A number of years ago, a good friend of mine suggested I shift my business into the realm of high end clientele and “gourmet” experiences.
Being a card carrying philistine who regularly spoils my housemate (the Gentleman)’s sterling culinary efforts by liberally applying too much Tobasco, I have never quite felt that that was really what we do…
But then, unbeknownst to me, a few key factors conspired to change the way I deal with, look at and appreciate food:
- I grew up. Made some new friends. Kept the old ones, and I still prefer a good old braai on my porch any day of the week – but that’s because my porch is awesome. However, a lot my current mates seriously enjoy the finer side of life and food, and I couldn’t help but be influenced.
- My business grew up. While the core philosophy has always been “welcome to my life” and sharing the amazing stories we have to tell here in Cape Town, after a while I realized Swedish 20-year old backpackers might be fun to look at, but they don’t necessarily help pay for my puppy’s lunch money or my expensive collection of wine. As the clients changed, the place we take them to changed, and now La Colombe, Test Kitchen, Babylonstoren, Reubens et al are all regulars on our recommendation list..
- Cape Town grew up. From a city famous for its laid back citizens, beautiful beaches and mountains and cultural diversity and wind and wines and vineyards – a new element has crept in during the course of our re-integration into the world post-apartheid. The city – and the region – has become a culinary hotspot: Attracting not only food lovers with a nose for a good deal, but commensurately, food lovers with a passion for cooking and living in a place that is arguably THE most vibrantly growing environment in the world.
Cut to present day. My friend, foodie and non-ginger (he argues he has a chesnut beard) Tudor Caradoc-Davis asked me to assist with transfers for a media lunch at a new venue in Stanford. And come check it out, while I’m at it.
This small, sleepy coastal town past Hermanus in the Overberg region is admittedly charming, but in my experience mostly merited a howzit on a driveby on the way to taking my clients Shark Cage Diving in adjacent Gansbaai (www.sharkwatchsa.com).
But Tudor caught my attention with some snippets of the inspiring story behind Springfontein wine estate – and I decided to hop along for a free lunch.
The drive from Cape Town is about 2 hours, and can be enjoyed going through the picturesque Elgin and Overberg region, or along Clarence Drive hugging the False Bay coast. We do this drive all the time taking small groups to Marine Dynamics for their whale watching or Great White Shark experience. In this instance, I was essentially a guest, so I got to sit back and shoot the breeze with the interesting other passengers, comprising a few journalists, online folks and various interesting and interested parties.
Our destination? Drive through the town of Stanford, keep on going on a dirt road for a couple of kilometres and you come to the farm of Springfontein.
There is no gate. I would later learn that Jurgen took a sledgehammer to it. This place will be OPEN!
The estate has a charming and unpretentious feel to it, although it is clearly well run and they are in the process of upgrading it even further. I was struck by my immediate sense that this is a WORKING estate, as opposed to a showpiece winery that is just the pet project for some rich investor.
Continue to the restaurant, where we were greeted by too many smiling faces to count. Everyone from the proprietor (charming and gracious host Jennifer Packard Weber) to the winemaker (gentle but passionate Tariro Masayiti ), his gorgeous partner Hildegard Witbooi and most significantly the chef couple Jurgen and Susanne Schneider made us feel immediately at home.
I need to address two separate elements at this point: The Dream and the Food.
THE DREAM: Spend the latter years of your productive working life on a labour of love – a winery in Africa. Choose a region that is exploding with potential for its fantastic white cultivars,Pinot Noir and Pinotage. Buy a property that has huge potential but little current infrastructure, and proceed with the business of creating amazing wines through careful cultivation, meticulous planning and hiring the very best and brightest to assist. Collaborate with a couple team that share the same dream, and proceed to convince them to leave a secure (but ultimately unfulfilling) life in Germany owning and running a five-star Michelin Restaurant – because you’re going to just do it all over again, in the place that will allow you to live the life you’ve always wanted to live, develop people to their amazing potential, and work with new and exciting ingredients, flavours and recipes.
Hats off to Jurgen and Susanna for making this leap, and to Jennifer and her husband Johst (not present, but he’s the money – therefore equally important as the one bankrolling things!) They have joined hordes of European expatriates that have, wisely, realized that the Western Cape is the ideal place to live, love and play.
The interesting Segway to this story is that my friend Tudor used to be a professional rugby player in Germany. This quite uncommon reference is why he ended up in a region with the “last star from Moscow” ie Jurgens restaurant – where he not only played fullback for the local team, but competed for the title of champion dishwasher with a little old Romanian lady for his nighttime gig. He admits she beat him hands down in efficiency and workrate. Jurgen tells the funny story where he went to his wife to tell her that they were going to have a problem with their dishes that night, as the newspaper reports their dishwasher had been seriously injured in the weekend game.
Now, 15 years down the line and many investigatory visits later… they have built, sweated and laboured day and night for the last few months to open Springfontein Eats, sure to become the new hotspot for culinary awesomeness.
And so to the food part.
Our six course lunch was wonderfully paired with their delicious wines. Tariro Masayiti is a huge man, and interestingly, one of the very few black winemakers I have met. His inspiring story brought him to South Africa from his native Zimbabwe, where he has carved out a reputation for his winemaking skill first at Nederburg, and now set to take the market by storm with the Springfontein range.
Before sitting down to eat, Jurgen first presented us a with a tray full of herbs from the estate. His favourite thing is foraging for interesting herbs and flavours on their estate, which he then experimentally couples with the different gourmet cousine choices that he will present on the day – therefore every dish has some kind of local flavour right there from the estate- even the desert!
I liked all of it. It was indicative of the quality that the foodie group round the table was scooping up every morsel – and the flavours were beautiful. It is, however, above my pay grade to explain to you exactly what each course was – google Springfontein Eats for the foodie blogs sure to pop up soon, and they’ll go more into the detail.
What I can tell you, is that the one thing that absolutely fascinated us was the veal accompaniement Mushroom pate – but that description doesn’t even do it justice. It looks like a slice of blood sausage, tastes like heaven and transforms the veal from great to awesome.
The finished off the meal with a lovely lemony desert, and a wonderful selection of pastries with some seriously good coffee.
The best way I can describe the experience is listening to the Philharmonic. Without understanding the technicality that goes into producing this awesome sound, if done well and under the right direction, you are swept along by the technical symbiosis, the individual brilliance but above all the tangible passion that is the mark of a great team.
We left happy, sated and slightly tipsy. I can highly recommend the experience.
They do lunches and dinners, and courses range from 2,3 and 6 course options.
You can contact Springfontein Eats by calling Tel: 0027 (0)28 341 0651, go to the website http://www.springfontein.co.za/content/springfontein-eats or email them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or email us on email@example.com to arrange the day out for you, for foreign guests it would particularly work with a Shark Cage Diving or Whale Watching experience in Gansbaai.