by Matthew Sterne
on May 29, 2012

Overture (n. introduction to an Opera)

It’s hard to hide anything edible from the truffle hound that is the Horny Grazer. Overture restaurant on the Hidden Valley wine estate near Stellenbosch was no exception.

We’d visited a few weekends previously as part of a little wine tour of the Annandale Road. On that occasion it was a perfect late summer’s day and the view from Overture was breathtaking. As the Pinots started to flow, I ogled the view of the Cape Peninsula across the bay – from Lion’s Head right up to Cape Point. We had to make a reservation. Of course there is quite a waiting list for a restaurant consistently voted into South Africa’s Top 10.

Dine indoors

The wine tasting itself was rather disappointing – it was clear that everything at Hidden Valley is geared towards the restaurant. In anticipation, we checked out the restaurant wine list. Which isn’t really a wine list. It’s a selection of Hidden Vally wines (and Lands End, which is their second label – the vineyard is in Elim near Cape Aghulas. The Sauvignon Blanc is great – so great in fact that they ran out) with a few unusual cameos. But that’s fine. When in Rome…

And you really could be in Rome. Or in Italy at least. A Mediterranean eyrie presiding over vines and olive groves. Fresh orchids were being placed on each table, table cloths were being ironed (next to us), cutlery was meticulously placed and mist sprays came spluttering to life. We would be back.

Spectacular views of the Cape Peninsula

And so it was that we arrived a few weeks later on a far-from-perfect autumnal day. Drizzle had replaced the mist sprays and plastic drapes had replaced the view. The modern interior suddenly seemed rather stark (aside of course from the not so classy barrage of awards surrounding the reception). Outdoor tables were unlaid exposing the chipped formica – not quite the outlook  I was expecting. I think it’s safe to say that Overture is a fair weather venue.

Without the view, the orchids or the mist spray there was a lot riding on the food. A capella cuisine.

The menu itself is arranged into four courses, but there are several price permutations:

4 Course Chef’s Menu:  R350, with wine R490
5 Course Chef’s Menu:  R410, with wine R540
8 Course Tasting Menu:  R600, with wine R770 (only available if everyone at your table has it)

Chef Bertus Basson

Basically it’s intended to be flexible, but it’s just a bit odd. Why would you have 5 courses from a 4 course menu? The result is that your dining mates might have the same dish you’re about to have for your next course. Not a complete cadenza, but an irksome little quirk that defies my sensibilities and ruins the sense of anticipation.

My advice – have four courses – one from each section. A Goldilocks sonata.

The twice baked parmesan soufflé with parmesan cream and beetroot variations was sensational. A seriously enticing ensemble. There is a real emphasis on fresh local produce at Overture and so the menu changes frequently. Chef Bertus Basson is the maestro of texture and colour combinations.

You're in for a treat

Next up was the chicken and pork galette with gnocci, white bean puree, white beans and green beans. It arrived looking deceptively like a lightly crumbed I&J veggie burger on a bean cassoulet. It was indeed deceptive. The taste and texture were mind blowing. I had to stop myself ordering a second helping (perhaps that is why they offer the five course option).

The only flat note on my menu was the Yellowtail with squid, broccoli, pomme puree and a saffron vinaigrette. The fish looked as if it was sitting afloat an inversed fried egg with the yolk performing an all too vivace performance on the tongue.

Horny Grazer Eats at Overture

Not content with my own almond and apple tart with crème anglaise, raisin puree and cinnamon ice cream, the Horny Grazer went truffling around the table for a little vanilla soufflé with chocolate ice cream and caramel sauce. The ultimate crescendo that would have had the Cadburys’ board on their feet. I suspect that there is more than a glass and a half full in that chocolate ice cream.

While we gobbled and guzzled away, the service was slick and knowledgeable if a little stiff and aloof. In fact the whole interior and vibe could do with a glass and a half of character.

But these are minor quarrels. Overture is a very fine restaurant indeed, in one of the most spectacular parts of South Africa. I cannot wait to return. On a sunny day.

Overture Restaurant
Hidden Valley Wine Estate
Annandale Road
Stellenbosch

Tel: +27 21 880 2721
E-mail: info@dineatoverture.co.za

Hidden Valley Wine Estate

Why not make a day of it? Just outside of Stellenbosch, oenophiles will be in their element, with Uwe Mira, Guardian Peak, Dombeya and Haskell, Rust en Vrede and Peter Falke within stumbling distance of Overture. In fact you might want to plan your next holiday in the Cape Winelands, so contact one of the Rhino Africa travel experts today and let’s start planning your dream African holiday.