Five years after opening to the public, Cavalli Estate in the Stellenbosch winelands has evolved into a versatile lifestyle destination deftly combining food, wine and art.
‘Cavalli’ may be the Italian word for ‘horses’, but this stylish winelands estate offers so much more than the world-class equestrian facilities that grace the long driveway leading into the 100-hectare estate.
At the centrepiece of the farm remains the Cavalli Restaurant, which takes full advantage of the remarkable setting. It’s a space bathed in natural light, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening out to a spacious terrace. Beyond the tables the views spill out across the farm dam, vineyards and paddocks; a scene framed by views of the distant Helderberg Mountains.
Contemporary yet familiar, stylish without intimidating, the design cues are subtle yet striking: palm swivel chairs by Arper, lighting by Italian designers Marset and Foscarini, crockery by local ceramicist Diana Ferreira. No surprise then that Cavalli Restaurant is a past winner of the ‘Style Award’ at the prestigious Mercedes Benz Eat Out Restaurant Awards.
Since 2017 Head Chef Michael Deg has held the reins of the Cavalli kitchen, cementing the restaurant’s reputation for seasonal, produce-led cuisine. It’s refined food without the frills, Deg’s elegant presentation never resorting to smoke and mirrors. His is a considered style of cooking, borne of years working in high-end restaurants both at home and abroad. For his winter menu this year, Deg has created an enticing, pocket friendly, 4-course food and wine pairing menu that will have you coming back for more.
Expect a starter of slow cooked octopus, fermented black garlic aioli, squid ink crisp and radish served with a Fynos dressing followed by a barley & mushrooms, parmesan custard dish. For mains diners can look forward to a confit duck leg served with orange, red onion marmalade, mustard pommes mousseline and black kale. For dessert, the Tonka bean crème caramel palmier is the perfect ending to this dining experience.
Vegetarian diners are also well taken care of this winter, with a starter of parsnip, truffle and honey velouté, 65°C free range egg, mushroom ragout and crispy enoki served with smoked crème fraiche. The main a pearl couscous risotto, dressed with red pepper, homemade almond yoghurt and pickled naartjies served with a kale crisp.
“The garden is the inspiration for every plate,” says Deg. “Whether it’s beautiful bok choi or fresh celeriac we use this incredible fresh produce as the starting point for each dish on the menu, focusing on seasonal ingredients.”
In the gardens, herbs and mature fig and pomegranate trees deliver late-summer fruits, while heirloom carrots and beetroot are plentiful in winter and spring. The food miles involved in accessing this fresh bounty? Just a few hundred metres from farm to fork.
Embracing seasonality and local producers “simply has to be the future,” says Deg. “The days of importing vegetables from overseas, out of season, have to be behind us. As chefs we should be focusing on what’s available, local and in season. And when those vegetables do come into season you appreciate them that much more!”
“We purposefully keep the menu small, as it allows us to focus on whatever is fresh and at its best, at that particular time” says Deg. “I love cooking vegetarian food, and we’re seeing huge interest in our vegan and vegetarian dishes at the moment. It comes down to sustainability, but as a chef it also makes you push your boundaries of creativity.”
Deg also embraces a root-to-tip zero-wastage philosophy in the kitchen, whether it’s pickling excess produce or finding creative ways to use the off-cuts other chefs would simply discard. “It’s about using the whole plant, but also getting as much flavour as possible out of each and every ingredient,” says Deg, who has created the winter menu to be paired with wines from the estate.
Those pairings fall to the ever-charming Farai Magwada, Front of House Manager and Sommelier for Cavalli Restaurant. “It’s wonderful pairing wines with Michael’s dishes,” says Magwada. “His food is so elegant, the flavours so balanced, that matching that in the wine experience is always a pleasure.”
“Our Cavalli wines offer fantastic quality,” comments Magwada, who says the ‘Filly’ Chenin Blanc is the ideal all-rounder. “It’s incredibly elegant, and it balances freshness and a richer flavour profile. It’s a wine that caters to a diversity of palates.”
The winter menu is available from 1 May all the way through until the 30th of September 2019 for lunch or dinner at R350 for the 4-course menu, R425 with Cavalli wine pairing and the 4-course vegetarian menu at R300 or R375 paired with Cavalli wine. Bookings are limited to a maximum of 15 guests.
Cavalli Estate is situated at R44 Highway (Strand Road), Somerset West. For more information call 021 855 3218, send an email to email@example.com, visit www.cavalliestate.com or make contact via @CavalliEstate #CavalliEstate
Cavalli Restaurant is open from Wednesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, as well as Sundays for lunch only. For bookings email the reservation team on firstname.lastname@example.org
Wine tasting is offered from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm. Tasting fee of R60 for five premium wines, R40 for ‘Passions’ wines. For bookings or further information send a mail to email@example.com.
High Tea is offered in The Conservatory from Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm – 3pm. R220 per person, with a minimum of 10 guests.
Stable tours are offered on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 11am – 12pm.
Carriage rides (one hour) across the estate are available on request, and can carry up to four passengers. R2000 per carriage, including a bottle of Cavalli Estate wine. For bookings send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 855 3218.
The Cavalli Private Collection of South African Masters is frequently rotated in the portico situated within the main gallery and two memorabilia rooms allocated in close proximity showcase a remarkable collection of rugby and sporting memorabilia.
The gallery at Cavalli is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. For all enquiries or a catalogue of available artwork, please contact email@example.com or call 021 855 3218.