Situated on the beautiful La Motte Wine Estate at Franschhoek, the light and airy Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant is a site where art and culture meets delicious fine dining and excellent wine. Inspired by artist JH Pierneef’s portrayals of South Africa’s landscape and architectural beauty, the restaurant boasts an extensive collection of Pierneef art and is modelled on Cape Dutch architecture, albeit with lighter colours and modern decor. Additionally, small, almost unnoticeable touches, add to the creative aesthetic of Pierneef à La Motte’s interior; painted crockery suspended from light fixtures, artist’s palettes that serve as bread boards, placemats featuring abstract art.
But it’s the food – traditional boerekos combined with international flavours and presented in the most creative of ways – that really pays homage to both Pierneef and Cape Winelands cuisine. While perusing the substantial menu, including a wine list to make you blush, snack on various breads such as maspan with aniseed, beetroot and cumin crackers, buckwheat crackers, Ouma seed loaf and ciabatta containing olives accompanied by tomato butter topped with a slice of sun-dried tomato, salted butter topped with a cheese cracker, and Shiraz butter. This alone will take you on a taste journey. Staying true to its artistic roots, your bread is served alongside an ‘ode to bread’ by Pablo Neruda and you’ll be hard-pressed to disagree with any of its verses.
Chef Michelle Theron’s plates are perfection and, given the theme of the establishment, true artworks in themselves. Flavourful is what comes to mind from the very first bite. Garnished with edible flowers and accompanied by a saffron and pistachio wreath, the cauliflower, coconut milk and rose soup starter is a creamy and unusual mix of sweet and spicy. Or, if you prefer fare bread offshore, the Cape seafood and aniseed bowl – mussels, calamari, deep-fried oysters and a pan-fried sustainable catch of the day with braised fennel and aniseed cream – is not too overbearing in contrast. it’s the safer option of the two but not without its virtues. As a starter, it’s plentiful and the creamy undertones will leave you feeling pleasantly satisfied.
Although there are a number of decadent meat dishes on the menu, we suggest the pan-fried Franschhoek salmon, which is cooked medium as the cuts are quite thin, making for an elegant dish, both in presentation and taste. The accompanying kale scone complements this fish and egg dish impeccably.
Dessert is another artistic affair with Chef Theron’s unique spin to the classic cheeseboard. Her Pierneef-inspired cheeseboard features cheeses presented as pâtés and wrapped in pastry. For those with less of an adventurous palate, ask the wait staff for the regular cheeseboard, which does not appear on the menu (although chances are you’ll be presented with this option as the service at Pierneef à La Motte is remarkable. It sounds decadent but the banana split cheesecake is a must-have – if you have room in your tummy to spare that is. Its presentation alone is so beautiful, you won’t want to dig in but one mouthful and there’s no going back. The cheesecake itself is understated but it’s the accompaniments – caramel sauce, chocolate, banana bread and caramelised banana – that gives the dish its je ne sais quoi.
Each dish, including all of the desserts, can be enjoyed with wine from the La Motte estate, recommendations of which can be found in the menu. And, after you’ve had your fill, be sure to grab a bottle to take home with you.
Photography Zainab SvR