I’d grown tired of hearing about The Foodbarn without having experienced it myself. My friend Julie Carter once invited me to join her there for lunch – then took her husband instead. A year on and I’d arranged to meet another friend, Clare Yeowell, for lunch in Noordhoek. I was finally going to try Franck Dangereux’s famous food and at half the price, no less. Cape Town winter specials are a beautiful thing, they’re the local’s reward for sharing the city with tourists for the other 8 months of the year.
As with most of my Cape Town friends, I’d met Clare via the food markets, City Bowl Market on Hope to be exact, where I regularly buy her delectable Classic marmalade, jams and preserves. Back then she’d agreed to let me spend a day with her to write about her product (which I did here) and that was all the time it took for the two of us to click. We’ve been buds ever since, despite her transcendence to the giddy heights of international acclaim for her marmalade. Clare has a palate of note and I knew she’d be the perfect companion on my maiden Foodbarn voyage.
The restaurant was warm and cosy on a cold, wet day and the staff most attentive. Along with really good company, the front of house set the tone, inadvertently piling on the pressure for the food to perform. At this point, expectations were high.
From the à la carte menu, Clare chose the Umami Bomb to start: fresh fish tartare with salmon roe, oysters, a seaweed terrine and cured salmon with togarashi mayo. I so badly wanted it too but didn’t want to duplicate orders, I needed to experience as much of the menu as I could. Surely I’d be able to steal a mouthful of Clare’s? Wrong! Don’t bank on sharing here: each dish has been thought through from beginning to end and to not experience every mouthful yourself, or to interrupt the experience with external flavours is to break with protocol and ruin the overall effect. That’s the excuse, the truth is it’s just too good to sacrifice a morsel.
Despite having dumped me at the Foodbarn door a year earlier, Julie Carter being of Ocean Jewels Fish fame, felt it her right to dictate my meal even before I got to the restaurant. Her instructions had been to try the calamari, so I did. Thank you Julie, a more than worthy second choice: flash fried fresh baby squid in a crispy cup with creamy avocado, a green aioli and the sweet and spicy combination of soy syrup and curry oil. My mouth still tingles at the memory and I confess unashamedly to having licked the plate clean. It may not have carried with it the sensual intrigue of the Umami Bomb, but it made me happy to look at and to eat.
Our masticating monogamy resulted in our both ordering the grilled sustainable fish with braised leeks feuilleté (that’s the pastry bit), garlic Escargots and “tender leaves” with a rich garlic and shellfish velouté – a memorable mouthful in every sense and a picture of nature’s bounty: fish, greens and snails. It was fresh and fleshy and velvety, with just the right amount of crunch and chew. Superb. I can’t remember what the fish was but I know from stalking the chef on Twitter that he’s serious about sustainability. This fish lived in balance with nature… then died in glory at the hands of the chef.
Had I dropped down dead right there and then, my last meal would have surpassed anything I could have wished for. I was in my happy place, but we weren’t done yet. You don’t quit with just one course to go, you stick with it and you see it through. We knocked back the last of our Jordan Chardonnay and braced ourselves for desert. Once again bloody Clare picked my first choice: a rich strawberry cheesecake with vanilla pod ice cream and a rhubarb panna cotta with a wicked wobble. This time we swapped tasters and it was all I’d hoped it would be, creamy, dreamy and oh, so worth the calories.
My desert was a lime macaroon (subtle in taste if not colour), a decadently dense white chocolate and cardamom swiss role and a ‘guava-dilla’ brulée. I loved the exotic brulée served in the granadilla shell, as well as the overall concept of the tapas style deserts: individually perfect, collectively sublime.
Franck Dangereux deserves all the accolades that have been bestowed upon him as both chef and, it turns out, as author. He has received much acclaim for his books published by Quivertree Publications: the first, Feast, winning the Gourmand World Cookbook award in 2004 with his latest offering, Feast At Home, scooping two more Gourmand World Cookbook awards (Best Chef book in South Africa as well as Best French Cuisine book in South Africa, 2013).
In his own words: “As a cook, if you ace taste and texture, you can actually make someone fall in love with you, it is as simple as that.”
I didn’t fall in love with the cook, but I did love the food – the tastes and textures were right on the mark and the plating encouragingly rustic. Great french cuisine without all the pomp.
*The 50% off winter special does not apply to side orders, the Bistro menu or beverages.
Noordhoek Farm Village
Corner Village Lane and Noordhoek Main Road
Tel: +27 (0)21 789 1390
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