experience of the kitchen’s capabilities with dishes available in smaller sizes and sharing encouraged.
Diners may compile their own menu from three to five “small plates” per person. Lucas and his team have also paired every small plate with wines from across the region and made the pairing option available.
Fans of the restaurant will be keen to know that like the small plates design, not everything has been replaced for the new menu. The zucchini risotto served with raw mushrooms and rich shavings of cured egg yolk is still available.
“I keep a notebook of all my dishes. Some make a return, but there’s always an evolution that takes place along the way,” says Lucas.
Other new savoury additions include slivers of perfectly prepared beef tongue with celeriac, mustard and mizuna greens; potato gnocchi on a bed of parsley and onion; springbok rump with loquat and kale; and, a sumptuous beef brisket with aged gruyere and horseradish.
On the sweeter side, diners can choose between guava served with turmeric and melon; pear with parmesan and burnt onion; and, the kitchen’s enticingly-named “variations of dark chocolate”.
Majeka House & Spa and Makaron restaurant are situated at 26-32 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch.
Makaron Restaurant is open daily for dinner, with first seating from 18h30 and the second from 20h30. It is closed on Wednesdays until the end of September. Diners can choose four/five/six courses from the small plates menu for R390/R490/R590 respectively. An optional wine pairing is also available, at a cost of R645/R830/R1015 for both food and wine.