I got to check out the newly renovated Solms-Delta restaurant, sample some items on their newly revamped heritage menu. Learnt a thing or two but most importantly, I was utterly impressed. Read more about it….
Music and food have always been inseparable partners at Solms-Delta wine estate in Franschhoek, and with the recent relocation of its Fyndraai Restaurant to the estate’s old stable building, the exploration of heritage food and rural music is now under one harmonious roof.
Adjacent to the estate’s newly opened Music van de Caab centre, Fyndraai is now in a beautifully renovated space enlivened with notes of musical decor. And Fyndraai’s chef, Shaun Schoeman, is cooking up even more heritage food inspired by fresh indigenous produce grown in the Dik Delta Culinary Garden. Schoeman’s menu has been renewed and refreshed with dishes like sticky glazed pork belly with Cape gooseberry and pickled spekboom, and a traditional Kaapsesnoek parcel basted with lemon and wilderoosmarynblatjang. “It’s a more modern and grown-up Fyndraai in all respects, which I’m really loving,” he says.
The move has freed up the former restaurant space, which will now serve as the Solms-Delta Wijn van de Caab Tasting Room. There, the entire range of wines will be available for tasting either inside or outside on the veranda and lawn, along with a variety of local cheeses, charcuterie and sweet platters that are an edible expression of South African heritage.
How the new Fyndraai looks
The new Fyndraai is housed in what was once the old stables and workers’ accommodation on the farm, and is significant for its association with the current and past farm workers, some of whom were born and raised in the building.
The musical theme is carried from the neighbouring Music van de Caab centre into the restaurant.
Colour photographs of the various musical ensembles and events that form part of the Music van de Caab project, line the restaurant’s walls. Displayed alongside them are black and white photographs selected for their musical content from the Cape Archives, the Paarl Heemkring Collection and the Bleek & Lloyd Collection of the UCT Libraries Visual Archives. The indigenous photographs were taken by Dorothea Bleek, who went on many expeditions to study Bushman dialects and rock art in the Kalahari, Botswana, Angola and Tanzania.
The restaurant’s back wall has been brought to life with a vibrantly coloured mural that provides a timeline of the music of the Cape and its influences from around the world. From early human development to European colonization, the unmistakable beat of the ghoema drum, langarm and Cape Jazz, Cape music is a fascinating example of how contact finds cultural expression. With a timeline that stretches across the bottom of the mural, Cape music is situated within the wider world — from Mozart to Motown. From a distance, the influences read like a sheet of music, each note adding to the melting pot that is Cape music. Up close, each note invites further exploration, with interesting details of the Cape’s musical heritage.
There are two indoor dining areas: a room that seats 30, and a striking glass structure, which can seat up to 60. Additional outdoor seating for at least 60 is available on the stoep and the lawn. Each of the two rooms as well as the outside area will be available for private functions, as well as regular dining.
Even Fyndraai’s logo boasts a musical re-composition – a quintet of indigenous musical instruments rooted in Solms-Delta soil.
Fyndraai: Food of Origin
Since 2009, Fyndraai has enlightened South Africans and foreigners alike by showcasing the genuine food traditions of the Cape. Afrikaner boerekos, which has strong European and Cape Malay (slave) influences, mixes with ingredients first used by the indigenous Khoe nomads who lived in the Franschhoek valley thousands of years ago.
The cuisine is also inextricably linked to the Dik Delta Culinary Garden, which occupies a two-hectare plot on the Solms-Delta estate. Created in 2010, the garden is planted with buchu, spekboom, veldkool and many of the other 400 or so plant species that nourished the San – the Cape’s first people -and cured their ailments. Renata Coetzee, the doyenne of South African cooking, has played a major role in the development of this garden, from the sourcing of plants to imparting her extensive knowledge about how best to prepare them in the kitchen, to Schoeman. Out of the Coetzee/Schoeman collaboration has come an exciting contemporary interpretation of traditional ingredients and dishes.
