A scenic drive to Stellenbosch in order to spend a night at a five-star boutique hotel it hardly a tough end to a week. Coupled with a dinner for two at a highly regarded restaurant, it was the kind of break I rather enjoy.
Situated in the sleepy suburb of Paradyskloof, Majeka House is a quirky haven that offers guests and restaurant visitors alike an escape from the treadmill of everyday life.
The gorgeous M Lounge and the restaurant, Makaron, have been styled by Etienne Hanekom and are a mishmash of Eastern minimalism and quaint European style.
Hanekom has added a trendy touch to the M Lounge with a blue-lit bar area, and reflective material in the form of highly polished dark woods and mirrors. Comfortable lounge chairs are scattered around the room, along with various knick-knacks (like one or two pig ornaments — part of owner Karine Dequeker's own collection), which add a personal feel to the lounge. It's little wonder that the restaurant received the Boschendal Style Award at the Eat Out Awards in 2011.
My partner Jared and I enjoyed a glass of the Edgbaston Chardonnay while admiring the worksmanship of a large model ship that comes to life in this thoughtfully assembled space.
The trendy M Lounge
As the clock struck 7:30pm we were fetched by Makaron's maitre' d, who seated us and provided us with menus. As the summer evening had a pleasant feel to it, we chose to sit outside. Makaron is as beautifully set up as the M Lounge, with gorgeous Victorian cutlery and crockery reminiscent of days past, which accompanied handmade crockery by celebrated potter David Walters.
I was eager to sample chef Tanja Kruger's menu as she has made a name for herself as a member of the South African Culinary Olympic Team and has worked in a range of highly-regarded Western Cape restaurants.
In an online interview by Hotel and Restaurant, Kruger tells of her strong belief in using local ingredients, the slow food movement and organic produce. Ingredients are of high quality and this was evident in the success of our three courses that evening.
To begin, I enjoyed a garden pea risotto which not only looked absolutely beautiful on the plate, but which sang on my palate. I almost wanted to stop right there and order another bowl of it. The risotto was of perfect consistency, done al dente, and was served with a delicious garlic espuma and smokey olive tapenade which added depth to the delicious green dish.
An even lighter starter, best described as a celebration of the Caprese salad, was served to my partner Jared. Kruger turned the basil, tomato and mozzarella salad into a terrine, which was served with a tomato cloud, a basil gelee, semi-dried tomatoes and olive oil powder. A delicate dish if ever there was one.
By the end of our first course, it was clear that Kruger was not afraid to dabble in a little molecular gastronomy that was just enough to catch your attention and encourage you to look at each ingredient in a new light.
Main course was no less impressive. I opted for the lamb dish, described as a "study of lamb" because it was lamb done five ways — pan-seared lamb loin, smoked belly, pavé of leg, braised shank and neck and the piece de resistance, shallow fried brain... which I bravely tried and was surprised to find I really enjoyed.
Kruger later told me that she sources her lamb from the Spier Biodynamic farms in Stellenbosch. It was served with a gorgeous beetroot puree and little drops of mint sauce "caviar".
Jared enjoyed a somewhat lighter dish — kingklip served in verjuice butter with chorizo crumbs, confit tomato and bean fritters — a combination that put a sleepy smile of satisfaction on his face.
The chef and owners have thoughtfully recommended a wine with each dish, right through to the desserts. A freshly made Elgin apple tart with salted caramel ice cream was consumed slowly with exclamations of delight from the other end of the table, interspersed with delicate sips of Thelema Rhine Riesling Late Harvest. If you ever get to Makaron, this is one dessert you should try.
Visit www.makaronrestaurant.co.za for more information.