Fine dining but ‘no too pretentious’ – Franschhoek

A tale of two meals

I was doing so well with my end-of-year diet and weightloss programme until I went to Franschhoek in January.

Very little booze and careful consideration of what went on my plate meant I’d shed nine kilograms in the three months my girlfriend had been in Australia.

I undid a fair bit of good work in the course of a five-day road trip from Stellenbosch to Knysna but the damage was done by the end of day two.

How could it be otherwise after consecutive dinners at two of the finest restaurants in South Africa’s fine-dining capital (though Jozi residents might disagree)?

Both have been around a fair length of time and are well ensconced in Franschhoek’s gastronomic firmament but one of the two was a new discovery on my part.

Franschhoek’s luxury accommodation – La Petite Ferme

La Petite Ferme, however, and I go back a fair number of years to before the development of an award-winning hotel and restaurant operation to complement the farm’s range of fine wines.

In a town where every wine estate is imbued with great beauty and many have breath-taking views of valley and mountains, La Petite Ferme must surely be blessed with among the best from its location on the slopes of the Middagkrans mountains halfway up the Franschhoek Pass.

 La Petite Ferme ( was honoured at the 2023 Haute Grandeur Global Hotel Awards in four categories: Best Scenic Environment Hotel; Best Country Hotel in Africa; Best Culinary Experience in Africa and Best Small Hotel in Africa.

The hotel also featured strongly at the annual World Luxury Hotel Awards 2023, being named as the Best Luxury Boutique Hotel in South Africa.

The La Petite Ferme Restaurant was recognised as Best Luxury Boutique Hotel Restaurant in Africa with the Best Panoramic Views in Africa.

The hotel very recently opened five luxury suites named after some of the estate’s standout wines; Viognier, Baboon Rock, The Verdict, The ZA and Variation.

Together with these Winery Suites, La Petite Ferme’s accommodation includes five Manor House Suites and five Vineyard Suites, each with a private plunge pool.

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A hotel room is not only a stop-over on your trip

It was a stinking hot January Sunday afternoon – there would be a gentle rain during the night to bring temperatures down – and the air-conditioned cool of reception was a blessing.

That and a large dew-pearled glass of the estate’s Grenache Noir Rosé constituted a warm welcome indeed. “Can we show you to your suite?” asked the duty manager.

“You can take that with you,” she nodded at my glass. “In that case,” I said, “you can top it up.”

I know many people who insist a hotel room is only a stop-over on their trip and that all they require is a comfortable bed with clean bedding, hot water in the shower and a flushing loo… but in all honesty they’re talking bollocks.

Seasoned travellers take these things as a minimum requirement, adding that it is the finer touches that turn the hotel into an integral part of the journey – if not the destination.

Little things… like a tub of bath salts and a chocolate-dipped strawberry that’s still cold because housekeeping took it out of the fridge while you were checking in.

The afternoon sun was still well above the Groot Drakenstein peaks that separate the town from Stellenbosch (it gets dark late here this time of the year) when I strolled up to the restaurant for the first of my two spectacular Franschhoek dinners.

I’d developed a taste for La Petite Ferme’s blush wine, so I designed my meal accordingly as I nibbled on a biltong and vetkoek appetiser and scanned the menu.

You can opt for a three or two course dinner from the starter, main and dessert selections.

I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I went for the latter… and there was no going further down the list of starters than the West Coast Fish Cake.

I don’t want to diss the local fisheries but what I received from the kitchen resembled in no texture or taste the minced hake patties of the Friday nights of my youth.

Back then, the only colour on the plate was a dollop of All Gold ketchup. Frankly, it was the only time in my life I have destroyed something so exquisite completely without compunction.

I took a while before shifting gear from elegant to hearty for mains, quaffing the dregs of my Rosé and ordering a bottle of Shiraz to accompany a duo of venison.

I species-shifted from piranha to hunting dog, and absolutely mauled my kudu-wildebeest combination.

Wildebeest is relatively ungnu-n on South African menus; it shouldn’t be… done right (as it was) it tastes like slightly gamey Grade-A beef.

I don’t remember much about the walk back to the room or the rest of the night except that it rained.

Chefs Warehouse, with Liam Tomlin as paterfamilias, has been one of the leading families of fine dining siblings in the Western Cape for nearly a decade.

And where Tomlin has been, so has David Schneider. “I started working under Liam at the original Chefs Warehouse in central Cape Town nine years ago before becoming his sous chef when he opened in Constantia.

“The previous owner of Maison had visited the restaurant and saw the benefit of opening a Chefs Warehouse on his property.

“He approached Liam who asked me if I’d like to partner with him in Franschhoek. “I arrived on the estate in November 2017.”


Maison (www.maisonestate. com) is a 13ha property – there are three hectares under vine and all the wine produced for the label comes from the farm – that also offers accommodation in the form of a suite, villa and residence for two, four and eight guests respectively.

The only thing that ties the restaurants in the Chefs Warehouse family is its tapas-for-two format or, as Schneider describes it, “a tasting menu to share”.

“This means you can have what is in effect an eight-course meal without spending four hours at table.

Our average seating time is under two hours.” Food is presented in four categories: “In the garden”, “By the A tale of two meals Fine dining but ‘not too pretentious’ sea”, “On the street” and “With family ‘Sunday Roast’”.

Individual dishes included a nectarine and onion tarte tatin; game-fish ceviche with blood orange tiger’s milk and Cape pickles; crispy lamb scratchings with olive and rosemary bread; and 60-day dry-aged Black Angus beef accompanied by creamed leak and cabbage risotto served with beef shin. Dishes are paired with house wines served by the glass.

“I like to cook food that isn’t too pretentious,” said Schneider, “… just pretentious enough!”


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