Chef’s Table at the Foodbarn in Noordhoek

If you’ve ever wondered what the rich and fabulous (who made their money working for German airlines and fixing the noses of Monaco princesses before sensibly putting European winters behind them forever and settling in the fairest Cape) do of a late summer’s afternoon while the plebs of the world sit in stuffy offices, I can tell you – they gather around a dappled 30-seater, starched linen table at the Foodbarn in Noordhoek and partake of the most delightful lunch a foodie could imagine.

Warm  brioche with togorashi scallops, sea lettuce, sunflower sprouts, squid ink, chili and ginger sauce. As one does.
Warm brioche with togorashi scallops, sea lettuce, sunflower sprouts, squid ink, chili and ginger sauce. As one does.

And the people who show up at the Chef’s Table are pretty much all foodies. Having done the graft and made their gazonkazillians they are now in the enviable position of spending their days mastering the tricky art of cold-smoking Norwegian salmon and sourcing the freshest porcini mushrooms, and they know a thing or two about culinary excellence. Which is why they flock to Franck Dangereaux’s 6-weekly event because, truly, one would be hard-pressed to find the equivalent skill, innovativeness and downright gutsiness of this ex-student of world-renowned French chef, Roger Verge, and founder of top South African restaurant, La Colombe.

Risotto of truffles, aged Parmesan, Asagio, chervil, tarragon and charred Atlantic oysters.
Risotto of truffles, aged Parmesan, Asagio, chervil, tarragon and charred Atlantic oysters.

I mean, who in their right mind would serve a three-cheese risotto including a heavyweight aged parmesan with truffles, tarragon and oysters, or pair salmon with licorice, vanilla and foie gras? This latter dish I was the least convinced about, but I have to say, unreservedly, that it was the singlemost delicious plate of food I’ve ever been consumed. While the flavours were subtle, the combination had an astonishingly seductive richness and a decadence, and the textures were like layers of satin on velvet.

Seared salmon and foie gras, wilted basil, nasturtiums, vanilla jus and licorice beads.
Seared salmon and foie gras, wilted basil, nasturtiums, vanilla jus and licorice beads.

I was still dreaming about this plate of food the next day, in another, heavenly kind of realm, while I went through the motions of shopping for a birthday present for a 7-year-old and taking the kids to a party, and was probably still drunk on the beautiful Raats series of Chenin Blancs we were plied with throughout the afternoon when I decided to mail Franck and tell him that if you could put sex on a plate, that’s the dish it would be. I hope he doesn’t think I’m a loon. But I really understand what the guy opposite us meant when he never misses a Chef’s Table because Franck’s food keeps him sane.

Grilled duck, rosemary and turnip Tarte Tartin, bitter leaves and blackcurrant jus.
Grilled duck, rosemary and turnip Tarte Tartin, bitter leaves and blackcurrant jus.

It was the first time in a while I didn’t think about Reeva Steenkamp or Anni Dewani or Nkandla. I suppose, in a sense, getting drunk as a miggie on a Friday afternoon and making merry with complete strangers as you bond over plate after plate of mind-bending, taste-bud dancing culinary brilliance, is a kind of decadent escapism. But also if you spend most of your time putting yourself aside and paying your Eskom bill and being a parent and washing the car and turning off the lights during earth hour, aren’t you entitled to a few hours a year where you treat yourself a little; put on your fabulous hat and throw back a vintage wine and put extra butter on your warm, fresh-out-the-oven bread bread and dig into the soft, yellow richness of a Gorgonzola creme brûlée and go, you know what? Life is short. I’m gonna have me a beautiful afternoon.

Chapman's Peak drive. We don't live in an ordinary place.
Chapman’s Peak drive. We don’t live in an ordinary place.

And South Africa is one of the few places in the world where normal people can, actually, afford to eat like kings in incredible settings. I mean, R695 is more than what we would normally elect to pay for a meal, but in this case – given the quality of the fare and the plenitude of good wine – it’s a damn bargain. By the time the coffee cups were cleared away we were jolly as the Easter Bunny and drunk as the dominee at nagmaal and definitely in no shape to drive home to town, so instead we went to the beach and stripped off to our undies and went swimming in Noordhoek’s warm (really), friendly waves and it was so much fun, and then we drove home along Chapman’s Peak where, even if you’re used to that view, you’ll never get used to that view, and a CD called movie magic or something was in the stereo and suddenly Love Is In the Air started playing and we turned it up loud and sang along and that’s what the whole world felt like because great food and wine will do that to you.

And in the joyous afterglow of a day spent with interesting, engaging people and an abundance of all things good and the sun setting over the sea the words of the song made me think of my great, consuming love affair with this country which, for better or for worse, has in some ways become the theme of my life: ‘And I don’t know if you are illusion/and I don’t know if I see truth/but you are something that I must believe in/and you are there when I reach out for you.’

Chef’s Table at the Food Barn happens every six weeks, and the menu is formulated in collaboration with a local winemaker. This time it was Bruwer Raats from Raats Family Wines (http://www.raats.co.za/) who offered a selection of their specialities, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, and delivered an interesting and impassioned presentation about why this underrated grape results in some of the most authentic and quintessentially South Africa wines around. Find out when the next Foodbarn Chef’s Table is happening here http://www.thefoodbarn.co.za/la-table-du-chef/, get there and feel the love.

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12 thoughts on “Chef’s Table at the Foodbarn in Noordhoek

  1. LOVE your blgos and insights, Susan. Just to let you know, in case you don’t — the term “Indian summer” comes from the idea that it is surprisingly given and then just as surprisingly taken away, as “the indians” in North America were understood by the colonialists to do with their possession, little understanding that this was the way possessions were shared by the indigenous peoples. Sorrry to be “a nigger in the woodpile”, but you know what I mean. Tricky things, these idioms .I catch myself using it and have to rethink, and end up with something not half as fun to say, like, “Beautiful weather we’re having” or, just, “Hot, isn’t it?” Yours in negotiating our brave new world, Emily

  2. …and I need to learn to proofread: blogs possessions sorry PUNCTUATION etc etc. eek. Have become way too dependent on Word, I guess. Thanks for the reply.

  3. Have eaten at the Chefs Table at the Mount Nelson and wish, wish that I lived in Capetown so I could also experience the Chefs Table at the Foodbarn, love you writing, could almost taste the food you ate !

  4. How refreshing and how lovely to read your blog. It surely brightens my day and wakes up my taste buds. I can’t wait to experience the culinary delights of our beautiful country not to mention the scenery and lovely warm people.. Thankyou once again for making me smile!

  5. Susan your blog has irresistibly drawn me back home to the place of my birth, the fairest Cape. Most of all, your thoughts are serving as a useful handbook of how to learn to live again in Cape Town after more than 20 years. Many thanks.

  6. Superbly written and you definitely captured the ambiance and memories of the feast to a tee! Franks chefs table should feature as a tourist must-do.. except then we’d never get seating :)

    Was a great lunch with interesting company all round.

  7. Salivating and wanting to read this blog over and over again to savour the flavours through the words. Just love the description of the Chapman’s Peak Drive ” even if you’re used to that view, you’ll never get used to that view” So true. I miss that experience, makes e homesick living in Thailand.

  8. Hi dear Susan, got invited by a very dear relative from CPT to read your discopantsblog, nice :-). Visited the foodbarn twice, wonderful view, excellent setting, noisy with kids and probably to much people for the amount of caterers…anyway…Salmon is nowadays very NOT to be eaten ;-)
    CPT and her seas are full of treasures…also to eat yes. Will follow you more, again, very nice to read.

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