Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine

We loved the experience of George Jardine's restaurant in Bloem Street, Cape Town.  We loved the food that emerged from his kitchen and the quirkiness of the upstairs downstairs set up of the place.   So when he relocated to a mountain eyrie in Stellenbosch, we became very happy camp followers.

To reach his mountain perch, one motors up a narrow road, framed by trees and lakes and vineyards and in summer, the brilliant colours of flowers and shrubs all dressed up in their best.   At the very end of the road the restaurant beams its welcome.  Beautifully constructed from wood, glass and steel, and surrounded by a bower of trees, it all blends perfectly and harmoniously.  Lovely to park under the trees; blessed shade on the fiery Cape summer days.

'Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine' is on the beautiful Jordan Wine Estate.  For generations, the Jordan family has been producing superb wines.  This generation's caretakers of the legacy are Kathy and Gary Jordan. The Jordans rebuilt an existing building on their estate and created the beautiful modern structure that is George's domain today.

On our most recent visit, I had arranged to chat with George's wife Louise, before we lost ourselves in the gluttonous pleasures of lunch.  Louise, a young woman in her thirties, is lovely and welcoming.   We speak about George and his remarkable talent. I love his story and she tells it well.

She tells of his early years in Edinburgh and the romantic story of his grandmother who was a pastry chef at Holyrood House.  His grandmother and two of his uncles had City and Guild qualifications and George grew up determined to be a pastry chef.  He left home at 16 and worked in hotels and on cruise yachts.  He did go back to university to study Hospitality and Management, but believes that he learnt his craft in the kitchens of great Michelin chefs.  He proudly acknowledges Jean Christoffe Novelli as his mentor and major culinary influence. Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay also get a mention.

He arrived in South Africa in 1997 to work at Novellis at The Cellars, Hohenhort, Cape Town.  One day, a life-changing event; he met Louise Le Riche, a young woman dining at the restaurant. Three years later they were married. Don't you love a good romance? There followed years of travel and cheffing in restaurants in Malaysia, Indonesia and Sydney.  Then back to South Africa in 2005 and the journey that has culminated in two young sons and their much loved country idyll.  Phew!  That has left me quite breathless!  Oh, and by the way, he is all of 40 years old!

It was time for lunch.  People were arriving and Louise had to meet and greet.  A warm welcome awaits everyone on arrival at George Jardine's mountain kingdom.  Either Louise or Manager and Front of House, Riaan Mol, are the first people you meet on arrival.  Riaan appears everywhere adding the roles of Maître d' and Sommelier to his portfolio.

On balmy summer days one may sit outside under umbrellas or, our preference, inside but with doors thrown wide open and views that make one gasp.  Behind us, in an open plan kitchen, the chef and kitchen staff are beavering away, intent on the task of producing food to delight. Louise had described how George's complete dedication to fresh, perfect produce, means that the menu changes daily.  She tells how George and his team gather the night before and decide on the food that will be served the next day.  

The lunch menu has a Starters section of 5 choices.  Previously I had enjoyed the famous Saldanha Bay mussel 'papillote'. It is a stunning show-stopper.  The mussels are first prepared in lemongrass, chilli, ginger, coconut milk and garlic and then served en papillote to capture all of the flavour and the aroma. The result is mussel heaven.  But this day I chose ' Salad of Braised Karoo Lamb Shoulder, potato gnocchi, tamarind dressing and pickled blueberries'.  Eugene ordered 'Roasted Eve Fig, buffalo milk mozzarella, pumpkin seeds, reduced port dressing and watercress.' 

From the Mains section which also offers 5 choices, I ordered 'Pan Roasted line-caught Gurnard, braised chard, roasted shallot and red wine reduction'.  Eugene chose 'Aged Shalmar Sirloin, marrow herb crust, roasted Porterville beets, fried marrow and celeriac.'  You may choose 'Steamed Hake with parsley mousse, apple, smoked mussels and roasted baby beets' or 'Peppered Pork fillet with braised cavolo nero, roasted cherries and honeyed parsnip.'  For the vegetarians, 'Wood fired roasted Marrow from the garden, aubergine chutney and buffalo milk mozzarella.'  

While we waited for our food, we sipped our drinks; Eugene a craft beer, 'Devils Peak Silver' and for me a glass of Jordan Sauvignon Blanc. We then gleefully tucked into the delicious homemade breads and dips that are served to stave off hunger pangs.  It was also an opportunity to gaze at the view.  In the distance the Simonsberg and Stellenbosch Mountains, pale blue and almost transparent through the heat haze, standing as sentinels to a vast area of rolling hills, vineyards and shining lakes.  

