The restaurant at Babylonstoren is a thing of beauty. And with the ultimate sense of place, its situated on one of the oldest estates in the Cape winelands, which today operates as a working farm complete with luxury hotel & spa, restaurant, tearoom and gardens (which includes vineyards, kitchen garden, bee garden, prickly pear maze and orchards, to name but a few).
Although its beginnings was much less glamorous, the old cow shed has been beautifully restored and dressed to the nines by local food fundi Maranda Engelbrecht and owner Karen Roos (from Elle deco fame). The original Cape Dutch aesthetic is veiled in a very contemporary design approach featuring lots of white, naturals and grays with floor to ceiling windows opening up to the surrounding vistas of mountains and gardens, as well as a courtyard area with tables under the trees. While very clean cut and bright the space still feels friendly and approachable.
The food, as you can probably guess, is the epitomy of garden to table eating, with most of it being freshly harvested from the gardens on a daily basis. The produce even serves as decor, as the usual flowers on the table are replaced by seasonal veg, from bowls filled with big heads of savoy cabbage to broccoli flowers in vases.
- Clockwise: Orange – pumpkin fritters with fruit and veg carpaccio, cinnamon sugar & lavender vinaigrette ; Red – Spicy beetroot tom yum soup with poached guava ; Lightly smoked Franschhoek trout with guava paste, burnt sage butter & wilted greens ; Slow cooked lamb shank marinated in harissa & buttermilk served with lebanese oregano & wild mountain garlic
The concept here is honest food, with little to no fuss. Pick, clean and serve is the approach, according to Maranda. Also, the food on the menu is grouped according to colour and taste. The ‘fresh from our garden’ section showcases fresh fruit and veg and gives you the choice of red, green and orange with optional extras like salmon trout, smoked chicken, biltong and cheese. Interesting concept, and a visual feast, but I wonder if it is not limiting with regards to flavour. The main courses, or ‘from our good farmers’ breaks the colour mould and basics like lamb shank, steak, salmon trout and a vegetarian option changes sauces, dressings and accompaniments according to daily/seasonal availability from the garden. The bull menu on the wall also lists a few daily specials. All mains are served with a plate of veg and the most delicious hand cut chips.
Desserts are offered as bitter, sour, salt and sweet. We tried the Bitter, which was a dark chocolate fondant with olive salt and espresso sabayon. Sour was a baked lemon custard pudding with marmalade, sago and meringue, Salt a salted caramel with drunken winter fruit and parma ham crisp, and Sweet was baked malva pudding with garden rose geranium and chai caramel sauce.
The concept is lovely, the presentation is beautiful, but the flavour was slightly lacking on a few of the dishes. Maybe that is because these days we are so spoilt for choice that the simple, fresh approach takes a bit of getting used to?
The wine list is mostly local, from the Simonsberg area, but has good variety in terms of price and cultivars. Estate wines are a good option to try.
Make sure you leave time for a stroll through the gardens, and if you want to visit on the spur of the moment (as Babel can be easily booked up 2 – 3 months in advance) you can visit Babylonstoren’s second restaurant, the Green Room, a tea garden serving make it yourself sandwiches and sweet treats, situated in and around a ridiculously beautiful greenhouse.
Starters R45-R67, Mains R95-R155, Desserts R40 – R55
Breakfast: 8am – 10am, Monday to Saturday
Lunch: 12 noon – 4pm, Monday to Saturday
Dinner: 6.30pm – 8.30pm, Friday and Saturday
Address: Babylonstoren Wine Farm, Simondium Road, Klapmuts