The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal

15/July/2015
Karl Tessendorf

I always knew my visit to the Werf Restaurant at Boschendal was going to be good. After all, how could it not be? It’s run by acclaimed Executive Chef, Christiaan Campbell and the concept is farm-to-table dining. What I didn’t know was just how loud the sound of my jaw hitting the floor would be when I got inside. As soon as I stepped through the doors I knew I was not simply here for a visit. I was in for an experience that turned into a sensory adventure.

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The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal is the redesigned cellar of the Manor House and first thing you’ll notice, is that you can almost see the entire length of it from the entrance. The space is cool, comfortable and the interior is an inviting mix of eclectic design. Spain’s Lázaro Rosa-Violán, Cape Town’s Philip Briel and the Boschendal tea, collaborated on the interiors and the Spanish influence is evident. It’s a seamless blend of wood, marble and tile with a blue and white colour palette. The walls are adorned with interesting artworks, Delftware plates and there’s even a tiled wall that was hand painted by Lázaro.

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As Christiaan led me through the main body of the restaurant, I noticed a conservatory-type extension on my left. It was here that my jaw hit the floor, and for good reason. I knew they had a veggie garden, and in my mind I pictured it as a quaint little patch. What lay beyond the edge of the restaurant was the beginnings of a three hectare farm complete with a dam. As we took in the view, Christiaan explained the farm’s ethical ethos. It will run in harmony with nature with no pesticides or other nasty stuff. There are plans for earthworm farms and all kitchen waste will be used for composting. The idea is to create a seasonal, self-sustaining environment that yields fresh, natural produce for the kitchen.

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The menu at The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal is sophisticated country cuisine that let’s the ingredients shine. Boschendal is on a mission to ethically source as much produca as possible; Christiaan is a firm believer that great ingredients make great food. This farm-to-table approach puts us back in touch with food and gives an appreciation of where it comes from. The seasonal menu will be designed around the garden and in a sense the garden becomes the muse. The menu consists of three starters, three mains and three desserts. There’s an option of two or three courses that come with a complimentary selection of freshly baked breads and three side salads.   

We sampled the breads and I became particularly partial to the spiced mini vetkoek balls. The side salads came next and with them a first for me. ln keeping with all things natural, Christiaan has been exploring the world of fermented food. In the salads were a selection of fermented and pickled bursts of flavour, which included fermented cauliflower, cabbage and even raspberries. The fermentation has a distinct buzz on the tongue that I really enjoyed.   

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Next up was a starter of octopus terrine with celeriac spaghetti, brown butter mayo, hake roe emulsion and orange cells. As I made my way through the tender octopus, I encountered pops of citrus, salty and creamy flavours cleverly scattered around the dish. For main course I had crispy skin duck breast with pulled leg meat and caramelised cauliflower. Everything on this dish was absolutely packed with flavour. If I hadn’t been in such sophisticated setting I would’ve have licked the plate clean. Dessert was another first for me, a pear poached in fermented cream. It was nestled on a bed of roasted chocolate, praline and walnut crumbs. There was also a pear chip, a pear sorbet and a caramel mousse. Is there anything there that doesn’t sound delicious?

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Thoroughly satisfied and full I wandered over to the mobile gin bar display that was being tended by restaurant manager, Danie. He explained that it was a gin tasting that he was offering to interested customers. Danie took me through some of the intricacies of gin flavour profiles and introduced me to a new and locally made tonic water. We then moved onto the ins and outs of tonic water and all this from my simple question of, “what’s all the gin for?”. From there we chatted about the restaurant and he explained that for him it’s more than just a restaurant. It’s an experience where you get a feel for the food and drink, and that feeling is just as important as actually eating and drinking.   

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This level of passion and dedication came across from everyone I spoke to. In fact, at one point during our photoshoot, I overheard two of the chefs debating how they could further improve on the dish we were shooting. Christiaan has definitely surrounded himself with like-minded individuals and results speak for themselves. I can’t wait to visit again when the garden is in full bloom and bursting with earthy treats.

Werf Restaurant at Boschendal

Tel: +27 (0) 21 870 4206

werf@boschendal.co.za

www.boschendal.co.za

Words by Karl Tessendorf