Sunday, August 31, 2014

Quentin at Oakhurst

Eugene and I drove to 'Quentin at Oakhurst' along the beautiful Hout Bay road.  Approaching from the Constantia end, the trees touch overhead, kissing trees we call them. Then into Dorman Way where there is private parking right in front of the restaurant. 

We were warmly welcomed, always important in my opinion.  I hate cold, indifferent greetings by staff that frankly couldn't care less.  The restaurant was dressed in its best.  Lights twinkling, tables adorned with linen, sparkling silver service and glasses waiting expectantly to be filled.  Glorious arrangements of Cape flowers, which I later learnt, were the handiwork of our host, Quentin Spickernell, preened themselves under the lights. 

The restaurant, originally a working barn and dairy on the Oakhurst Farm, one of the original Hout Bay farms, has been lovingly and painstakingly restored. The barn was the heart of the farm and close inspection of one of the long side walls shows the tethering rings for the cows. The blue-green and grey walls of the restaurant are covered in clusters of pictures and prints of times past and present.  South African scenes, Cape scenes, all sorts of colonial references, drawings and maps, and in one corner a depiction of Nelson Mandela holding his clenched fist aloft.  There is an alcove called 'the cellar' where one may dine among wine barrels and bottles of wine.  Ideal for a private party or for a discreet 'diner a deux'.

Above the pictures, farm implements are displayed right up to the eaves. Lights sparkle from crystal chandeliers and barrel hoops studded with lights suspended from the ceiling.  The effect is enhanced by large brass mirrors that reflect the glimmering scene.   And on each table, a lone candle flickers seductively.  Romantic and beautiful.

A superb waiter took us through the delights of the menu.  In addition to the a la carte menu, there is a blackboard announcing specials that reflect the choice of produce our chef had encountered when he trawled through the markets.   There are 5 starters on the a la carte menu and all sounded sublime. For me a standout choice was 'Roast marrow bones with parsley and garlic, served with goats cheese toast'.  I totally adore marrow bones.  There is ‘Luxury lobster bisque with lobster meat, brandy and lashings of cream'.  This is a favourite at Quentin's and some people telephone ahead to ensure that it is available when they are planning a visit.  'Steamed Saldanha Bay mussels in white wine, parsley and cream’, ‘Pan fried duck livers,' and 'Sweet potato and macadamia fritters' complete this list of temptations.   All mouth-watering.

The main courses offer terrific choices for eaters of all stripes.  Carnivores can enjoy a 'Chargrilledfillet steak with a green peppercorn sauce', an 'Overnight lamb neck with red wine, garlic, thyme, carrots and leeks,' or 'Sol's lamb curry with basmati rice, sambals and Mrs Balls peach chutney.'  Now that dish has a story to tell, the 'Sol' being Sol Kerzner for whom Quentin cheffed for 16 years.  Sol likes Mrs Balls peach chutney and that’s that! Pescatarians can enjoy a 'Roast loin of kingklip with a lemon and hazelnut crust, served with citrus infused pan juices, spinach and roasted tomato.'  Oh my!  'Butternut and lentil bobotie with saffron almond brown rice and a banana sambal,' is a delectable option for vegetarians and 'Roast duck with Jerusalem artichoke, wild mushrooms and sticky red cabbage with juniper, served with a Cape berry sauce,' for those that love crispy duck cooked to a turn.  What a choice and we haven't got to the specials yet!

At this point we turned our attention to the 'Specials' board.  Life became very complicated.  Ouresteemed waiter gently nudged us along with fulsome explanations and infinite patience.  That evening there were 5 starters on the blackboard. Eugene's choice as a starter was Garlic soup.  There was 'Avocado Ritz', 'Burnt whiskey butter scallops' and 'Walnut and duck liver terrine'.  The main courses were just as luscious.  'Overnight oxtail'.  Now, if I had included a smiley face after those two words, it would have been Eugene's face.  Oxtail is Eugene's ultimate favourite dish and he was so delighted to find it at Quentin's. I chose the 'Cape fish stew'.  Apart from the fact that I love fish stew, the description had me salivating. You may want to sample 'The Calvinia Rack', a delicious rack of lamb, or 'Springbok Loin with pumpkin and waterblommetjies and a sour fig sauce'. Combine these choices with the selections on the a la carte menu and you may find yourself in food heaven.

The wine list is carefully chosen. Extensive, but not over long.   It includes house wines dubbed 'Barn Wines' which one can order by the glass.  These are 'Marvellous Wines' from Adam Mason.  These are wines to quaff or to sip elegantly, whichever is your pleasure.  We had brought our own bottle of Special Cuvee, from the Springfield Estate in Robertson, one of my favourite Sauvignon Blancs.  

And so to eat.

The fragrance of the Garlic Soup would have tempted the gods.  Eugene savoured every last drop.  I was grudgingly afforded a taste. It was heavenly. I would have chosen that if it had not been for lure of the marrow bones.  The marrow bones are presented along the length of the bone. I spooned out the marrow, most indelicately, and mopped up the juices with the goats cheese toast accompaniment and also with the beautiful homemade farm bread that is made every day in the wood-fired open oven.  All so totally delicious. Then the mains!

