I love the feeling of driving out-of-town and seeing the scenery change as you head further and further up the N1. Seeing the drab grey skyline, and crazy traffic in the rear view mirror, give way to gorgeous wintry colours in the countryside.
I had so been looking forward to my mini weekend breakaway at Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa with its idyllic vineyard and mountain views, more importantly I had heard so much about Chef Emile Fortuin’s culinary skills, I couldn’t wait for dinner. Le Franschhoek offers visitors a package that includes a 5 course dinner and wine pairing, overnight accommodation as well as a full continental breakfast, which I was fully prepared to take advantage of.
Roasted Peach and Parma Ham with goat’s cheese mousse, minted yoghurt and mango
“Doolhof Unwooded Chardonnay “
Lemon Butter Roasted Linefish Citrus marinated mussels, courgettes
Doolhof Lady in White beurre blanc “Lady in White”
Braised Crisp Pork Belly Roasted cauliflower puree, Bok choy, roasted hazelnuts, mushrooms and chilli ginger caramel
Roasted Beef fillet Onion puree, glazed carrots, chanterelle mushrooms, baby spinach crispy bacon
Dark Chocolate Fondant With dark lady choc sauce, amarula and chocolate bubbles
“Doolhof Dark Lady”
Our first course was introduced Chef Emile Fortuin, a seemingly shy unassuming young man. Roasted peach and dehydrated Parma Ham with goat’s cheese mousse, minted yoghurt and mango which was paired with Doolhof’ s “Unwooded” chardonnay. This course was absolutely delishes and was to set the platform for the evening. Meticulously plated, all the elements playing their part in making this dish a resounding success.
The next course was lemon butter roasted linefish, which turned out to be sea bass with citrus marinated mussels, courgettes and Doolhof Lady in White beurre blanc (which literally translated from French is “White Butter”). This dish was served with the Lady in white a blend of Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Our next course was the braised pork belly with roasted cauliflower puree, pok choi, roasted hazelnuts, mushrooms and chilli ginger caramel. Now, this is my wife’s favourite dish and if I had to recollect how many times we’ve had this dish in the last six months I’m sure it would involve counting on both hands.
However, the smile on her face when this dish was served was to be an indication of just how well prepared this dish was. The process of preparation for this pork belly taking a mammoth 10hrs as was explained by the chef, a clear indicator of the amount of care and attention given to this course to ensure that it was perfect.
It most certainly was, the Asian influence clearly coming through in this course, a reflection on the time the Chef spent in Asia. This course was served with the award-winning Doolhof Malbec, one of my favourites for the evening.
The next course was the Roasted Beef fillet with onion puree, glazed carrots, mushrooms, baby spinach and bacon. This course was sublime and one would easily been forgiven for becoming teary eyed why enjoying this course. It was perfectly rare, and melts in your mouth, prepared to perfection. This was served with the Doolhof
The final course proved to be piece de resistance, Dark Chocolate Fondant, with Dark Lady chocolate sauce, Amarula and dark chocolate bubbles. This course was paired with the Doolhof “Dark lady”.
I will start by saying that the entire meal was flawless, all 5 courses, I cannot find a single fault in presentation, combinations chosen or execution. It was a resounding and unanimous decision at our table. I found myself fortunate enough to share a quiet drink with the chef post the event to try to get a measure of the man behind this amazing gastronomic experience, he’s opinions and views of he’s craft.
What I found was truly unexpected and inspiring. The romantic in me firmly believes that sometimes the end product is as a result of the back story, and sometimes it’s necessary to tell the backstory in order to fully appreciate and give credit to the finished article.
The bespectacled 28-year-old, a Franschhoek native, sat down over a glass of wine and recalled how as a “youngster” he’d started he’s career picking grapes before finding he’s way into a scullery, literally starting from the bottom and working he’s way up, until he was snapped up and mentored by renowned South African Chef Reuben Riffle.
The young prodigy, then eager to spread he’s wings and hone he’s craft spent a few years working in the east before returning home. Emile freely shared he’s philosophies, and recipes, mind you, and how important it is to do the basics right and to put in the hard work, to not overcomplicate or try too hard.
Emile’s humble and down to earth character and passion for he’s craft was astounding. Big things lay ahead on this young man’s horizon.
I urge you all to grab a pen and write down the name Emile Fortuin, and add a dinner at Le Franschhoek to your “bucket list”, because if this experience is anything to go by,you will be hearing a lot more of him in the foreseeable future and you will want to say, “I was there”.
For the full album click HERE
R R595 per person (Wine Dinner only)
R2695 per couple (Eat and Stay)
Please contact Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa
Reservations: +27 (0)21 876 8900