If you are well versed in the local foodie scene, chances are the name Jardine alone is enough to get those taste buds tingling. Chef George Jardine is the famous talent behind Jordan Restaurant on Jordan Wine Estate outside Stellenbosch, which has been selected as one of Eat Out’s Top 10 Restaurants for the last few years.
Now Chef Jardine has opened a new fine dining establishment right at the heart of Stellenbosch, occupying a cosy little hole in the wall with a large fireplace and a handful of tables.
I was so excited when the Stellenbosch Wine Valley invited me to try out Jardine as part of a recent media trip to the valley. I actually avoided venturing into town that afternoon, hiding out in my room at Batavia Hotel to avoid any tempting nibbles that might spoil my appetite.
The restaurant is situated in Andringa street, one of the leafy roads connecting Church – the central vein of the town’s tourist section – to Dorp. Jardine itself inhabits a closed off courtyard that has a rustic, comfortable feel and even though you’re in for a fine dining affair the air is far from stiff.
We decided to go for the full six course tasting menu, but you also have the option to eat either two or three courses. The price difference between three and six courses is so little, however, that you might as well commit. Honestly, you really want to try everything.
Our waiter was a great help in choosing the perfect bottle of wine that would suit most of the courses we were about to enjoy. Eventually I decided on the Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2013, which offered a beautiful balance of creamy oak, citrus and spice notes that comfortably suited our dishes.
Once our wine had been poured the waiter told us to sit back, relax and allow the chef to put together a selection of six dishes from his menu. I had no objections – by that point I was more than happy to kick up my feet and indulge.
We started off with a combination of roasted golden beets, buffalo milk mozzarella, orange and vanilla. The plating was elegant and simplistic, and the flavours were incredible. Each element contributed something special, from the earthy beet and sweet, tangy orange to the creamy cheese. The addition of the vanilla was inspired, taking a taste I would typically associate with a dessert and incorporating it into a savoury dish. My brain flipped a little but in a good way.
The addition of the vanilla was inspired, taking a taste I would typically associate with a dessert and incorporating it into a savoury dish. My brain flipped a little but in a good way.
Next we had salt cured tuna served with miso poached turnips, kimchi, sesame and tosazu, a type of Japanese vinegar. The dish was a perfect blend of sweet, salty, acidic and umami flavours, with a whole range of textures that kept me going back for another bite. I loved how the individual elements were quite punchy and strong, but combined they balanced out beautifully.
Our third course was a Soetendalsvlei guinea fowl with broad beans, cured ham and parsley gnocci. We found this one subtler than the previous dishes but still delicious. The creamy gnocci melted in my mouth, complimented by the perfectly cooked, juicy guinea fowl, a hit of saltiness from the ham and bite of freshness from the broad beans.
The first three courses were selected from the starter section on the menu, and now we moved on to the mains. We kicked off with pan fried Panga Bream fish, served on a cauliflower puree, with crispy sage and a cosmopolitan sauce. Once again the chef presented a visually beautiful dish, and the flavours were equally impressive. The fish was perfect, with crispy skin and soft flesh, and I loved the combination of silky cauliflower melting into the buttery sauce, with hits of earthy freshness from the sage and sweet, acidic notes from the roast vegetables. It was comforting and indulgent.
For our final savoury dish the chef spoiled us with a gorgeous piece of Chalmar sirloin with a soft herb crust, mushroom duxelles and glazed marrow. It was everything you would want from a hearty beef dish, with succulent meat so soft we could slice through it with a butter knife, paired with a deliciously complex sauce, creamy marrow for that indulgent fattiness, and sweet, earthy hits from the mushrooms.
Naturally we would end things on a sweet note and for dessert Chef Jardine presented us with a passion fruit bavarois, a type of thickened custard cream, served with a decadent, rich chocolate mousse that gave a bite of bitterness, and a bright, acidic passionfruit sorbet that helped to lift the dish and refresh my palette between bites.
I thought the selection of dishes we had was perfect. Often these tasting menus are incredibly rich so that by the end I feel saturated. In this case I felt completely satisfied but also comfortable. I am sure it is a talent to find just the right balance, and I think Chef Jardine did a brilliant job.
The menu at Jardine is small and based on seasonal ingredients. Since we visited their menu has changed but I am confident you won’t be disappointed on your visit. Chef Jardine sources the best ingredients, using local, organic produce where possible, and showcases these in exceptional ways. His passion and eye for precision shows throughout his cuisine.
Compared to other fine dining establishments the price of their six course menu is also incredibly reasonable. Restaurants in the surrounding winelands charge more than double and you’re not necessarily going to get a better experience. If you are keen to do the full 6 course experience, make sure you place your order before 19:30.
And if you’re not ready to commit to an evening out, you can also pop in for lunch. Go on, treat yourself.
Head over to restaurantjardine.co.za for more info and their latest menu.