Kleine Zalze’s Terroir Restaurant never ceases to please!

The terrace (left) before the big "sails" went up which add to the romantic atmosphere at night, and the interior (right).

South Africans do not have educated palates. Well, most of them anyway. We don’t really appreciate good food or good wine. Not like the French or the Italians, for example. And yet we have some of the best wine producers on the planet, not to mention many of the best restaurants you’ll find anywhere.

And in the Cape winelands we are spoilt for choice. As a matter of fact, we are blessed with a growing number of fine dining establishments on wine estates alone. Add to them the vast number of other great restaurants in towns and cities around the winelands and you don’t need to go back to the same restaurant for many years if you dine out, for example, twice a month.

And that, in a nutshell, is our dining out philosophy, namely to always try something new. Except in the case of Terroir on the Kleine Zalze wine estate outside Stellenbosch! Earlier this year we went there for the fourth time, this time to review this outstanding fine dining establishment. And again we left feeling spoilt … and considering the next visit!

We have never been to Terroir for supper and so we don’t know what the atmosphere is like inside at night. I have been told, however, that it’s warm, homely and well worth the effort. And this comes from a well-informed source!

As with the previous occasions, we sat outside under the vast canvas canopy, surrounded by what the Stellenbosch area is also known for, natural beauty. And, as with the previous occasions, we revelled in the Terroir offering which started off, as previously, with a very friendly and professional welcome after which we were escorted to our table.

One just knows everything is heading for heaven on earth when your appetizer is a glass of Kaapse Vonkel! Fresh bread rolls with butter, olive oil and balsamic vinegar helped to line the stomachs before the first course was ordered, which for me would obviously be accompanied by a glass of Kleine Zalze’s fine wine.

LEFT: I had this delightful starter with both the KZ Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay! What can I say, I enjoy the good things in life!

While I ordered Tempura Squid with Tomato Jam and Yuzu Mayonnaise, to be accompanied by Kleine Zalze’s 2010 Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, the love of my life settled for Norwegian Salmon with Thai Puy Lentils Bacon Foam and her traditional soft drink. Someone had to drive home!

As the final drops of the wonderful Sauvignon Blanc were gently sliding down my throat with my taste buds desperately trying to hold on to their flavours (but there was still enough of the starter left to justify more wine!), the waitress suggested I try the Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2011. She was earning her tip, no doubt about it. Of course I wasn’t going to turn such an offer down (I too seldom get the opportunity of enjoying Kleine Zalze’s cellar offerings!)

For mains we both decided on Barbeque Fillet with Smoked Potato Puree and Red Wine Shallots after our waiter informed us that the fillet was rib-eye steak which had been aged for 4 months. And with it she suggested Kleine Zalze’s Vineyard Selection Shiraz of the outstanding 2009 vintage.

RIGHT: A feast for both the eyes and the palate! Our main meal was pure decadence.

As our curtain call, the love of my life ordered Baked Cheesecake with Coconut Caramel, Pecan Butter and Ice Cream while I settled for the Banana Saverin. With dessert came a glass of Paul Cluver Weisser Riesling 2010, just to put the cherry on top of a sensual journey of the senses!

Terroir’s menu is subject to change due to seasonal availability and their winter special menu was valid from May to September. A two course meal cost R175 and included a glass of Kleine Zalze’s Cellar wine, while a three course meal (which we settled on, but I was spoilt with additional wines!) was R198 per person including a glass of KZ Cellar wine. Other items on the menu were priced at R85 (for the starter Norwegian Salmon with Thai Puy Lentils Bacon Foam), R175 (Belly of Pork with Cider Sauce and Braised Apples or Springbok and Bacon Pie as mains) and R61 (dessert of Trio of Sorbet/Ice Cream) and R83 (Cheese Plate for dessert) which aren’t cheap, but then, you don’t go to a restaurant like Terroir to eat cheap, you go there to eat well, very well!

The portions are sufficient and you won’t leave with the need to pop into the nearest KFC on your way home. Anyway, that would be like drinking paint stripper and coke after having had a superb potstill brandy and spring water!

The presentation of the food was excellent, according to my wife who knows about these things, and the depth of flavour and the texture of each and every ingredient on the plate were simply … well, mouthwatering!

LEFT: By the time we reached dessert, we had both decided to return in the near future. Hell, we're even willing to take up membership!

At the end of this feast, I was reminded of what the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once said: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” And with food like this, one can be forgiven for being totally smitten.

Okay, let’s look at how Terroir did on our score cards. We score on a scale from 0 - 10:

0 - 3 : Poor

4 – 6: Average

7 – 8: Good

9 – 10: Excellent

In exceptional cases we will award 11 – 12 points, but this will only happen in cases where the particular item exceeds the norm.

As far as atmosphere is concerned, my lady gave Terroir a 9 while I was slightly more conservative with an 8. Service got a BIG 10 from both of us, as did the presentation of the food, while the food itself received 11 points from us both. We gave Terroir another 10 points for overall experience. If we scored for view, Terroir would have received another 10 from us both.

 

ABOVE: A view from the top. This picture was taken when the tables on the terrace each had their own umbrella. Today, this whole area is covered by big "sails" which add to the great atmosphere outside.

 

In November last year at the 2011 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards, Terroir proudly received its sixth Top 10 award, winning sixth place in what has become an increasingly competitive line-up of South Africa’s best restaurants. For Terroir’s chef, Michael Broughton, who opened his first restaurant in Johannesburg in 1997, last year’s award brought to eight the number of times he has featured in the annual Top 10. This is indicative of his enduring talent, leadership and teaching skill in the kitchen. Since opening in 2004 at Kleine Zalze, Terroir has maintained a steady following of guests who appreciate the classic food and wine pairings, warm hospitality and picturesque surroundings of the farm.

 

The name Terroir reflects Broughton’s philosophy of keeping things down-to-earth while extracting as much flavour as possible out of every ingredient that ends up on the plate. This equates to cooking seasonally and sourcing locally to produce boldly flavoured, well balanced dishes that stand up to the growing collection of award-winning wines from Kleine Zalze.

“I love the fact that we were instrumental in kick-starting the food revolution in Stellenbosch,” said Broughton after receiving the coveted award.

Terroir is open Mondays to Saturdays for lunch and dinner, Sundays for lunch only. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during the summer months. To book your table, call (27) (21) 880-8167 or email restaurant@kleinezalze.co.za

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