The wine list is compact and carefully chosen.   Jordan wines feature as the cornerstone of the list, with many available by the glass. There is also a section ' Wines of South Africa' that are chosen as being wines 'from producers that share their passion for quality and a philosophy that only the best will do.'   Who wouldn't drink to that?

My salad of Braised Shoulder of Lamb was presented on a wooden board, with the meat and the plump gnocchi peeping through a garnish of lilac garlic chive flowers and watercress.  It was a triumph. The lamb was a rich colour, tender as butter and bursting with its own juices.  Oh it was lovely!  The gnocchi were light and delicious and the combination of tastes just sublime. I allowed Eugene just a soupçon to taste and he raved.  His Roasted Eve Fig salad was a delight.  Presented on a square stone slab, it showed off the beautifully ripe ruby Porterville figs and the succulent plump deep fried mozzarella balls to perfection.  It was a perfect whole, light, fragrant and delicious.  My choice for next time.

These two dishes are perfect examples of Chef George Jardine’s unfussy and uncluttered style.  No tortured over-styled food for this chef.   His classical French and European training is the basis of all his cooking and the portions, while generous, allow one to feel as light as if one were eating in France.   The essence is that only the best ingredients will do and that if perfectly cooked they do not need to be camouflaged.   But now onto the 'Mains'.

My dish of pan roasted Gurnard was cooked to perfection.  Juicy, yet firm. Gurnard has a wonderful delicate flavour and our chef had not killed that by over doing the embellishments. It sat invitingly on a bed of braised chard and the tastes of the roasted shallots and the red wine reduction melded beautifully.  Eugene's Chalmar Sirloin was a sight to behold!  Slices of immaculately cut meat in a herb crust and done just to the right side of rare were laid out on a white platter.  Flanked by celeriac quenelles and accompanied by fried marrow and Porterville beets, it glistened in a fragrant beef jus.  Eugene went all Zen and intense.  When he did speak, he declared it to be absolutely wonderful.  I tasted it and vowed to order it on another visit.  Flavourful and gloriously tender, it was a wonderful unctuous taste experience.

Eugene and I had eaten our fill and decided to forego the delectable pleasures of the dessert menu.   There is a choice of 3 desserts and a quaintly named 'Trip to the Cheese Room.'  The Cheese Room is a small temperature-controlled room in a corner of the restaurant.  Through a glass door to a tempting array of cheeses laid out for tasting.. There are also wonderful and varied jams and preserves on display that are made in their kitchen.  Louise describes how, when there is time, the chefs concoct all sorts of interesting preserves using fresh produce from their garden. Apart from this little adventure, one may indulge oneself with 'The Honey and Poppy Seed soufflé 'as well as freshly churned summer ices or feast on 'Compressed watermelon, white chocolate, pistachio crumble, roasted blue berries and melon sorbet'   All lovely!  The system at Jardine's is that one may order a two or three course meal and pay accordingly.

The dinner menu is quite different in concept.  It is a set menu of six courses with a glass of bubbly to greet you when you arrive.  The dishes reflect George Jardine's insistence on fresh ingredients and the menu changes accordingly.  Delicately prepared fish, summer vegetables and herbs from their garden, venison and meat dishes and other choice treats are prepared for your pleasure.  When we discussed the dinner menu, Louise added emphatically that the menu is easily adapted to allow for all dietary constraints and religious preferences.  

The entire restaurant, both indoors and outdoors, is mercifully a smoke-free zone.  However, George Jardine suggests that smokers may enjoy a cigarette on the lawns while sipping their wines and losing themselves in the view. The view is totally seductive. I was entranced by the sight of ducks gliding happily by on the lake or waddling around the perimeter and gazing at us curiously as we left their mountain kingdom. They probably thought that we were quite daft to leave that place of perfect peace and wonderful food.

Restaurant Opening Hours: 
From November to April,
The restaurant is open for lunch 7 days a week from 12:00 - 15:00
The restaurant is open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6.30pm.  The meal takes approximately 3 hours.

From May to October,
The restaurant is closed on Monday and Saturday night.

Booking is essential.

Telephone: +27 (0)21 881 3612

Address:     Stellenbosch Kloof Rd, Stellenbosch, 7604.

Eugene and I love eating out and we always pay for ourselves whenever and wherever we go. 

Back Chat Eats Out are the dining experiences that Eugene and I have enjoyed and wish to share with you.

They are written purely for pleasure and Back Chat is in no way affiliated to or remunerated by any establishment.


Catherine Boome said...

A deliciously glorious piece, thank you Leslie. Catherine

Back Chat said...

Dear Catherine,

Thank you for your very lovely comment.

Best Regards,
Leslie Back