I first visited Ryan’s Kitchen in 2011, and instantly fell in love with the way the tiny dining area and open kitchen made you feel as though you were popping in for dinner at a friend’s country kitchen – provided that friend is the type to serve the likes of liquorice-glazed warthog shank after a starter of molecular gastronomy test tube creations.
It’s a few years on and chef Ryan Smith is still presenting his deliciously robust menu influenced by South African heritage, only now he’s enjoying a new home on the other end of Franschhoek’s high street.
The new space is airy and light-filled with wraparound windows and a palette of light wood, blue and charcoal. They’ve kept the open kitchen, and the quietly industrious bustle of the chefs is fun to watch if you get tired of the gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. There’s a chic bar tucked behind the wine wall, and seating in the rose-filled courtyard for warmer days.
Pretty and cosy as it is, what you’re here for is some damn fine food, and Ryan’s doesn’t disappoint.
There’s a new menu and style of eating to go with the new location. Rather than the traditional starters, mains and desserts, you have a selection of small plates, introducing more variety into your meal. Dishes are divided into salads and vegetables, meat and poultry, fish and shellfish, and dessert.
We recommend choosing three or four each, and you needn’t be concerned with structuring them in any particular way – the kitchen will send them out one by one in whichever order makes the most sense to the chefs.
For example, I enjoyed springbok carpaccio with orange dressing and caramelised chicory, followed by baked, spiced angelfish in a coconut and lemongrass veloute.
The mushroom tapioca ‘pudding’ with sautéed exotic mushrooms that came next was a new but no less delicious taste experience, while the roast duck with broccoli sponge and yam espuma was a perfect finish.
My companion worked her way through the four vegetarian dishes, making noises of delight in particular over the organic baby carrot salad with kadhai marsala and grapefruit, and the grilled goat’s cheese with apple and fennel salad and granite.
All the desserts sound tempting, but you’ll never go wrong with Ryan’s signature souffle:
You can opt for a la carte, or get the whole table to order the chef’s choice five-course menu with optional wine pairing. Whichever way you go, a meal here is an exercise in excellent taste, new textures and full, happy bellies.
Where 1 Place de Vendôme, Huguenot Road
Trading hours Lunch Monday to Saturday 12:30– 2:30 pm, dinner Monday to Saturday 6:30–9:30 pm
Cost R65–R130 per plate
Contact +27 21 876 4598, [email protected], www.ryanskitchen.co.za