If I were to sum up the culinary experience in Cape Town right now I would direct you to Janse & Co – where you can taste the epitome of the Mother City on your tongue.
Owned by ruffled-haired Arno Janse Van Rensburg, whose culinary prowess has earned him several accolades over the years – there strangely isn’t a hair out of place in the new Janse & Co in Kloof Street.
Instead, there are darkened walls complimenting dark furniture, lights dangling from the ceiling and a cosmopolitan feel – all suave and svelte. White walls are so yesterday.
Van Rensburg explains that the dark creates a more intimate setting, where you can relax and sit in the background, while everything plays out in front of you.
The seating areas are the envy of many space-challenged restaurants in the city, 80 can be seated inside in little pockets of the eatery and a long harvest table can accommodate a large group. Outside, you can hardly believe you sitting smack-bang in the middle of the CBD, 60 patrons can be accommodated here.
“We’ve been planning this restaurant for a very long time and it’s pretty much exactly what we wanted it to be. Design wise, it was our vision. The food it is more on point than what we ever produced before,” he says.
The ethos of the food is clearly emblazoned on the front cover of the menu.
“Sourcing our ingredients and knowing their origins, is just as important as utilising them to their full potential.”
Opened since December 2017, I have been dodging restaurant reviews like bullets in the Matrix. The one-liners I didn’t manage to evade were positive enough to wet my appetite for a full blown menu tasting.
The courses come without suggestions, there are no starters or mains, you can choose anything from a 3 course to a 7 course experience. You decide what you want and the order it is served in.
I opted for the Homemade Charcuterie, Mustard and Buchu to start. They make their own charcuterie, it is an indulgence I can never get enough of.
The next plate of unlikely companions – Octopus, strawberries, Umeboshi (Japanese salt plums) and mint – can only be described as a master piece. The visual experience is one element of this dish, the octopus is layered, rolled and compressed, into a cylindrical shape. Thin layers are then cut and dressed, the unusual design is phenomenal.
Aside from being visually pleasing, it is a textural experience I have never had before – an unforgettable palate experience, and definitely the dish to try out.
The Beef, Horseradish, Amaranth (grain) and Cherry has an earthiness and depth in flavour that will enthral your tastebuds. The beef is succulently prepared and the tart cherries with a subtle sweetness is a welcome change to enjoying beef.
I am a sucker for Chokka noodles (calamari caught in SA). The preparation of this Chokka dish includes a Chorizo and red pepper sauce with rocket.
As I lifted the fork to my mouth, the penny dropped. Van Rensburg’s menu has complex preparations to simple ingredients – and what plays out on your plate is the freshest take on the ingredients with the use of few elements. He would have you believe you are eating a simple red tomato sauce with chokka. When in reality, the flavours of the sauce have been carefully balanced between strong red pepper and smoky chorizo, the right amount of salt and the perfect jot of sweet. Genius is really what it is.
Don’t expect 8 different flavours, drops of sauces or smears of pastes – just real flavours showcasing the quality ingredients in their most true form. No extras, and no need for them either. I love it!
Dessert, my favourite ending to a gastronomical experience was sheer decadence. A light circle of pecan brittle topped an airy pocket of caramel cream on top of delicious home-made ice-cream, lying on a bed of thinly sliced tart gooseberries.
It was indulgence to the max.
“We change about 4-6 dishes every two weeks, as the season progresses, as the climates change as well. With the drought, some ingredients aren’t available this year like there were last year. It’s been challenging in that sense but where there’s a challenge, there’s an opportunity,” says Van Rensburg.
Why is the restaurant called Janse & Co?
“The co is the most important part in the creative process. Everything comes together with my team, at the end of the day and the beginning of the day around a table, we start brainstorming. Everyone has an intricate part to play in the restaurant. From wine service to food service to front of house,” he says.
It is exciting and unusual, and daring enough to proudly be what Cape Town food is all about – fun, flavourful and fabulous!
Address: 021 422 0384
Contact: 75 Kloof St, Gardens, Cape Town