Cavalli Restaurant forms part of the stylish Cavalli Estate on the R44 just outside Stellenbosch. With its Instragrammable views and polished, clean aesthetic, the luxury brand comprises a function venue, wine-tasting area, art gallery, boutique and a sophisticated equestrian facility.
Chef Michael Deg has been at the helm of Cavalli Restaurant since late last year and says that he has been interested in and incorporating seasonal and locally-grown fresh produce into his cooking for a while and now Cavalli Estate has allowed him to explore this even further.
He’s also been exploring the concept of fire and this Winter, his menu offering incorporates all manners of techniques using fire – think Karoo Lamb neck which is charred over fire to give it a smoky flavour, and then served with flame-grilled sweetbreads and a gem squash velouté. There’s also the popular vegan ‘Cauliflower steak’, which is flame-grilled and served with spicy tempura pickled cauliflower, cauliflower and almond milk purée, sultanas soaked in orange juice, crispy capers and cauliflower stems that are shaved and dressed in a mustard molasses dressing.
“The demand for good quality vegetarian dishes is growing hugely and we’re in the process of making Cavalli THE Winelands destination of choice for vegans and vegetarians,” says Michael, who grew up in KwaZulu Natal and spent many years cooking in Ireland.
He says, “we have a young group of chefs who are very interested to learn, and to me this is very exciting: to lead the kitchen team, be able to teach and learn from these young promising chefs, harvest from our very own Cavalli heirloom garden and create beautiful fresh dishes in our state-of-the-art Cavalli kitchen.”
Farai Magwada is the friendly and knowledgeable sommelier at Cavalli who says, ” I’m a strong believer in savouring dishes with whichever wine you enjoy. Red wine with fish is known to create an umami taste on the palate, hence the old rule of limiting pairing options. Only now are we venturing out to try different combinations of red wine and fish for example and re-investigate using science to reconsider outdated rules.”
For Chenin Blanc lovers, Cavalli is a dream – they have two single varietal Chenins and an award-winning Chenin Blanc blend called Cremello (Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Verdhelo) which are all beautiful and expertly paired with Michael’s food. ” Our new Cavalli Filly Chenin Blanc works really well paired with fish”, he says.
The dishes at Cavalli are sophisticated with an element of homey comfort food. The spiced pork dumpling in umami broth is a satisfying bowl of moreish-ness and the dessert of banana and pistachio galette with a peanut tuille really honours the nostalgia of an after-school peanut butter and banana sandwich. The presentation though is clean and unfussy – demonstrating the chef’s aesthetic eye for plating. Michael and his team only cook with South African produce. And that certainly gets a thumbs up from us!
*The 4-course menu (with amuse bouche, and petit fours) is R400 and R600 with wine pairing, while the 4-course vegetarian menu is R350 and R550 with wine pairings.