View Le Quartier Franšais
Throughout the meal at Le Quartier Franšais in the Franschhoek Winelands of South Africa, my companion and I commented on the exquisite gentleness of the food. The innovative textures, tastes and colours were quite simply sublime and each course was ever more mysterious and tantalising.
Wondering who was creating such extraordinary dishes as double baked beetroot and rocket soufflÚ, it came as no surprise to find it was a woman. Not only that, but all her kitchen staff are women too. Margo Janse is the delightful smiling blond chef, originating in Holland, who admits that she, 'Never stops thinking about food.'
She believes beetroot is underrated and set about doing something imaginative with it. Her deep burgundy-coloured creation was deliciously light with distinctive yet subtle flavours, complimented by a tart crunch from a sprinkling of apple and nuts.
Le Quartier Franšais is set in the veritable 'French Quarter' of the Cape Winelands, surrounded by peaked granite mountains and verdant vineyards. The French Huguenots arrived in 1688, and transformed the woeful wines of the time into something more drinkable.
These days, South African wines rate alongside the best in the world, as the wine list demonstrated. Even though French champagne was on offer, the local version called Cap Classique, is just as good and an eighth of the price. We took advice from the food/wine combination guide in the wine list, which suggested the Villiera GewŘrztraminer '99 for tomato dishes, and a Pinehurst Pinotage (a South African red cultivar) with parmesan.
We went for a lightly wooded M˘reson Chardonnay, and sipped it slowly at a table adorned with fresh summery colours, reflecting those of the garden where more tables were laid under huge white sunshades.
The chilled tomato and coriander soup dotted with little avocado squares was refreshing and spicily titillating. Ravioli of porcini mushrooms and potato, with garlic fried spinach and parmesan came covered in a light lemon froth, (looking a little like bubble bath), which enhanced the delicate flavours.
Desert was a dainty saffron custard sweetened by honey glazed fruit with some crunch from a sesame snap. The entire menu was fascinating and a real feast for the taste buds.
The list of innovative dishes became ever more enticing, but after five courses and three hours it was time to meander off. The gentle demeanour of the food had transferred itself to us and we drifted happily out in a decadent daze.
Copyright ę 2002 Carrie Hampton. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the permission of the author is prohibited.