Cavalli takes your breath away the moment you drive through their gates. It is polished. Manicured. Perfectly pristine with lush indigenous gardens blending into vineyards, leading your eye to the majestic mountains in the distance.
Automatic doors lead me into the spacious restaurant with light streaming in through floor to ceiling windows, glistening on crystal wine glasses on crisp white tablecloths. Outside a soft rain has settled into the valley, a wash of blue, green and grey, but inside a fire is crackling happily close to our table. This is winter at its very best.
Cavalli is more than a pretty face though. It was the first Green Star rated restaurant in South Africa, with an environmentally conscious building, landscape and menu. The building uses a Geo-exchange system incorporating the dam for heat and cooling, solar energy for power and a waste water system to recycle 93% of the estates water.
Their Everyday Gourmet menu is about celebrating real, nourishing food. They grow their own seasonal herbs and some of their vegetables, and they build their menu around local, sustainable ingredients. Until 31 July you can experience their menu with a Winter Special, with 15% off a 3-course meal plus 20% off all wines and cocktails valid from Wednesday to Friday for lunch and dinner.
Since it was a Friday we allowed ourselves to indulge in a little bubbles and wine (who am I kidding, I’ll have wine any day), kicking off with a gorgeous Brut Rosé by Charles Fox from the Elgin valley. After that the sommelier poured us some of his top picks from the Cavalli range to go with our food.
He insisted we follow our bubbles with a taste of their Cremello 2015 and I am so glad he did. If you are a fan of wooded Chardonnay it is worth trying this wine. It’s a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Verdelho and delivers rich passion fruit, vanilla and marmalide flavours that are perfectly balanced by the acidity.
I started my lunch with their Beef Bobotie Wontons, served with asparagus pesto, parsnip purée and almond. I really enjoyed the creative take on the classic South African dish, with little crispy parcels breaking open to unleash those comforting sweet, spicy flavours. We also tried the Acorn-Fed Pulled Port Cannelloni, with caramelized apple, shaved chestnuts, juniper sauce and celeriac emulsion. Acorn-fed pork is delicious – the meat has a rich, sweet and slightly nutty flavour and I loved that the other elements supported the meat without overpowering it.
For a main I ordered their Glazed Free-Range Duck Breast with miso aubergine pancakes, sweetcorn puree, bok choi and ginger jus. Duck is a notoriously tricky meat and in this case it was slightly over, but the flavours were good. My favourite element on the dish was the aubergine pancakes, which brought a savoury note and balance to the other sweeter elements. We also tried their Cardamom Grass-Fed Sirloin, served with a prune beetroot purée, smoked mash, fermented blueberries and beef tallow (a rendered form of beef fat). The beef was cooked medium, which is a bit more than I prefer, but again I enjoyed the overall flavours, especially the smoked mash against the sweet blueberries and beetroot. For me the tallow was a slightly odd ingredient. I’m unsure whether it was meant to melt over the meat, but as a solid sphere I wasn’t sure it contributed to the dish.
The sommelier did an excellent job pairing wines with our food choices. Their Night Mare 2015 is a delectable blend or Shiraz and Grenache, delivering an aromatic, fruity palate. Aside from their estate wines, they also have a wonderful selection of local wines on their menu including some of my favourites like Saronsberg, Cederberg and Beaumont.
On to dessert. I enjoyed their Turmeric Cake with yoghurt mousse, apple foam, marshmallow and vanilla rose custard. It had the comfort of an apple cake with custard, and a delicious warmth from the turmeric spice. Their Peppermint Semi Freddo was equally decadent but definitely suited for those with a sweet tooth. It is served with a white chocolate-hazelnut velouté, a chocolate cake pop (loved this!) and hazelnut meringue.
It is worth visiting Cavalli just to experience the estate first hand, marvel at the architecture and browse the artwork. Rain or shine, it is an immaculate space to spend an afternoon.
Winter Special at Cavalli:
Until 31 July you can get 15% off a 3-course meal plus 20% off all wines and cocktails valid from Wednesday to Friday for lunch and dinner. The Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner 5 days a week, from Wednesday to Saturday. Sundays lunch only.
While you are there:
Aside from the restaurant Cavalli also has an art gallery on the estate as well as a luxury boutique and wine tasting facility.
From 23 July to 3 September the estate will host BLINK! An exhibition in collaboration with the University of Stellenbosch’s Visual Art department. It promises eye-opening works by art students in an expressive display around the theme of compassion and pain.
Encouraged to create work that focused on the notion of seeing, noticing and recording, students took a critical look at the context within which they see the world around them. This group exhibition spans video, performance, drawing, photography, installation and sculptural works of art.
Exhibited artists: Strauss Louw, Chelsea Young, Kirstin Warries, Emma Aspeiling, Paul Marais, Carina Jansen, Nadja Reinmuth, Estèe Skein, McKayla Carstens, Rushda Deaney, Trude Gunther, Brad Jackson, Amy Pike, Megan Serfontein and Simone Verfaille.
The gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 – 18:00.
For more, visit cavallistud.com