Real, honest, delicious food.
In the scenic Stellenbosch countryside, beautiful wine estates are quite simply a dime a dozen. There are many of them, each as special as the next and it can be difficult to discern one from the last one before it. And yet somehow, Cavalli Estate stands out from the rest. Starting from the minute you drive through the commanding front gate to the grounds and, of course, the restaurant itself, you’re acutely aware of the fact that Cavalli is not just another wine farm.
The resident restaurant at Cavalli is no newcomer to the dining scene in the winelands, having been open since 2013. The restaurant’s interior is a striking mix of materials. Glass, copper, stone, steel and leather all work together to create a warm, inviting space that is achingly cool. With the arrival of new head chef Calum Anderson, Cavalli has stripped away the fine-dining excess from their menu and have introduced a refreshed ‘everyday gourmet’ menu. The idea behind the new concept is to offer up real food, that nourishes and satisfies the diner, doing away with foams, gels and other smoke-and-mirrors effects that food has seen recently.
The ingredients used in the kitchen are either grown on Cavalli or sourced, ethically, from local suppliers. The new menu is set out to let this exceptional produce on the plate shine through, so you’ll never regret whichever dish you choose. The menu wastes no time in offering up some stellar dishes. The beef short rib was meltingly soft, with an umami-filled miso onion adding some depth to the dish and scattering of rustic croutons for a satisfying crunch. Beetroot chutney and shaved radish offset any overlying richness with their acidity and spice. The parsnip soup is a thing of beauty, so simple and yet so expertly handled. The creamy soup is topped with shaved parsnip, which added a wonderful woody texture, lovely toasty hazelnuts, crispy sage and an earthy leek ash.
If you can believe it, the grand show ramps up a gear for main courses. The pork belly makes for a dreamy winter’s day dish, tender throughout and crisp in all the right places, complete with burnt cauliflower, crispy quinoa and cider pears, to counteract the richness. The risotto, made with forest mushrooms, is potentially as rich as the pork belly, and just as tasty. The best thing about this dish is the simplicity, the risotto itself is circled by a heavenly Parmesan-cauliflower puree and is dotted with zingy pickled shimejis. Everything is then scattered with delicate parsnip crisps, to add some crunchy texture.
Dessert is kept simple and fuss-free. The calvados pudding, reminiscent of a slightly-boozy, dried-fruit studded malva pudding, is drizzled with a simple apple-scented custard and served alongside a date ice cream. The chocolate eclair is filled with a peppermint crisp mix and is served with a decadent dark chocolate ice cream. There’s a tasty banana cream and a cocoa nib crumble on the plate too and overall, the dish reminds you of everything you love about the synonymous peppermint crisp pudding you ate as a child.
If eating at wine farms make you think of stuffy dining rooms, with all manners of ponce, airs and graces, then Cavalli will pleasantly surprise you. There’s a definite air of luxe throughout the estate, but there is none of the snootiness. The food at Cavalli invites you in, comforts you and has you thinking about your next trip back to Cavalli.
All of the wine farm grandeur, none of the ponce.