The first time I met Chef Kevin Grobler was during a media trip to Franschhoek, when we had lunch at his restaurant, Le Petit Manoir, on the main road of this picturesque little town. I was heavily pregnant at that stage, which meant I jealously watched as the other members of our group indulged in all the forbidden luxuries, from delicately smoked salmon to carpaccio, perfectly medium-rare meat and devilishly tempting whisky-soaked desserts. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed a mindblowing selection of pregnancy-friendly dishes, but that only made me long to taste everything the chef had to offer.
That’s not why this visit stayed with me, though. I remember being struck by Chef Grobler’s humble, hospitable attitude. He could easily have strutted around with plenty of well-deserved swagger, having just returned from Nice, France where he served as Head Chef at Jan Hendrick van der Westhuizen’s Michelin-starred restaurant, JAN. But he was so easy-going and approachable. He popped out with each meal to explain the dishes, lingering for some casual chit chat and jokes before heading back to the kitchen. His food was really special but it was his warm, welcoming demeanour that stuck with me.
Then a few months ago I heard the news that Grobler had taken up the position as Head Chef at Delaire Graff in the Banhoek Valley outside Stellenbosch. This is probably one of the most pristine wine estates in the area. The road winds up up up from the gatehouse, with vineyards and indigenous gardens stretching up on one side and the majestic Banhoek Valley spread below. I’ll take any opportunity to spend an afternoon here but I was especially excited when I received an invitation to see what Chef Grobler had whipped up for the spring season.
Many fine dining establishments will show off with complicated culinary techniques and extravagant plating but then lose sight of what is really important: the food. The produce, and the inherent flavours, still need to shine. And that’s why I love Chef Grobler’s style. His food is certainly complex and you can pick up on a lot of technical processes that go into each element. But at the end of the day everything is done to celebrate the key ingredients.
For this reason, a lot goes into sourcing high quality, sustainable produce. They choose the freshest seasonal and organic produce, sourced from Delaire Graff Estate’s own edible gardens and from small-scale local farmers, each hand picked for their sustainable, ethical practices. The fish on the menu is all line caught and SASSI green listed.
He certainly has a knack for making ingredients shine. Our first course, my favourite of the day, was a Rose Cured Salmon Gravalax in a cold, smoked tomato broth with tomato chutney, lemon gel and crispy capers. It was this perfect medley of delicate flavours that seemed to blossom with every bite. It paired perfectly with the Delaire Graff Cabernet Franc Rosé, which enhanced the floral notes in the dish.
Our second dish was equally captivating: Bocconcini and marinated fresh peas, with a pea mousse, black olive crumble and fermented garlic emulsion. It was so simple and so elegantly done, celebrating the best tastes of this season. It was served with the Delaire Graff Estate Banhoek Reserve Chardonnay, and I think my actual reaction was, “Yum, yum, yummy yum yum yum!” The Chardonnay is light, floral and intricate with just enough wood to add that decadent depth, and a great balance of acidity to enhance all the notes.
Grobler is also working towards eradicating single-use plastic in the Delaire Graff kitchen. Daily deliveries of fresh, organic produce now arrive in large, open crates rather than plastic wrappings and organic waste is sent to the estate’s wormery.
You can join them for an à la carte lunch and dinner, or opt for a new nine-course tasting menu in the evenings. Delaire Graff Restaurant is open for lunch daily from 12:00 to 14:15 and for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday from 18:30 to 21:00. Book a table online, call 021 885 8160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org