On a glorious autumn day this month – June 2016 – my friend Gigi and I made our way in style (read: in her beautiful Oldtimer Porsche), to Mont Rochelle wine estate, Franschhoek. Yay! A girls lunch out on a beautiful crisp, warm autumn day, how lucky and fortunate are we exactly? The last time I was at Mont Rochelle’s Country Kitchen, before this afternoon in June, was in September 2015, and by then I didn’t like it at all! The food was boring, not a lot of choice on the menu, not very tasty or fresh, service slow, we didn’t like the ambiance. So… I didn’t go there again, for a while; it was 10 months ago since my last visit. And then my friend Gigi told me the menu did change quite a lot and there is a new chef, so we decided we should check it out. And we weren’t disappointed, it was really good. Today I’ll share, photo report style, the snap shots I made during our lunch at The Country Kitchen.
How beautiful is the view from Mont Rochelle? The whole year around this is a magic place to be, but during fall it’s even more special. If you want to impress your crush, a fussy aunt or an important business relation – go here on a sunny day.
About 2,5 years ago Sir Richard Branson bought Mont Rochelle Vineyard, Hotel & Spa, to extend his Virgin Limited Edition Group. Before he took over, the Country Kitchen was there, already up and running as the second, more casual restaurant and wine tasting area for Mont Rochelle. I think it always was a cosy, but bit dark and rundown place. It needed a serious ‘fresh up’. Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Group team and architects did a good job. I don’t think they did spend a massive amount of money, but what they done is remarkable and refreshing for the look and feel of the Country Kitchen plus the Mont Rochelle’s Wine Tasting Room which is in the same building, just in front of the cellars.
I find these DIY cork decorations very very cool! Inspire yourself: start saving corks… be creative!
Mont Rochelle’s Wines
We ordered a bottle of the Mont Rochelle Sauvignon Blanc 2015 to drink (R94 per bottle). It’s a very crisp, light and elegant wine – dry finish and perfect during a lunch.
Furthermore Mont Rochelle offers a Chardonnay 2015 (R109 per bottle), Merlot 2009 (R154 per bottle), Syrah 2009 (R154 per bottle), Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (R154 per bottle), Little Rock Rouge 2014 (a blend between Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot – R71 per bottle) and their special Miko red wine 2009 (Blend – R461 per bottle). All the wines of Mont Rochelle can be easily ordered online, directly from their cellars. But you can always make your way first to the estate in Franschhoek, and taste first. And stay for lunch.
About the Food
I was so surprised what the complete new menu at The Country Kitchen had to offer! At Mont Rochelle’s Country Kitchen there is a new, creative chef, there is lots of choice and it’s fresh, simple and tasty food. Also, the prices are very reasonable. On the menu you’ll find ‘Taster Bites’, R35 each, to share (or not) and start your lunch or dinner with. Think: garlic olives with rosemary and lemon peel, roasted peppers with anchovy vinaigrette, marinated West Coast mussels with smokey tomato sauce and fried bread crumbs or charred baby leeks, chorizo and aioli. Then there are ‘Starters and Small Plates’, prices between R55 – R90, and here you must think of smoked snoek pâté with cornichons, sesame & black pepper crackers, Porcini risotto cakes with goat’s milk feta and wild rocket or potted shrimps with fennel, saffron and sourdough toast. All very yummy and I would say Spanish-French-Italian (and South African!) inspired appetizers, which are just perfect as starter or light meal. For mains you can chose between 9 (a lot!) different options which are more South African/Cape Malay inspired. Some tasty examples are: Five spice pig’s cheeks in red onion sauce, Grilled beef ribbed steak with Café de Paris butter, Karoo Lamb, half a Baby Chicken with chimichurri sauce, Fresh Paternoster Mussels, Wagyu beef brisket, Cape Malay baby calamari or Grilled line fish of the day with lemon butter. Every main costs R155, and includes any 2 sides or salads from the deli, think: green beans, mange tout, orange and toasted almonds, roasted peppers, grilled courgettes and green olives salad, garden salad, baked pumpkin, basil and parmesan or skinny fries, Mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, honey and thyme root vegetables, or Mac & Cheese. The side dishes do all sound very tasty and you can order an extra with your main @ R45, or even three sides dishes as a main course @ R120 – ideal for children. You can order a side trio; a veggie, a salad, and a potato dish for them. Or let them choose from the “Little Chefs Menu” with typical kiddies favourites as: Spaghetti Bolognese (R60), Steak & chips (R75), Fish and chips (R65) or Grilled chicken breast with mash and peas (R65). I like the fact that the menu is so flexible at The Country Kitchen. Everything seems possible and that gave me an instant welcoming feeling.
I wasn’t very hungry (what was wrong with me?) and decided to go for a light meal; this delicious confit duck, tobacco onions, smoked butter and toasted ciabatta (R85) was an excellent choice.
I ate the duck confit together with the Panzanella salad (R45) which was fresh, light and tasty. The capers were excellent (gave a few to my friend because capers and cod fish go well together) but I missed the bread? Panzanella salad must contain bread, right? PAN means bread in Italian? Anyway, I didn’t complain, and I am not a big bread eater and enjoyed the salad a lot. But there should be bread in a Panzanella salad….
Partner in crime and foodie friend Gigi decided to go for the Linefish of the day, fresh cob (Kabeljou) with lemon butter sauce, creamed spinach and sweet potato wedges (R155 including sides). She enjoyed it very much.
For the sweet tooth there are desserts (R45 – R65) like tiramisu, Malva pudding, Chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, Churros and dolce de leche custard and the cake of the day.
Also, you can order local cheese and charcuterie platters, ideal to share as starter/pre lunch or dinner snacks, or if you’d like to come during cocktail hour for wine tasting. You can choose between different meats like salami, Prosciutto, Coppa, biltong, bresaola and South African cheeses (soft, semi hard and hard cheeses). All platters are served with grapes, nuts or apple chutney.
Hot or not?
Hot! I’ve been there a few times during former ownership and it always was ‘Okay but nothing special’. Then, in September 2015, when it was just owned and taken over by the Virgin Group, we went there and were very much disappointed by both the food as the service. And now, June 2016, I was blown away how good and nice it was: food, service, fun interior. I loved it! A great place for lunch – together as couple, with friends, family and also business-wise you can go here. Thanks Country Kitchen team, thumbs up!
Mont Rochelle is a winery in Franschhoek, with breathtaking views, a hotel, their own vineyards and wines, 2 restaurants, an upmarket bar, a spa and spacious grounds for strolls. The Country Kitchen is their casual, lunch-time restaurant (although sometimes open in the evenings, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays). Click here for more information or to book a table online in either the Country Kitchen or Miko, the other dining place of Mont Rochelle.
Note: I’ve not been asked, invited or paid to write about The Country Kitchen. My friend and I paid the bill ourselves in full and my opinion is my own. All photos are mine, made with a Canon EOS M3.