A Perfect Spring Afternoon at Cuvée, Simonsig

Cuvée at Simonsig was one of the first restaurants I reviewed when I had just started blogging. That day it was pretty chilly so we snuggled up inside, worked our way through the greater part of their wine list and left very merry indeed.

This time round it was a gorgeous early-Spring afternoon and I was excited to spend some time out of the city. So dressed in one of my favourite flowy, floral outfits I set off to the Stellenbosch Winelands, already dreaming of my first cool sip of Sauvignon Blanc.

We were seated outside in the gardens and since we were at Simonsig our visit simply had to start with a tall glass of Kaapse Vonkel Brut, one of my favourite MCCs. From here Chef Carolize Coetzee came to say hi and offered to put together a lunch for us showing off some of her favourite dishes. If it meant I could sit back and leave the decision making to someone else, I was a happy camper.

Chef Carolize took the reins at Cuvée this year after starting there as a sous chef in 2015 and I was excited to experience her spin on things.

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The menu has changed since our visit – we had our lunch there just before they introduced their spring / summer dishes – but the options we had are a good indication of what you can expect.

We kicked off with a dish called Boerewors, also available on the new menu, which serves up the South African classic with a few delicious sides. The sausage itself is made by an artisinal butcher in Stellenbosch who has been supplying the Malan’s of Simonsig for many years now, and according to our waitress he makes the sausage specifically for the farm following an old family recipe. I loved that!

The boerewors was served with a side of home-made mustard, and then you can choose to add a tomato and onion salad or some soft dried Boland peaches with a coriander yogurt.

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We thought the boerewors was spot on and beautifully prepared so that you got juicy meat packed with all the traditional spice flavours. I also thought the sweet peach and yogurt side was a nice way to balance out the saltiness in the meat, as was the creamy mustard.

I do think it could be nice to have a fresher tomato salad with this dish. Ours was covered in a creamy sauce that masked the tang of the vinegar, which is a shame since something acidic could help to cut the fattiness of the boerewors. It’s a personal preference though.

The dish is recommended with the Kaapse Vonkel and I think the two go really well together, with the crisp Brut clearing your palette before the next bite. Delish.

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For our second course tried a selection of their salads, and while these have both been replaced on the new menu you will get an idea of what you’re in for. I had a look at the new menu and all the options sound seriously delicious.

Our first salad had a combination of roasted pear, avocado and pecan nuts with a tangy honey mustard sauce. This paired well with their Chenin Blanc, which sported strong pear hits on the nose that complemented the ingredients on the plate.

The second salad showed off beetroot prepared in various ways, with cream cheese, puffed rice and a pepper sauce. I thought it looked really beautiful on the plate and I loved the combination of sweet and creamy flavours, with a nutty bite from the rice and spice from the sauce.

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Our mains were proper winter treats. I had the sword fish, served on sweet corn, grilled onions, Pak Choi and crispy fried onions. It was seriously delicious. The fish was absolutely perfect and then you got these beautiful hits of sweetness and smoke from the corn, and crispy texture from the onions.

They poured some Chardonnay with the fish, which I thought worked beautifully. While a little buttery on its own, the wine developed an attractive brightness when enjoyed with the fish. Yum.

The second main we tried was pork neck served on pea puree, with crispy kale and root vegetables. The pork was soft and juicy, and we enjoyed the combination of sweet pea puree with the rich, meaty sauce, and crispiness from the kale.

This dish was served with the Mr Borio’s Shiraz, a fat, meaty red that I really enjoyed on its own, but I found it disappeared a bit against the pork. Overall though we really enjoyed the dish, and it definitely got extra points for striking presentation.

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Then finally on to the sweet stuff. Dessert was as pretty as the rest of our dishes, and once again Chef Coetzee showed her knack for flavour and textural combinations.

The chocolate fondant was served on a coffee chocolate crumb with banana ice cream, crispy banana slices, and a whisky gel. Overall I thought the dessert was super decadent and utterly yummy.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the whisky gel though. The idea is that it balances the chocolate elements but for me it was a bit like taking a sip of strong alcohol. In the end we decided it would be a personal preference, like taking a shot of grappa with dessert. Some will love it and others won’t. Luckily it is placed to one side on the plate so you can decide whether you want to incorporate it into your bites.

The pecan nut pie was equally delicious, served with a ginger-biscuit crumb and buttermilk ice-cream. The pie itself was packed with pecans, complemented by salted caramel hits, fresh spice from the ginger in the crumb, and seriously delicious ice-cream.

If you have a sweet tooth you’ll be in heaven, but otherwise you might want to share these desserts, the portions are generous enough.

With dessert we tried both their Gewürztraminer and the Vin de Liza Noble Late Harvest. While both were delicious I actually preferred the Gewürz and I thought it worked better with both desserts than the Noble Late. They’re definitely worth a sip though!

And finally I am happy to report that the coffee is delicious, and a double espresso was the perfect way to finish our meal.

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I can definitely recommend Cuvée at Simonsig for your next lunch in the winelands. Their dishes are reasonably priced, ranging from R70 for a starter to R160 for the most expensive main, and their new menu has a wonderful selection of salads and light summer options. While I haven’t sampled the new dishes, everything we tried was carefully constructed to entice the palette, well-executed and beautifully presented and I am sure this standard will carry through to all the new creations.

Simonsig also offers a delicious selection of wines, whether you’re into easy drinking lifestyle options or consider yourself a connoisseur. I am a huge fan of their MCC, the Merindol Syrah, and I think the sunbird Sauvignon Blanc is a lovely everyday drinking wine going into summer.

All this enjoyed at a table under the oak trees with a view of the vineyards beyond? I’m sold.

The visit to Cuvée was part of a larger media trip in Stellenbosch to taste and discover some of the best from this beautiful valley. Look out for a few more of these posts over the coming weeks. You can also search #VisitStellenbosch #TasteStellenbosch #DoStellies and follow the Stellenbosch Wine Route on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cuvée Restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch. For more info head over to simonsig.co.za.

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