Now that the garden is more established, it can supply Schoeman with an abundance of seasonal indigenous vegetables and fruits, as well as the herbs that have formed Fyndraai’s intense flavour palate. Inspired by numnums, kei apples and veldkool, Schoeman is stretching his culinary reach, combining new ingredients with new and expanded cooking techniques, as well as refreshing his plating style and presentation.
Schoeman talks animatedly about the new menu: “We are poaching a warm prawn and cured snoek terrine, infused with lemon pelargonium and wild garlic, that is rolled and poached, then coated in kudu biltong dust, sliced and warmed in a pan and served with my latest creation – deep-fried candied lemon pelargonium – and a tangy parsley sauce.”
“I’m also focusing more on smoking, for example, Karoo ostrich, an indigenous Khoe animal. We first pickle the fillet with salt and garden herbs, then smoke it ourselves in gentle low heat over wood shavings and more herbs from the garden. It’s served as a cold starter, with a numnum dressing and fynbos greens.”
“I am really excited about our Kaapsesnoek parcel, which is a dish finished by gratinating, which means it is cooked with heat from the top down,” says Schoeman. A wet rub of wild garlic, mint and fennel is applied to the snoek, which is set in an open foil packet and topped with Dik Delta’s own lemon and wilderoosmaryn blatjang (an indigenous take on Cape Malay’s beloved chutney). It’s cooked under the grill until it has caramelised on top, and is served with savoury basmati rice.
Quickly pan-frying asparagus brings out the best in this truly seasonal vegetable, and at Fyndraai, Schoeman makes a mean main course out of a mix of regular asparagus and indigenous veldkool, which are currently in season. The asparagus is sautéed with wild garlic, wild mushrooms, mint pelargonium and nettles, the latter of which he says are painstaking to clean (he learned the technique for cleaning them while doing a two-week stint at Noma in Copenhagen). The springtime dish is finished with goats cheese croutons.
Schoeman is taking braising further these days with a twice cooked sticky-glazed pork belly. First, the belly is braised for several hours in duck and chicken stock, cooled overnight and pressed in the fridge. The next morning it is sliced into strips, which are seared skin side down in a pan to crisp and colour, and then hit with a gooseberry reduction. The whole dish is finished with a wild sage and lemon thyme sauce, and served with butter mash and pickled spekboom. Schoeman calls it “the most amazing combination ever.”
The new Fyndraai is a win-win situation for Schoeman. “With so many more seasonal indigenous fruits and vegetables now available to us, we now have total flexibility and freedom to cook spontaneously from the garden,” he says. “In addition, the new kitchen is much bigger and allows us to be more productive with what we harvest.”This means Schoeman plans to launch more Dik Delta products in the years to come.
Taste The New Tasting Room– Solms-Delta Wijn van de Caab
Even the most ardent wine tasters like something snacky with their wine, and the new Wine Tasting Room will offer charcuterie, cheese and even sweet platters to nibble from alongside the Solms-Delta wines.
“One can order a South African cured meat platter, which we serve with curried pickled waterblommetjies and traditional roosterkoek, or a local cheese platter with Dik Delta makataan and red wine (our own Solms-Delta Hiervandaan) onion marmalade,” says Schoeman. There’s even a sweet platter, with a koeksister, melktertjies and piesang malva pudding.
A special Wijn van de Caab Tasting Room feature is the Dik Delta food and wine pairing, which specifically showcases indigenous produce in six small courses matched with Solms-Delta wines. It is necessary to book this special pairing at least one day in advance.
Lastly, the Tasting Room will be the go-to spot for picnics at Solms-Delta. After collecting an abundant picnic basket, a guide will assist picnickers in selecting the perfect spot from a variety of sites, including a large grassy lawn alongside a forest, sandy river banks and shady spots overlooking the farm dam. Pre-booking of picnics is essential.
Visit at www.solms-delta.co.za
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— Solms Delta (@solms_delta) March 3, 2015