I have been curious to visit Bertus Basson’s new restaurant in Stellenbosch since it opened. Spek en Bone is one of the most recent ventures by the acclaimed South African chef, who is well known for Overture at Hidden Valley, and Bertus Basson at Spice Route.
Spek en Bone offers a completely different atmosphere from the more upmarket sister restaurants, with casual courtyard dining underneath a leafy canopy stretching from an ancient at the center.
The food takes an equally laid-back approach with a selection of small-plate options that are meant to be ordered in their multitudes and shared among friends. However, despite the difference in tone, you’ll still recognise Basson’s signature in every dish.
When I first visited Overture I was charmed by the way that Bertus Basson plays with classic South African dishes and the way certain flavours can instantly fill you with nostalgia. That evening we started with a school lunchbox-inspired dish, packed with all the flavours of Melrose cheese on toast, and ended with posh smores.
The dishes at Spek en Bone offer a similar sense of comfort and pleasure with interesting twists on familiar flavours. We visited the restaurant for a Survivor Wines media launch, where we were introduced to their Méthode Cap Classique Brut 2011 and Wild Yeast Chardonnay 2016.
After a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc to counter the 30°C afternoon, we had our first taste of Basson’s lineup: Mac n Cheese Tots served with a homemade tomato dip, which tasted just like the crispy bits of a mac n cheese bake with ketchup. I couldn’t help but smile.
From here the waiters continued to serve up dish after dish packed with delicious flavours. We had crispy squid with aioli, fresh sourdough bread served with an olive oil mousse and an ash cream (that ash cream!), and steak tartare with wafer-thin potato chips (I basically ate an entire portion of this by myself).
Another favourite of the day was their sautéed gnocchi with mushroom and Parmesan, and I also loved the Monkeygland-basted sirloin with roasted caulifower and cauliflower puree.
What really sold it for me, however, was dessert: Peppermint Crisp King Cones – homemade of course – topped with caramalised popcorn. Yes, I basically clapped my hands when they arrived.
It is always tricky to judge the standard of a restaurant based on a media event, where most venues will put their best foot forward. However if your experience is anywhere close to ours, you are really in for a treat.
I would recommend you head over for lunch with a few friends, order some craft beers or local wines and spend the rest of the day nibbling. What else is there to do after 1pm in the winelands anyway?