Before I start this review, there are a two things you should know about the day we visited Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock in Stellenbosch.
Firstly, it was only their second day of service. I had mistakenly thought they’d been open a whole month since their media launch but in reality they had used that time to practice and refine their offering. I don’t normally review restaurants this early since most places take a bit of time to get through the initial hiccups.
Secondly, they had loadshedding in the middle of our service, which threw them for a loop. Overall I have to say they did a brilliant job to keep the boat afloat all things considered.
Gåte Restaurant has caused plenty of hype since they announced their launch. With a newly refurbished dining area offering spectacular views of the Knorhoek valley, diners are treated to a show of finery, from the breathtaking architecture and furnishings, down to the ultra-delicate glassware, crockery and cutlery. The entire restaurant truly is a showpiece and it’s clear that no expenses were spared in making this a top class fine dining establishment.
Running the kitchen is Chef Rikku Ò’Donnchü, who previously worked as executive chef at the Michelin-awarded Merchants Restaurant in Nottingham, UK. He also worked with chefs like Marco Pierre White, Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal.
You’ll book for a 16 course menu – so get ready for a good few hours of dining. These dishes can be paired with a selection of wines, or custom-created cocktails.
So let’s start with everything that I loved:
The team went through a lot of effort to take this dining experience to a whole new level. It’s like a chapter from Chefs Table – in fact, you’ll spot a few courses directly inspired by this series – with presentation and showmanship carrying as much weight as the dish itself. One of my favourites, for instance, was Not an Ashtray, a rye bread “cigar” that gets dipped in black garlic mousse and smoked tomato ash. It was clever, creative and definitely delicious. And that was only the bread course.
The highlight of the meal for me was The Birth of Liver, and ethical foie gras that is presented in a whole duck egg, cracked open at the table, and served with a toasted banana bread. What exactly is ethical foie gras? Chef Rikku has created a mixture that mimics the taste and texture of foie gras, without the need for the coinciding animal cruelty. The dish was elegant and beautifully presented, and the combination of ultra light, smooth liver mousse with sweet banana bread and bitter cocoa nibs worked perfectly.
There’s a lot to rave about on their menu though, from the refreshing Caprese, to the Wagyu Ramen, where your noodles are created at the table, squeezed from a syringe into your broth. Each dish is a showpiece, sparking a sense of playful curiosity.
So would I recommend it? Yes, but…
I would give them another month or so to smooth out any wrinkles in their service. While our waiters were clearly knowledgeable and practiced, there were times when they weren’t entire comfortable with the presentation, and that alone disrupts the sense of theatre.
I might also skip the wine pairing. The 16 course menu will cost you R1 250, which is very decent considering the amount of creations you’ll be trying. The wine pairing is an additional R650 pp and I felt the servings were a bit stingy, while the pairings didn’t always work. There were also times when we were served the same wine with different courses. All the wines were from Quoin Rock, which makes me wonder if they weren’t completely prepared with their wine pairing, and used what they had on hand at the estate to make things work so long. In retrospect I would have rather ordered some bottles for the table.
And finally, they might need to tweak a few of the dishes. The Black Pearl seafood macaron was downright strange, and there were a few times when I felt the acidic elements overpowered the general balance of the dish. I’m nitpicking here, but if you’re asked to pay this kind of price for a meal, it’s the kind of thing you pick at. As for the cocktails, the ones we had were extremely sweet and syrupy – I’d give them a skip.
Generally though I am excited about this new restaurant and I am definitely keen to see how they grow and flourish over the coming months.
For more information, head over to gaterestaurant.co.za
Have you visited Gåte Restaurant? What did you think? Pop your comments down below.