I’ve long been a fan of George Jardine and his restaurant at Jordan – a great combination of wonderful food, wines, views and chameleons which is hard to beat. His new solo venture in the heart of Stellenbosch is causing plenty of waves so we tried it out this weekend to find out why.
Sneeze and you’d miss the tiny, unobtrusive frontage on Andringa Street – certainly there is no over-designed fanfare or gaudy signage and this understatement continues inside. The restaurant is set over two rooms, one of which was clearly a courtyard in a former life and everything is pretty minimalist, though without the uncomfortable angularity such a word often implies. A lovely fire warms the room, although blankets are also provided, and the atmosphere is welcoming and uncluttered.
The menu is very simple – 3 starters, 3 mains, 3 desserts – and changes daily with 2 courses costing R280 and 3 courses costing R320. For this quality of food, the price is outrageously-good value and Chef George has chosen his ingredients with care to ensure diner delight combined with a canny Scots eye on the bottom line. Less glamorous (and hence, less costly) ingredients such as cauliflower, hake, sweetbreads and silverfish are given the five star treatment, creating dishes with all the wow you expect from a Top Ten chef. I’m ‘offally’ fond of sweetbreads (sorry, can’t resist a good pun) and these were served with salsa verde, celeriac and pickled white onions contrasting the creamy meat with the sharp, tangy accompaniments. My dining partner went for hake with herb crust, roasted garlic and capers, again an excellent combination of softness and tanginess in every bite.
The meaty main course was springbok served with quince and rhubarb – less usual ingredients which again provided contrast to the rich and super-soft meat. A pithivier (or pie as Dennis the manager engagingly-explained) of artichokes and goats cheese was the vegetarians’ choice and the creamy filling was given added texture from roasted apples and walnuts. Dish of the night was the butter-roasted silverfish with sorrel and potato ravioli – crispy fish nestled in a creamy broth garnished with garlic and pea purees. Desserts offered were white chocolate pannacotta, roasted pear and a banting-friendly cheeseboard complete with homemade seed crackers.
The list is small but particularly well-chosen – any restaurant which has only 2 Sauvignon Blancs but 4 Chenins deserves to be commended from the outset. Rather strangely, only the reds have vintages with 4 of them offered by the glass and 5 whites. Mark-ups are more than fair and there are a couple of craft beers to keep beer-drinkers happy. My only slight niggle was that corkage, which is quoted at R50, was upped to R80 for sparkling wine – I’ve never understood why it costs more for fizz than still wine. However, having seen the wine list, I am unlikely to BYO again anyway.
If I still owned a restaurant, I would be hanging around the back door of Jardines with my chequebook trying to lure Dennis the manager away to work for me instead. A natural host with quiet charm, unflappable demeanour and a can-do air, he runs an efficient, but totally unfussy team of friendly staff. Our waitress overheard me saying the red wine was slightly too warm and without prompting, an ice bucket appeared instantly to rectify the situation. I like it when things like this happen – they make me feel cared-for and loved.
This is everyday fine dining at its absolute best - no frills, fancies or deconstructed fal-de-lals, just seriously good cooking. The great-value prices and daily menu mean that already, most diners are regulars – one of them claiming to be on his 10th visit and the restaurant only opened mid-Feb! I was sorely-tempted to return the following day and I almost wish I had. But then I would probably want to come the next day as well, and possibly the following day too – when would it ever stop? Who knows, but I hope that George and his team never stop what they’re doing here. Go, go and go again – you’ll be glad you did.
*Food24 visited unannounced and paid the bill in full.