A friend in food is one to be cherished. Keep her close to your heart, and even closer in a hug. Spending time with a childhood friend over plates of fine food is one of the best experiences this world can offer. I was recently surprised with a three-course lunch at George Jardine’s new Restaurant Seven in Somerset West by one of the most beautiful people I know, and someone I have the privilege of calling a friend. And what a stunning place for a catch up on life, love and everything in-between.
Chef George Jardine of restaurants Jardine and Jordan in Stellenbosch has recently opened a third restaurant in the Cape Winelands, aptly called Restaurant Seven, for the seventh restaurant under the belt of this Scottish chef.
Restaurant Seven is humbly tucked into a side-road off Somerset West Main road, flanked by a beautiful flower-shop on the one side, and a wine bar on the other. There is nothing flashy or obnoxious that announces it’s quiet down-town presence; it calmly sits and waits to be found by hungry travellers, like a sea-anenome waiting for the tide.
As you enter through the glass doors, you are welcomed into a large, open space with very minimal furnishings; just enough and nothing more. No frills or fancies. The boldly graphic walls create a striking contrast with the simplicity of the dining room, and hints towards something playful and fun. Everywhere, some subtle and some not so subtle, you’ll find references to the number seven; and the collage of visual art pieces that adorn the walls creates a comfortable, yet elegant space for diners. Some people might say the decor is too plain for a fine dining institution; I, on the other hand, find it incredibly refreshing and love the fact that it’s so accessible to a wider range of foodies.
The menu and service
The menu is small but varied, and still includes some of Jardine’s signature dishes. It has been carefully thought out; meticulously planned; keeping in mind seasonal and local produce, whilst making small nods to current contemporary food trends.
When we visited Restaurant Seven, it only recently opened doors and still found itself in the teething phase. Having said that, the staff is incredibly friendly, well-versed with the menu and generously helpful without being overbearing or stifling. I found it easy to have a laugh with them even though their continued professionalism speaks book chapters about the institution itself. At that time, they were still awaiting a liquor licence (sigh) but you are welcome to bring your own in the meantime.
To start with
After a round of freshly baked bread and butter, I started my lunch with beetroot cured salmon, served with pickled mulberries and broad bean pesto, whilst Sam opted for the gorgozola panna cotta with macerated tomatoes and salsa verde. When the plates arrived, it was a feast for the eyes. Each piece of crockery was perfectly paired to compliment the overall feel of the starter, and my salmon dish looked like a plate of semi-precious stones sparkling in the sun. With vivid, bold colours and an array of textures, I was in heaven. To date, this might have been the best dish I’ve ever had. The buttery salmon and the tart mulberries provided the perfect backdrop for the deliciously decadent broad bean pesto, which I could’ve eaten as a meal on its own.
The gorgonzola panna cotta was every bit as surprising as it was beautiful. For both the starters, the portion sizes were generous, but the meals light and refreshing.
For mains, I opted for Jardine’s signature aged chalmar sirloin, served with béarnaise, charred shallots and sage. Sam had the braised and seared Cradock springbok, butter poached turnip, kale and hazelnut.
Perched in the middle of a cloud of fluffy béarnaise was the most perfectly grilled medium sirloin, delicately dressed with a handful of charred, caramelised shallots and greens. Nothing more, nothing less. It simply didn’t need more or less.
Sam’s springbok main was a bit more theatrical, though. Dressed to impress, this dish offers diners springbok two-way; braised in a mini-pie and seared medallions, with accents of bright green vegetables.
After we ooh’ed and aah’ed about the beautiful plates we’re about to experience, we settled into that comfortable space of eating and listening, sipping and nodding, laughing and chatting. Our shared love for fine food added a deeper dimension to what might have seemed like a usual catch-up session to the passerby.
We discussed life over bread, this fragile thing called love over starters, the evolution of the self over mains, the eternal pursuit for happiness before dessert. We reminisced about times gone by, and shared dreams for the future. It was a priceless experience, the two of us tucked away from the world for a few hours, nourishing not only our bodies, but also our hearts.
No meal would be complete without a sweet bit of decadence at the end. Along with our coffees, Sam ordered Jardine’s signature mandarin and Grand Marnier soufflé flambé and I ordered the Valrhona chocolate and roasted white chocolate mousse.
The souffle is served table-side accompanied by an almost hallow ritual of lighting the puff of cloud-soft dessert after a generous glug of Grand Marnier is poured over the top. Once the liqueur burned off, the waiter drops the perfect scoop of vanilla bean ice cream into the middle of the hot soufflé, where it gently melts with the heat of the flambé. What you’re left with is zingy citrus and caramelised sugar flavours, enveloped in a perfectly risen soufflé. This pièce de résistance is served in an uber-modern mini rose-gold pot, which makes you feel kind of naughty for having a whole pot to yourself. Nobody’s judging, though…
The Valrhona chocolate and roasted white chocolate mousse was classy and elegant. You’d expect it to be heavy and dark, but it was surprisingly light and refreshing, especially because of the tart raspberry coulis and the textural addition of the biscuit base.
I’ve always advocated for simple food. Good quality ingredients, simply prepared, without overwhelming or masking the natural goodness of the food this earth provides us with. And the general misconception that simple food means home cooking, or that simple food can’t be fine dining, is one that I’ll rebel against until the ends of time. Restaurant Seven is the perfect example of the magic that happens when you combine local, sustainable, fresh ingredients with a dash of imagination, a pinch of creativity, heaps of flavour and a sprinkling of gold leaf. Without a shadow of a doubt, Restaurant Seven is my new number one!
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.