Eugene was having a wonderful night.  His oxtail, served in a bowl, just fell off the bone.  Smothered in rich, unctuous gravy and lit up with carrots and onions, it was a sight to behold.  Eugene fancies himself as an ultimate oxtail authority. He has devoted many hours of dedicated oxtail eating to arrive at this assumption.  And this plate of  'Overnight Oxtail', he declared was up there with the best.  It really was amazing and again the farm bread was used to mop up the very last drop.

The Fish Stew, also served in a bowl, was a tour de force.  Succulent firm kingklip glistened in a saffron infused fish stock, enhanced with diced young onions, juliennes of deep fried ginger, spinach, fennel seed and coriander leaf.  Lovely echoes of the South of France, but still a very South African offering. It was a joy to eat and at the end I unashamedly mopped my plate.  Eugene and I are very enthusiastic moppers.

The dessert menu promised more delights.  We decided to share a 'rose, pistachio, date and apricotfrozen nougat.'  Ideal for Eugene who has a dairy intolerance as nougat is dairy free, and for me, simply because I adore nougat.  You could try the 'Berry pavlova with mascarpone and lemon curd,' or the 'Honey bush and buchu sorbet.'  The 'Dark chocolate mousse and ganache cake with toasted hazelnut ice cream' sounded almost too good to miss as did the 'Grilled mango with deep fried spicy banana and vanilla ice cream.'  The frozen nougat was a picture.  Pistachio greens, yellows and scatterings of colours and delicate leaves and petals adorned the confection.  It was melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous.  

By now I was bursting with curiosity about our host, owner/chef,  Quentin Spickernal.  I would meet him on the following Saturday afternoon after lunch as hopefully it would not be too busy and he would have the time to sit down with me.    

Amongst all his learning experiences as a young chef, he credits two master chefs for his main culinary development.  Garth Stroebel who instilled in him all the real fundamentals required in the making of a classically-trained chef and John Jackson who encouraged a lyrical, spontaneous creativity.  

But all this was leading to the major event in his cheffing history.  One day, a call out of the blue and he was summoned to Leeukoppie, the Cape Town residence of Sol Kerzner.  Sol needed an executive chef to manage his vast entertainment and personal catering requirements.  They suited each other and so for the next 16 years Quentin ran and managed the Cape Town life and times of the extraordinary man who built a hotel empire that reached around the globe.  

They were exciting times.  In Quentin's opinion Sol redefined perceptions of lavish entertaining and hosting where cost was no issue and magnificent food and wines were the order of the day.  Massive parties, last minute instructions to feed the multitudes and he had to deliver.  Sol Kerzner was a perfectionist and expected everyone in his orbit to be the same.  Later he would cater for Sol and his buddies for nine months of the year in the Bahamas. 

At this point in the interview, I followed Quentin into his pristine kitchen where gleaming stainless steel and spotless, shiny surfaces prevail.  He was cooking scallops. I watched the process of gently pan- frying the scallops and then anointing them with burnt whiskey butter.  Quick, delicate and beautiful. Eugene was getting restless by this point, so Quentin sent out a bowl of oxtail and some freshly baked and still warm farm bread to keep him going. 

A big draw at Quentin's is the 'Sunday lunch Carvery'.  This is totally different from the a la carte menu.  It could be described as a traditional South African Sunday lunch with English touches. We just loved it.  I had steamed mussels in white wine garlic and parsley to start and Eugene enjoyed the smoked snoek pate with wonderful homemade seed bread.  There is also a spicy butternut soup.  One helps oneself from the buffet and I unashamedly went back over and over again to replenish my mussels.  I do adore them.

The main course is the carvery.  On the Sunday we visited, there was beautiful pink and juicy roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.  Also, roast stuffed chicken and a wonderful whole kingklip that had, like all the rest of the food, been prepared in the wood oven  Add cauliflower cheese gratin, glazed carrots, creamed spinach and the most crunchy divine roast potatoes. Oh yes and wonderful gravy.  The roast joint of the day could also be lamb or pork.

Traditional fruit and sherry trifle and an apricot bread and butter pudding made with the famous farm bread are the desserts.  I was convinced there was no more room for another morsel, but somehow everyone found room. 

Breakfast is served on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Apart from all things healthy and fresh and lovely big squashy omelettes, there are 'Benedicts' to choose from or a handsome 'Barn fry up'

Dinner is served from Tuesday to Saturday from 18h30 - 23h00.  The kitchen closes at 21h30

Lunch is served on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12h00 - 14h30
Breakfast is served on Saturday and Sunday from 9h00 - 11h30

Sunday lunch is served from 12h.30 - 16h00.

Booking is essential for dinner and for Sunday lunch.

Address:  Dorman Way, Hout Bay 7806
Tel:          021 790 4888
Mobile:    072 242 0264

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.


Michael Olivier said...

Looks good - love the thought of flowers preening themselves under the lights!

Leslie Back said...

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your sweet comment. I am sure you would love a meal at the barn.


Catherine Boome said...

Fabulous Leslie, just love your writing...always. Catherine

Leslie Back said...

Dear Catherine,

Thank you, I am so delighted that you enjoyed the piece.


Anonymous said...

Very energetic blog, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?