by Matthew Sterne
on November 8, 2012
The Greenhouse at Cellars Hohenort
The Cellars Hohenort is in the Constantia Valley – close to Kirstenbosch Gardens. Another world for us City Bowlodytes. A verdant and leafy nether-land brimful of prams, jodhpurs, loafers and Labradors. A land of botoxed housewives, pristine 4x4s and discreet rehab clinics. Rumour has it that Tiger spent some time in these woods attempting to curb his lascivious proclivities.
The ubiquitous, gold Fleur de Lis will leave you in no doubt that the Cellars Hohenort is a Relais & Chateaux hotel. It’s one of only seventeen Relais & Chateaux properties in South Africa. More impressively however, the Greenhouse restaurant is home to the kitchen of one of South Africa’s two Grands Chefs – Peter Tempelhoff. He and Margot Janse are in revered company along with the likes of Michel Roux, Jr. and Raymond Blanc.
The Greenhouse was also voted the best restaurant in South Africa this year by Eat Out magazine. Rarely have I been quite so quiveringly excited about a dinner.
Despite the aforementioned cultural differences, the Cellars Hohenort is no more than a twenty minute drive from Cape Town’s City Bowl. We arrived on a stormy evening. Not the ideal conditions to appreciate the reputedly immaculate gardens. The first thing that struck me was that the Cellars Hohenort is a pretty big hotel. There are 49 rooms in total. The second thing that struck me was that I was in the wrong building. As my eyes adjusted to the radiant, honey-glazed pine, I realised I was in the hotel reception and not Biggie Best’s bedroom.
Thankfully we were redirected across the forecourt to another building where the Greenhouse is located. Much to my excitement, all the pine here has been forested – the decor is classy and contemporary with a dignified National Trust atmosphere (apart from the loos – they are just a bit naff). Ardmore pottery adorns the ante room and there is a separate lounge bar. I’d recommend you go straight to your table – seven courses take time.
There are essentially two parts to the dining room – the main room and the conservatory. Get a table in the conservatory if you can. But don’t get too hung up about it – as soon as the food arrives you’ll forget where you are. This is a restaurant worthy of the hype. There is a short a la carte menu, but really it would be churlish not to order one of the two tasting menus – the Chef’s Tasting Menu (R625) or the creatively named Fish Tasting Menu (R550). Each has 7 courses which can be paired with wine from the surrounding Constantia region (an additional R250/R295). Look out for the Vin De Constance pudding wine – one of the region’s most celebrated wines. Another favourite of mine is the Klein Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon – get a 2008 vintage if you can.
While the service is rather dour and robotic the cuisine deconstructs, reconstructs and reinvents. It surprises, delights and inspires. Willie Wonka, Heston Blummenthal and the Mad Hatter could not have concocted a more interesting menu. From savoury lolly pops to birds’ nests laden with langoustine custard filled eggs. All is not what it seems. Dishes will challenge your mind’s gastronomic reflexes and anticipations. Textures, colours and flavours are brilliantly combined – we were in the presence of a creative and technical genius.
There’s a strong emphasis on local ingredients in all the dishes. And we’re not talking about biltong and bobotie. In fact you’ll be given a little glossary of South African ingredients which include Big Numnum – a large bright red fruit and not parrot food (for those of you old enough to remember Peter Sellers’ antics in the Party) – as well as Madumbi, Bucchu and Saffron Pap.
I cannot recommend this experience highly enough. The Greenhouse is certainly deserving of its spot at the top of South Africa’s food chain.
For reservations call: +27 (0) 21 794 2137
Or simply contact one of our highly trained travel consultants to plan your trip to our fair city.