Executive Chef Marvin Robyn is celebrating Cape cuisine and all the fresh, local ingredients the changing seasons brings with his new Spring Heritage Tasting Menu at Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate in Franschhoek.
It was a spring day so warm it may as well have been summer. Towering oaks cast dappled shade over gardens and sculptures so lifelike, they appeared to be in liquid motion. Row upon row of vineyards celebrated the season with an exuberant dress of emerald leaves. People sat at shaded tables on the veranda, sipping wine and dipping into platters of food. And it’s all so perfect! That’s Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate for you. A place of such stunning visual perfection that it’s almost as if it has been curated for a movie.
That, or you’ve fallen asleep in the shuttle and are dreaming. Or so I thought as I meandered around Grande Provence’s sculpture garden on a gorgeous spring day, anticipating a meal that pays homage to the very unique culture of the Cape and the local, seasonal produce of the Cape farmlands and Franschhoek valley. The marriage of the two is being presented as the Spring Heritage Tasting Menu and, spoiler alert, it is one of the best winelands meals and experiences I’ve had in many moons.
The Bistro at Grande Provence
After a stroll through Grande Provence’s art gallery and then wine cellar, lead by winemaker Thys Smit, we gathered at the Bistro for an oyster and bubbly pairing, for which Grande Provence has rightfully cultivated quite a reputation. Incidentally, Thys Smit has been selected as one of the 2019 Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year finalists, a remarkable achievement (we hope you win, Thys!)
One of the estate’s two eateries, The Bistro has a more laid-back, informal atmosphere and spills out onto the lawn, offering gorgeous vineyard views. The menu covers breakfast (10:00 to 12:00 daily – try their new heritage breakfast menu); lunch and early dinner (12:00 to 18:00); as well as daily specials such as pitas, wraps, salads, platters to share, and the most glorious cakes.
We slurped back fresh West Coast oysters embellished with a variety of dressings, from pineapple and yoghurt to kimchi and sesame seeds. These we chased with sips of Grande Provence’s indomitable Brut Rosé and buttery Vintage Brut 2011.
Grande Provence’s Cap Classique and oyster pairing is served from the oyster bar in the sculpture garden for R180 per person. Also, enjoy daily happy hour oysters between 17:00 to 18:00 for only R10 each.
Lunch al fresco under the oaks
Appetites thoroughly whetted, we exchanged the casual Bistro setting for the gorgeous sculpture garden, in which a harvest table had been laid out for us beneath the oak trees. It was finally time to roll up our sleeves and delve into Chef Marvin Robyn’s Spring Heritage Tasting Menu and we were all enthusiastically up to the task.
We embarked upon our multi-course meal with bite-sized canapés of lamb bobotie samosas, soft potato churros, and fresh farm bread with a salted herb and garlic butter so divine that I shamelessly lathered it onto my bread in thick swaths.
Then, for starters: fire-roasted beetroot with pink beetroot purée, honeycomb walnut praline, chevin, and suurvytjies (sour fig) dressing, paired with the soft, supple, and black fruit forward Grande Provence Merlot 2018. This was followed by the gold Michelangelo award-winning Grande Provence Sauvignon Blanc 2018 and Saldanah bay oysters, fynbos infused kimchi, fresh plums, dune spinach and, hiding within the oysters, something Chef Marvin called “oyster kaiings”, crispy and sumptuous nuggets of battered and deep-fried oyster juice. Sublime. Also, the combination of sweet honeycomb walnut praline, salty goat’s cheese, and earthy beetroot was so delicious, it was something of a spiritual experience to eat it.
Wave of mains and a sweet, sweet ending
A quick succession of dishes almost totally arrested conversation around the table as we savoured each bite and sip of wine. The free-range chicken breast served with stewed apricot, pickled curried onion, cream cabbage, and ginger bread jus was a spectacular symphony of flavour, and paired beautifully with the Grande Provence Chenin Blanc 2018, which is one of the two wines that clinched winemaker Thys his prestigious nomination. The other was the Chardonnay 2018.
There was also beef rib-eye steak with cauliflower purée, button mushrooms, asparagus, and kapokbos jus (wild rosemary), paired with the Michelangelo award-winning Grande Provence Shiraz 2017; Sea Bass, papaya purée, sweet corn, grilled cos lettuce, chilli caramel, and delicious smoked snoek croquette, paired with the creamy and elegant Grande Provence Chardonnay 2018; and the exquisite carrot risotto with heritage carrots, blue cheese, and white chocolate spuma, which we shared (read: fought over).
Buttons bursting, we faced our final course: a rich, dark, and velvety 70% Valrhona chocolate fondant served with Amarula crème, KWV brandy snaps, and apricot gel. I’m not typically one for sweet dishes but I couldn’t stop until all that was left on my plate was a chocolate skid mark.
Escape to Franschhoek
Chef Marvin’s spring heritage menu is a glorious ode to the season and to the Cape’s natural and cultural heritage. Each dish was symphonic in colour and flavour, which, paired with the estate’s delicious wines, makes for a meal you’ll remember with a nostalgic sigh for months to come. It is my sincerest recommendation that you bring your friends and family and experience it for yourself!
The new Spring Heritage Tasting Menu is priced at R495 or R595 for three or four courses respectively (without wines) and R780 or R880 with wine pairing.
The Restaurant at Grande Provence is open for lunch on Monday to Sunday, 12:00 to 15:00 and dinner, 18:30 to 20:30. The Bistro is open for light meals and tastings from Monday to Sunday, 10:00 to 18:00. For bookings and enquiries, please email email@example.com or call +27 (0) 021 876 8600