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Food24 eats at... The Stone Kitchen

Cathy Marston discovers a kid-friendly gem in the winelands.

14 Jun 2011

Family dining? Is there more to life than Spur? Cathy checks out Wellington’s latest foodie and family hotspot.

Food24 linked to a brilliant article on Parent24 recently which asks if a restaurant is right to ban screaming kids. Absolutely, say I – but I would also point out that, as with everything to do with bringing up children, going out to a restaurant requires practise and training.

If we only ever take our kids to chain restaurants where they are encouraged to race around screaming and wearing cardboard cowboy hats, then we can’t expect them to behave well when the occasion requires it. Which is why I was so happy to be invited along to The Stone Kitchen to see how they fared for my family.

The Place
Dunstone Wine Estate is a comparatively new winery on the outskirts of Wellington. Owned by an English couple, Lee and Abbie Wallis, the Stone Kitchen Restaurant is leased from them by Johan van Schalkwyk and his wife Tessa. Johan has cooked his way around several top wine estates over the years before settling down to running his own catering business. When the lease of this new restaurant became available, he decided to create the kind of environment he, Tessa and sons Ollie (4) and Simon (1) would want to eat in.

As parents themselves, I’d say they’ve thought of everything – jungle gym, changing mats, kids menu, safe enclosed garden, boulle pit, ducks in a pond (carefully fenced off) and the very nice Davina on hand to keep a watchful eye on things. Inside it’s very rustic-meets-industrial with the wine tanks gently fermenting in the corner next to the basket presses.

The Food
And this is where any thoughts of being at a Spur vanish before your eyes. The menu is written up on blackboards and as we were eating, the waiter wiped off several offerings - something I love to see as it really indicates freshness and originality in my book. It’s very rustic bistro-style food and Johan goes to great lengths to try and source ingredients as locally as possible.

We loved Saldanha Mussels in Lemongrass cream, Fig and Goats’ Cheese Salad with pomegranate dressing, Rabbit and Wild Mushroom Stew, Pork Belly poached in cider with honey and a darned fine burger of Wild Boar, Sage and Apple served with caramelised onions and blue cheese for a ridiculously low-price of R55. Click here for a gallery. We couldn’t manage the Pumpkin and Orange Pudding, but had to squeeze in a Chocolate Fondant and a Rhubarb and Custard Souffle.  The kids enjoyed homemade burgers (although the ‘green bits’ – parsley – had to be painstakingly picked out!) and toasted sarmies on good, homemade bread.
The Wine
Dunstone only makes three wines at the moment – a lurid and lovely rose, a Merlot and a Shiraz - so Johan supplements the list with a few other offerings from the neighbours. Mark-ups are absolutely minimal which certainly seems to encourage ordering that second bottle!

The Atmosphere
Was absolutely perfect for a Sunday lunch – warm, bustling, friendly with plenty of laughter and much scraping of plates. I am very pleased to say that our kids were extremely well-behaved with no running around, screaming or crying (although they did go in and out more often than I would’ve liked. Closing the door carefully and quietly every time though!). 

There were plenty of tables of people without children, all of whom seemed to be enjoying an equally relaxed and pleasant lunch so non-parentals shouldn’t be put off by the whole family-thing. This is a great new bistro, doing exactly what bistros are meant to do – serving honest, tasty, well-cooked food at good prices, in a relaxed and friendly environment, to people of any age.

Bring the family. Or not. You’ll have a good time either way. 

Read more on: restaurant  |  winelands  |  cathy marston  |  review


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