An Epic Culinary Journey at Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock

Words: Julie Velosa

It’s been a while since I’ve had a dining experience peppered with so many ‘ooohs’, ‘aaahs’ and ‘wows’. This is not to say I haven’t eaten a lot of good food recently, I absolutely have, but I haven’t had a dining experience that has pushed me quite out of my culinary comfort zone like a recent meal at Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock Estate.

Nordic Inspired Quoin Rock Estate

Quoin Rock has undergone a major revamp and Gåte Restaurant is nothing short of spectacular.

A modern glass structure where every detail has been beautifully rendered – from the impressive entranceway, which is designed to mimic the entrance to Valhalla, to the statement vertical water feature.

Tree and foliage inspired elements, perhaps an ode to Glasir and Læraðr (trees in Norse lore), tie the theme together. The design is structurally and aesthetically jaw-dropping and sets the tone for an incredible dining experience.

The Concept

The name Gåte (pronounced gah-tay) is the Norwegian word for ‘riddle’ and it’s the ideal concept from which the menu has been built. You are going to be surprised, you are going to be amazed and you are going to be challenged.

It’s Fine to Dine

Fine dining has earned itself somewhat of a bad reputation. It’s been rapped over the knuckles for being fussy, stuffy and elitist.  A lot of the time the people saying these things are chefs who’s own personal food philosophy differs, critics who have seen it all, and sometimes just trolls who, well, like to troll.

The fact is that fine dining has its place in the culinary world. It pushes boundaries and it showcases the talent and creativity of chefs who express themselves as artists through food.

Splitting Atoms

Molecular gastronomy takes that to the nth degree and whether you like the idea or not, the whole point is to experience something new. It challenges you with flavour and texture combinations and pushes expectations of ingredients.

Traditional dishes that you know and love can be transformed into a truly compelling experience with a little creative thinking and innovative cooking techniques.

As a person who loves a bowl of ramen but wouldn’t ever think of creating the noodles out of a green-liquid filled syringe, I can appreciate the mind that can. I want my palate to be challenged every now and again, I want to think ‘how did they come up with that’ and I want to wonder ‘what next?’.

A fine dining meal isn’t meant to be an everyday experience. It is a unique journey that should be memorable, fun and conversation-worthy and our experience at Gåte Restaurant certainly was.

The Menu

Placed at the centre of the table is a golden hexagonal metal ornament with phrases such as The Black Pearl and The Birth of Liver inscribed on the sides. You’ll soon learn that this is the menu and those phrases are cryptic clues as to what you’ll be eating.

Rest assured they’ll give you no real clue as to what to expect but the slick team of servers have got you covered with a well-practised breakdown of each dish.

The menu at Gåte Restaurant is a 16-course gastronomic journey of discovery, a ‘train of tasters’ as someone at our table put it. The analogy is quite accurate. While 16 courses sounds excessive, they have been planned with obvious thought. Rather than meals, they are elegant bite-sized dishes that, once served with different wines, are delivered as a really sophisticated and thought-out pairing experience.

Spoiler Alert

The real essence of the Gåte experience is the element of surprise and giving a rundown of each dish would simply spoil that. Even though social media is sure to be awash with Instagram worthy snaps of dishes, if you can help it, avoid reading too much before you go.  You’ll really benefit from having the experience as it is intended, with wow factor and a bit of mystery.

In saying that, there were obvious favourites around the table and, while everyone had their own top dish, probably the most popular contender was ‘Not an Ashtray’, which was simply rammed with flavour. Word to the wise, portion that cigar – what’s in the ashtray is so tasty you’ll want to scoop up every last morsel.

Another winner was the simply titled ‘Caprese’; sure, there’ll be tomato, cheese and basil but they won’t look like anything in your shopping basket that’s for sure.

Don’t be scared of a little peacock, some curry with your candyfloss and black cod in a coconut. Sound like a bit of a gastronomic rollercoaster? It is and that’s the intention. Be open-minded, get involved and enjoy the journey around the globe.

The Gåte Restaurant Experience

As mentioned this isn’t an everyday experience and nor should it be. This is a culinary occasion, a celebration of creativity and the perfect excuse to take your palate into unknown territory.

Chef Rikku Ò’Donnchü and his team have turned the Gåte kitchen into a laboratory. A state of the art space where they can create a dining experience that is out of the ordinary and they have succeeded at this.

The obvious technique, painstaking plating and fastidious attention to the minute details makes each plate a work of art.

Those who don’t like this style of cuisine will probably criticise but this is an exciting move for the culinary scene in South Africa. Diners can look forward to an experience that will no doubt be a seed for conversation with lots of opinions and commentary.

The fact is that you may not think that liver, cocoa nibs and banana bread will work but once you’ve tasted it you may just be swayed.

Quoin Rock Wine Estate
Knorhoek Road Knorhoek Valley Stellenbosch 7607 | Tel: 021 888 4740 | Instagram |

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