CUV?+¦???+¦?+¦-ú??E RESTAURANT, Simonsig Estate, Stellenbosch.
The Indian Summer conditions residents of the Western Cape are currently experiencing are conducive to al fresco wineland dining. So it was that I recently found myself at Simonsig, one of my favourite wine estates, settled on the porch of its Cuv+¬e Restaurant. Not a breath of wind. Views lasted forever, only hindered by the dramatic mountains in the direction of Stellenbosch.
It was better than sitting inside, a space with an excessively camp interior. A wooden bench hanging from the roof, for God’s sake. All that boere barok. One expects Natani?+¦???+¦?+¦-+?+¦-úl to come striding across the room selling sosaties.
My dining partners were Dennis Finkelstein and Georgia O’Tief. Apparently I owed them a lunch, and Cuv+¬e was deemed an appropriate debt-cancelling venue.
I ordered the Simonsig pink bubbly to get things going. O’Tief informed me the bubbly was not cold enough, which it wasn’t. The waitress, one of these on-the-job-trained affirmative numbers, also did not afford me the opportunity of checking the wine for TCA or oxidation by pouring the usual taster. So this was not a good start.
I told O’Tief to relax as the wine will chill in the ice-box. The juice itself was devoid of malodourness.
The menu had changed since my last visit. Despite being a place priding itself on its bubblies, there were no oysters to go around this time. Pity: winter oysters are best, and I was keen for some.
The menu offered a salad, some Malay and seafood goodies to start. Mains included fish, venison, souffl+¬, lamb with some Auntie’s jam, the ubiquitous beef fillet and some gnocchi in a Parisian baked style.
Finkelstein ordered scallops and prawn for starters while I chose the Cape Malay Bobotie Samoosas with the ever-popular and well-known Malmesbury yoghurt, plus a dollop of Muscat Jam. After a bit of egging on and ensuring her how terrifically svelte, slim and pretty she was looking, O’Tief opted for a warm bean salad with goat’s cheese crostini.
Starters were well-received. Scallops sweet and perfectly cooked, although Finkelstein thought the prawn was off and did not eat it. The salad was,crunchy with a serious chunk of goat’s milk cheese on the crostini. The samoosas were not as spicy as I liked them, but you can always count on that stunning Malmesbury yoghurt to cut the sweetness.
The next wine was a Kaapse Vonkel. Delicious as ever. I must say, I find the fact that Cuv+¬e only offers Simonsig wines a bit anal. The wines are good. And of a diverse selection. But sitting in the centre of one of the world’s great wine regions it is a pity guests cannot choose, say, Kanonkop Paul Sauer, Hartenberg Shiraz or Le Riche Cabernet.
If you are going to limit the wine-list to your own wines, and own wines only, why the hell should I pay a 100% mark-up?
The mains came. Parisian baked gnocchi for Finkelstein, who is trying to put on some weight after a short struggle with a painful STD. Lamb for the carnivorous O’Tief. Chicken ballontine for moi.
Lamb slow-cooked and luscious, served on a plate of pastry. Finkelstein put the gnocchi away as if there was no tomorrow. It was gooey, creamy and solid. My chicken breast was stuffed with herbs and things and alright.
Desserts included cr?+¦???+¦?+¦-+?+¦+ëme br?+¦???+¦?+¦????l+¬e, Malva Pudding and Dutch pancakes, but we decided to skip and head for coffee.
The verdict? Passable, but definitely nothing above average. Seems an awful pity for a topnotch estate to go to all the effort of putting a restaurant in place but the settling for an average degree of execution. Perhaps the real summer will arrive, eventually.
-, Darian Morgan