This has been a very challenging past year particularly for the hospitality industry. Many long serving, and loved establishments, have sadly closed their doors, much to their loyal patron’s dismay.
Terroir was one of them. It was a winelands institution, and certainly one of my favourite wine farm eateries over the last 15 years since I’ve been in the Cape.
But it’s not all dismay, as in its place, a reimagined, refreshed concept has reopened. Good honest food is still at the heart of The Restaurant, just perhaps a little simpler, and more accessible in price and cuisine.
The previously dusky, yet comforting interiors have been revived to reflect the menu; with fresh clean lines, inviting and bright simplicity welcoming to all.
“At the heart of our thinking is really to create and offer a holistic Kleine Zalze integrated food and wine experience for the summer,” explains Kobus Basson, Managing Director and Owner of Kleine Zalze. “And, of course, across both the new restaurant and wine tasting centre we put enormous effort into staff training to ensure strict compliance with all of the latest Covid-19 hygiene protocols.” To assist with the reinvention, respected chef Nic van Wyk was brought in to lead and assist the team as culinary consultant. And Van Wyk is certainly no stranger to the estate.
“In many ways Kleine Zalze is where everything started for me,” reminisces Van Wyk, who opened Terroir with chef Michael Broughton in 2004. “But over my years of cooking across the winelands I’ve always had a soft spot for Kleine Zalze, so I was thrilled when Kobus asked me to be involved and advise on this new chapter for the estate.”
“The food I like to cook is quite timeless,” says Van Wyk. “My approach has always been about being honest, authentic and generous in my cooking. That is what we want to offer at the Kleine Zalze Restaurant. Not necessarily fine dining but certainly top-quality delicious food.”
Van Wyk implores the focus on the food is to be more accessible for the local market, “food that people enjoy and understand with options that allow them to have a small bite or construct a bigger meal to suit their preference, but still make them feel that this is special and not something they would cook at their own house.”
The menu at the Kleine Zalze Restaurant will change regularly and offers a compact selection of plats du jour; a collection of delicious dishes inspired by classic cuisine. This could mean a bowl of plump West Coast mussels, steamed in white wine and served with crisp baguettes freshly baked in-house. Perhaps beef fillet with a classic béarnaise, or given a lift with truffle-infused jus. Triple-cooked chips come standard, of course. On another day, look out for fresh line fish from local suppliers, served with simple lemon butter sauce. For dessert, why not a classic crème brûlée? “These are timeless dishes; their flavours never go out of fashion,” says Van Wyk.
Alongside the plats du jour Van Wyk also created a small selection of tapas plates, perfectly pitched for a lighter meal at the restaurant or to complement a wine tasting. “These tapas plates are a chance for the chefs to get a little more creative, a bit more playful in contrast to the straightforward plats du jour,” adds van Wyk.
Nic also bought in Lukas Carstens, previously head chef at Cavali, to run his kitchen. Execituve Chef Nic Van Wyk is still running the ship at Haut Cabriere, and gives Lukas a degree of creative freedom at Kleine Zalze. “I think having a chef like Lukas Carstens with me, that is a great chef in his own right, gives a different feel to the menu than what a ‘Nic van Wyk only menu’ would look like. I like that I am never too old to learn something new, it is inspiring to work with someone again that gave me some new perspectives on food.”
Nic adds that he really wanted to give the owners of Kleine Zalze; Kobus and Mariette Basson, the chance to tell him what it is that they really enjoy eating. “It is wonderful to be able to give joy the people that made all this possible, so you will find some Basson favourites food on the menu!”
Van Wyk is very focused on working with young chefs, to teach and mentor them, to be able to take the lead in establishments such as The Restaurant at Kleine Zalze in a couple of years “so i know our industry is safe and in good hands going forward.”
The new culinary approach is also designed to ensure seamless integration of the food and wine experience on the estate.
The wine tasting centre introduced a new selection of tasting options to showcase the wines of the estate. Guests can now enjoy a Cap Classique tasting, a tasting of the wines from the Cellar Selection range or a tasting of the award-winning Vineyard Selection range. For the first time guests can enjoy sampling the full range of exclusive Family Reserve wines. There is also a summer offering where a selection from the different ranges can be tasted.
“I believe that the wines of Kleine Zalze need to become the focus again,” explains Van Wyk. “The food is there to help us linger longer, but on a wine estate it should be there primarily to support and shine a spotlight on the wines.”
Kleine Zalze is after all Platter’s Winery of The Year and wine plays a massive role in a restaurant and the experience for the patrons.
My food highlights of the day were as follows. Please note there wasn’t a mouthful that I didn’t enjoy but the subsequent dishes were extrodinarily delicious!
The Kleine Zalze Restaurant is open from Wednesday to Thursday 11h00 – 19h00 and Friday and Saturday 11h00 – 22h00. Sunday hours are 11h00 – 17h00 with last food orders at 15h30. A plats du jour will be available between 11h30 and 15h00 from Wednesday to Sunday.
Wine-tasting and light snacks from the tasting room are offered daily. Monday to Thursday 09h00-17h30; Friday & Saturday 10h00 – 17h30; Sunday 11h00 – 17h30. The tasting room is open for sales until 18h00 daily but tasting ends 17h30.
Kleine Zalze Wines and Restaurant are situated on Strand Road (R44), Stellenbosch, South Africa.