{eat} Putting seasonality at the reigns at Cavalli Estate

A visit to the Stellenbosch winelands always fills me with such joy. But recently, after years of Sunday afternoon drives through the vineyards and always ending up at the same places, I’ve been craving something new. Something different; something exciting. Something that will simply take my breath away. Recently, I found that on top of the hill at Cavalli Estate, tucked between acres of fynbos and vineyards.

Introduction

Five years after opening to the public, Cavalli Estate has evolved into a versatile lifestyle destination deftly combining food, wine and art.

‘Cavalli’ may be the Italian word for ‘horses’, but this stylish wine-lands estate offers so much more than the world-class equestrian facilities that grace the long driveway leading into the 100-hectare estate.

Since 2017 Head Chef Michael Deg has held the reins of the Cavalli kitchen, cementing the restaurant’s reputation for seasonal, produce-led cuisine (Manley Communications).

Barely able to hold my horses, I was intrigued and excited at the prospect of Cavalli’s  four-course winter offering with wine pairing which we were kindly invited to experience on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.

The venue

From the moment you enter the estate from the road-side, your eyes can’t help but wander over the vast expanses of paddocks, orchards, rows of lemon trees and manicured beds of the most incredible fynbos and aloes that line the driveway.

Enter the restaurant, and you’re transported to a contemporary, light and airy space, with accents of earthy neutrals, greys and pops of copper. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors line the furthest wall, overlooking a beautifully rugged dam and vineyards as far as the eye can see.

The bold open kitchen is right by the entrance, and you’re almost guaranteed to catch a glimpse of Head Chef Michael Deg checking and garnishing the plates on the pass. A luscious bar flanks the opposite side of the room and a few handfuls of  intimate tables with delectable swivel chairs (!) fill up the large dining room, without feeling crowded or sounding busy.

Minimal, but very dramatic, light fixtures hung in huddles from the open roof, with it’s slightly industrial-chic feel with exposed metal beams in shades of dusty grey. A roaring fireplace is nestled between the windows and omits just the right amount of heat to warm up the room, without it feeling stuffy.

We had a lovely little table on the far side of the dining room, simultaneously overlooking a row of guava trees and herb gardens, as well as the dam area, which is overlooked by a wrap-around patio that will surely be packed in summer. What I love most about this gorgeous restaurant, is that it was built with consideration for, and in conjunction with, it’s natural surroundings and flora elements, to accentuate not only the uber-modern dining venue, but also showcase the beauty that surrounds it, without any interference. No surprise that Cavalli Restaurant is a past winner of the ‘Style Award’ at the prestigious Mercedes Benz Eat Out Restaurant Awards.

The experience

As things go in Cape Town, this is the time of year when restaurants across the mother city dust off their winter menus and zhoosh it up with something new and interesting. Chef Deg has created an enticing, pocket friendly, four-course food and wine pairing menu and we were about to tuck in.

I’ve included the prices and menus at the bottom of this review, so keep on scrolling if you want to see the full menu!

On arrival, we were presented with two gorgeous plates of snacks, including morsels of chicken mayonnaise and tuna tartare, as well as a bowl of gorgeously stir-fried tofu and pickled onions with a black bean dip and flatbreads. The dishes were beautifully placed in hand-made crockery from a local artist. We pretty much inhaled these, together with a glass of Cavalli’s ‘Pink Pony’ Grenache Noir 2015.

Up next was the amuse bouche and if I ever ate with my eyes first, I was totally feasting on this dish – a crispy bubble of deliciousness, filled with a sliver of perfectly cooked fillet on a bed of bright pineapple salsa. What a showstopper!

We opted for the vegetarian starter of mushroom ragout, and weren’t let down by this warm, earthy dish with honeyed notes of parsnip and bright pops of flavour added by the smoked crème fraiche. The contrast of the soft egg and the crispy enoki lured me into a textural wonderland with all my senses heightened for the next course.

Next up, another seasonal treat of barley & mushrooms served with parmesan custard, poured tableside. The bold Viognier/Verdelho blend hit all the right spots and paired beautifully with the creaminess and rich heartiness of the barley.

I was very excited about the main course. Confit duck is a tricky one; it’s either the best thing you’ve ever eaten or the absolute worst. Secretly I knew, with Chef Deg at the reigns, it was going to be a stunner. Served with fennel marmelade, clouds of fluffy pommes mousseline, black kale and an orange mousse, the confit duck leg left me without words. Paired with the Cavalli ‘Nightmare’ Shiraz/Grenache 2015, this was the type of thing last meals are made of.  Easily one of the best dishes I’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing. I savoured each mouthful and appreciated the complex, yet delicate flavour profile of the dish.

The vegetarian main was  a pearl couscous risotto, dressed with red pepper, homemade almond yoghurt and pickled naartjies served with a kale crisp.

We wrapped up our extensive lunch with a tonka bean crème caramel, tea, coffee and an assortment of sweets.

In conclusion

This is how you turn a random weekend wine-lands drive into an unforgettable foodie adventure. Just to say; on a random Sunday afternoon, the Cavalli restaurant was full. Tables left and new tables arrived, but it never felt too busy for comfort. It’s simply a gorgeous space; timelessly elegant, yet modern. Sophisticated, but not stifling. I must admit – the winter menu is an absolute steal. For such a fresh, seasonal and innovative menu, paired with beautiful wines, this is a must for Capetownians this winter. Chef Deg is making a taste of fine dining accessible to a larger group of foodies with this menu that will warm those heart-cockles from the inside out.

The Winter Set Menu is R350 for 4 courses and R425 including a Cavalli wine pairing.

Vegetarian Set Menu is R300 for 4 courses and R375 including a Cavalli wine pairing.

Winter Set Menu

AMUSE BOUCHE

FIRST COURSE
Slow- cooked local octopus, fermented black garlic aioli, apple, squid ink crisp, radish, fynbos dressing
Cavalli ‘Pink Pony’ Grenache Noir 2015

SECOND COURSE
Barley & mushrooms, parmesan custard
Cavalli ‘Vendetta’ Viognier/Verdelho 2016

THIRD COURSE
Confit duck leg, orange, fennel marmalade, mustard pommes mousseline, black kale
Cavalli ‘Nightmare’ Shiraz/Grenache 2015

FOURTH COURSE
Tonka bean crème caramel, palmier
Coffee/Tea

PETIT FOURS

Vegetarian Menu

AMUSE BOUCHE

FIRST COURSE
Parsnip, truffle & honey velouté, 65°c free range egg, mushroom ragout, crispy enoki, smoked crème fraiche
Cavalli ‘Pink Pony’ Grenache Noir 2015

SECOND COURSE
Barley & mushrooms, parmesan custard
Cavalli ‘Vendetta’ Viognier/Verdelho 2016

THIRD COURSE
Pearl couscous risotto, red pepper, homemade almond yoghurt, pickled naartjies, kale crisp
Cavalli ‘Nightmare’ Shiraz/Grenache 2015

FOURTH COURSE
Tonka bean crème caramel, palmier
Coffee/Tea

PETIT FOURS

Fine print

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 info@cavalliestate.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 restaurant@cavalliestate.com

Second photographer and photo credit: The Tall Hedonist, aka Timothy P. Gibson

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.

 

 

 

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