The best French food in the Cape is being cooked by a farm boy from the Karoo and his wife Sarah. The place is Dijon, a bistro in the centre of Stellenbosch opposite the Town Hall, and the authenticity of this South African-French joint is unusual. South Africans returning from visits to France are usually more French in their pretentiousness than the lazy housewives of Montparnasse. But the Du Plessis’ of Dijon are down to earth, portraying a genuine admiration for French cuisine rather than attempting to recreate it with an air of awe and over-the-top reverence. (See earlier review of Bizerca.)
Myself and three other guys piled into the Dijon yesterday, sprawling along the shiny wooden tables nestling on the tiled floor. We ordered Mooiplaas Chenin Blanc, and told the waiter to keep the bottles coming whenever they were close to empty, which was about every 15 minutes. I mean, who can eat on an empty stomach?
The carte is usual bistro fare: steak tartare and marrow bones; steak and coq au vin. A couple of pastas. Veal and fish.
Two of the guys ordered the marrow bones, cut high, roasted and served with toasted bread. The other one decided on steak tartare, while I kept things green with asparagus and Hollandaise.
Marrow bones are the culinary equivalent of lacy black underwear ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ it always works. Simply roasted, unctuous marrow is scooped out and spread on toast. Lips were greasy, expressions satisfied.
The steak tartare was pronounced to be as genuine as Minky van der Westhuizen’s cleavage. The meat had been ground, instead of minced to a pulp. Seasoned to perfection, it was also served with toast.
My asparagus was fresh and sweet, and the Hollandaise light and zingy. It went perfectly with the Mooiplaas Chenin.
The companions were not extremely adventurous with the mains, all settling for cassoulet. I myself settled for a steak, which ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ in retrospect ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ was not very adventurous either.
Guy Kebble, one of the cassoulet eaters, knows his cassoulet from his bean stew, having caused various degrees of injury to rugby opponents in South-Western France. The chef was going to be cheered, instead of scrummed to a pulp as the cassoulet was given the thumbs-up. Confit of duck, saucisson Toulouse, perfectly cooked beans with a hint of tomato in the broth.
What’s there not to like?
My steak was cut thin, which I prefer to those chunky slabs that are usually cold in the middle when ordered rare. Good meat, such as this, only requires Dijon mustard and frites. The latter were perfect: crisp and fresh, with a satisfying potato taste to the bite. The rocket salad served as an apt palate cleanser.
The owner, Doepie, also brought as a serving of wild boar sausage he had procured, which was truly divine. This is the kind of sausage that serves to remind the Germans that they lost the War.
By this stage we were drinking Jan Boland Coetzee’s Kallista and La Bonheur Prima. Thoughts of desert did arise, but we decided on double espresso’s and a bottle of Tokara brandy, which did the job of finishing a truly splendid meal.
E. Louw Joubert
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