Winding up the mountain out of Franschhoek towards the pass, the views move from pretty to spectacular, the higher you get. Just before the little town falls completely from sight, La Petite Ferme beckons.
And the views here really are outstanding. The boutique hotel looks over the Franschhoek valley, the flanks of its mountains under vine, the little town in the distance and the warm sun high in the sky.
It’s the afternoon and lunch is served under the canopy of trees, chilled wine at the ready and attentive staff anticipating your every need. The restaurant unfolds along the front of the homestead. It’s one of Franschhoek’s longest-running establishments, opened in 1986. Today, it’s the first boutique member of The Nest Collection.
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But we’re here for the food. Newly appointed head Chef Odette Olivier has a wealth of local and international experience and is re-invigorating dining at La Petite Ferme.
Mosbolletjies, little fennel seeds hidden in their depths, arrive, along with a whipped butter flavoured with chakalaka oil. It is a harbinger of good things to come. Tastebuds tingling, there’s a short wait for the starters, but worth it. The spring menu is themed Back to the Roots, the kitchen team experimenting ‘with various local flavours, ingredients, textures… to create authentic heritage inspired country-style cuisine’.
“I enjoy creating from South African heritage dishes, employing a mix of cooking methods like smoking, pickling and fermenting,” Chef Odette explained when she arrived at La Petite Ferme in October.
Vegetarian options are limited, and there are no vegan options, but what is available is delicious. The starter of Foxenburg Goat’s Cheese Mousse is a sublime dish of tasty cloud, sweetened with bee pollen and honeycomb, alongside heirloom tomatoes and tempura celery.
Fish and meat eaters get a wider selection, and the heritage-inspired West Coast mussels get a huge thumbs up, the snoek croquette, and verjuice beurre blanc an especially tasty addition.
Both paired beautifully with the ice-cold 2019 Winemaker’s Edition Wikus – 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. It was the perfect accompaniment to the light and airy dishes. And the views.
“The location is simply stunning,” Chef Odette said. “Working in this environment, with a great team, is truly energising.”
Heritage is key in the spring menu, from pulled beef short rib and deep-fried bobotie dumpling to the slow-cooked Karoo lamb shoulder.
“I will always respect tradition set by great chefs, but I do not shy away from breaking the mould. The joy and adrenaline that comes from creating something new is unparalleled,” she said.
The vegetarian main is an interesting concoction of artichoke yoghurt cheese cannelloni, rounded off with an unusual but delicious courgette baba ganoush and fire roasted celeriac. It’s a tricky vegetable to get just right, but right it is.
Special appreciation was reserved for the Karoo lamb, cooked to perfection and topped with a crunchy riblet, accompanied by confit garlic mash, cauliflower and rainbow carrots and excellently flavoured with kapokbos and moskonfyt jus.
Save space for dessert – Odette’s Bounty Bar is a super-sweet chocolate confection served with a delectable basil ice-cream. And it works. For a less sweet palate, the heritage-inspired tonka bean panna cotta is delicately flavoured with subtle hints of raspberry and hibiscus.
It went beautifully with the naturally sweet Black Elephant Vintners & Co. The Honey Thief.
Lunch over, take the time for a post-prandial stroll across the expansive, soft lawns to drink in the views. La Petite Ferme is understated elegance, and is utterly delicious.
A two course meal is R350 per person and three courses is R420 per person.
The restaurant is open for lunch on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays from noon and for dinner seven days a week from 6pm (from December 16 it is open for lunch daily).
For more information and bookings: www.lapetiteferme.co.za / 021 876 3016
Review: Lorraine Kearney