Welcome Farrel Hirsch to Greenhouse at The Cellars Hohenort!

Greenhouse at the Cellars-Hohenort welcomed their new head chef, Farrel Hirsch, to their kitchen in November 2018, who brought with him a fresh new menu. For those of you who might not have heard about Greenhouse yet, it recently placed 6th at the highly anticipated Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards, and with good reason! Headed up by executive creative director, Chef Peter Tempelhoff, Greenhouse consistently pushes boundaries through exploration and re-imagination of South Africa’s rich food history. On top of that, Chef Farrel Hirsch’s energy and passion promises to grow Greenhouse’s reputation as one of the leading restaurants, in South Africa as well as the world.

Angelique and I were excited to try their brand new menu, and experienced it for ourselves over the weekend. You might have seen our blow-by-blow account on 9Lives’ Instagram Stories, but if you want a more in depth review, look no further! We had the opportunity to try both the vegetarian and normal lunch menu, since Angy went vegetarian for January (and I love meat in all its forms).

So, on a hot summer Saturday, we got in my car and headed off to the Cellars-Hohenort. As we winded down the wooded Constantia mountain roads, we tried to figure out what we should expect from our afternoon. Let me tell you, all our expectations were exceeded and we could have never pictured a lunch like the one we ended up having!

Walking into the grounds of the Cellars-Hohenort had us stunned by the beautiful surroundings and grandiose buildings. Luckily my terminal fear of lateness meant that we arrived about 30 minutes before our booking, so we had time to explore the perfectly manicured gardens. We went up to the Greenhouse Bar to enjoy the view (and sneak a peek at a wedding happening downstairs) while sipping on cocktails. I opted for a freshly squeezed citrus daiquiri, which blows boring strawberry daiquiris out of the water, while Angy had a cool cucumber G&T.

Greenhouse garden

After we enjoyed our drinks, the manager on duty lead us to our table in the beautiful dining room. The waiters and sommeliers were attentive and made sure we never wanted for anything during our visit. Once we were settled in, we were able to view the menu and had an idea of what we could be looking forward to during our meal.

We were both offered five courses as well as amuse-bouches, an additional bread course and extra sweet treats at the end of our meal. We also opted for the optional wine pairing with the meal, which was well worth it! I do, however, recommend taking an Uber if you’re planning on doing the wine pairing. I notified the sommelier that I would be driving and asked for half portions of the wine, but even having 6 half glasses of wine will set you over the limit.

Now — for the reason we’re here — the food.

We started off our journey with amuse-bouches of Greenhouse snacks, which included teriyaki duck bao buns (aubergine instead of duck for Angy), tempura battered land seaweed and Cape Malay marinated Yellowtail. The teriyaki bao bun was my favourite of the three, with the sweet and sticky sauce complimenting the duck and kimchi perfectly. Angy loved the tempura battered land seaweed and even had my portion as well!

Shortly after the snacks, we received our bread course. Think freshly baked, still steaming ciabatta, with the crispiest outside and fluffiest inside served with a homemade whipped butter; sour cream and roasted onion muffins with an onion butter; and sweetcorn muffins with popcorn butter. And the most exciting part? They lightly salt the homemade butter by grating a persian blue salt rock tableside.

Next up was our first starter course which, for me, was tableside steamed blue prawn, gamefish, quinoa, seaweed and grapefruit, while the vegetarian option featured chargrilled sweet potato and endive instead of the gamefish and prawn. The blue prawn is steamed tableside on a bed of hot rocks, so diners can see the prawn changing colour and curling up while it steams! The quinoa and grapefruit pearls, as well as the citrus butter sauce that was served with the prawn stood out and beautifully highlighted the freshness of the seafood.

The vegetarian option was very similar, except that the gamefish was substituted with sweet potato and the prawn with endives. This made for a more earthy flavour profile, with the salty flavour of the crunchy seaweed standing out.

After that came my personal favourite, the caramel smoked duck, served with truffled liver mousse, hibiscus beets and a hazelnut and nasturtium crumble. The duck was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with the crispiest skin I’ve ever had. And, unsurprisingly, it tasted exactly like caramel! The sides to the vegetarian main were once again similar to the meaty main, except the duck was replaced with kohlrabi.

Greenhouse caramel smoked duck

The duck was followed by grilled cape octopus, served with samphire, sour fig gel and an ink yuzu sauce. I personally don’t usually go for seafood options when dining out, but the octopus was grilled beautifully, and the sour fig gel complimented the seafood flavours perfectly.

For the vegetarian main, Angy was given the asparagus with samphire and a creamy broth. Angy has always been a lover of asparagus, but this dish took it to the next level for her. It was the perfect combination of savoury and creamy which made it incredibly delicious. The crunch of the asparagus added some extra interesting textures.

My last main was free range Jersey beef fillet, served with tsukudani shiitake mushrooms, lacquered onion, asian pesto and land seaweed. The fillet was ridiculously tender, I barely needed a knife to cut through it, and the puffed tendon that garnished the plate was a happy surprise! Angy had a mushroom risotto, which was her favourite thing on the menu by far. Not only is it incredibly aesthetically pleasing, with bright hues throughout, but it tasted amazing!

By this point, we were already starting to doubt whether we’d be able to make it to dessert, with neither of us having a particularly big sweet tooth, but when we were served our PB&J with milk dessert, we were happy to find that the dessert wasn’t overly sweet. Peanut butter mouse was layered on top of a fresh cherry compote with whole cherries, and topped with a peanut butter crust. The milk ice cream was a welcome deviation from the norm and offered exciting flavours.

After all this, we were presented with chocolate tapas as a final send-off, which included Klippies & Cola truffles, a black Russian cake bite, and teeny tiny lime mousse and jelly cones to cut through the sweetness.

After our spectacular lunch, we were lucky enough to be shown around the kitchen by Chef Farrel, while the chefs were busy prepping for their dinner service later on. When talking to Chef Farrel, his passion and drive is evident in the way that he talks and moves around his kitchen, and whenever he talks about one of his dishes you can see the excitement and joy in his eyes.

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