In Part 1 of this series I told you all about the fantastic accommodation, facilities and activities at Grootbos private nature reserve. In Part 2, we get on to the important stuff – the food! As I mentioned previously, nightly rates at Grootbos include breakfast, lunch and dinner every day – although I have to say that you would need a healthy appetite to manage all three meals every day! The kitchen is in the capable hands of chef Duane Lewis, who is fortunate enough to have all his fresh herbs produced by the on-site Growing the Future project, as well as much of the organic eggs, honey, fruit, vegetables and pork used in the Grootbos kitchens. With all of this incredible produce available, it’s no surprise to find that Chef Duane changes the menu on a daily basis, so even if you are enjoying an extended stay at the resort, there is no chance of your getting bored with the menu.
As we were fortunate enough to spend two nights at Grootbos we had ample opportunity to see what the kitchen could do. There are two main restaurants on site (the Garden Restaurant at the Garden Lodge; and Red Indigo restaurant at Forest Lodge, which is where we ate). There are also a couple of other special dining venues, including the picture-perfect boma where you can enjoy a traditional African braai under the milkwood trees, lit by lanterns and twinkly fairy lights – a wonderful treat for a special occasion. Here’s what we ate during our stay…
BREAKFAST AT GROOTBOS
Breakfast was served in the Red Indigo restaurant, a long, airy space with windows running the entire length of the room, giving you a fantastic view over Walker Bay. There is also an outside deck and on a warm morning, eating outside is glorious, surrounded by the sound of birdsong under the African sun. There is a breakfast buffet featuring cereals, seeds/nuts, dried fruit, excellent freshly-squeezed fruit juices, fresh breads & pastries, gorgeous fresh fruit platters & skewers, as well as cold meats, cheeses and smoked salmon (hurrah!). Once you have had your fill from the buffet, you are also offered the option of choosing something from the hot breakfast menu, and on the first morning, Nick chose a full-English options, complete with bacon, sausages, hash brown potato, mushrooms, tomato and eggs cooked to order; while I wisely chose the eggs Benedict, served on a fluffy toasted muffin, smothered in excellent hollandaise sauce and with a perfectly runny yolk at its centre. Utter heaven. On the second morning when we sat outside, we both had the smoked salmon on crushed potatoes – another indulgent breakfast treat and as pretty as a picture. I especially loved the little mini poppadum basket in which the smoked salmon was served.
LUNCH AT GROOTBOS
A light lunch is served every day in the restaurant, for those who can take time out of their busy relaxation schedule – and who have left space after the sumptuous breakfast! There is a gloriously fresh salad buffet, as well as various freshly baked breads to start, followed by a choice of three main courses. Both Nick and I chose the calamari steak which was served on risotto and was almost fork-tender and juicy. I particularly loved that the meal was light and that the portions were moderate – all the better to leave space for dinner! There were also two desserts to choose from – Nick went for the chocolate ice-cream, which came garnished with a translucently thin slice of crisp pineapple (genius! Have to try this at home.). I chose the polenta cake with tropical fruit compote and salted caramel ice-cream (I had originally asked if I could have just the ice-cream on its own but was informed by the waitress that it was only possible to have that ice-cream if I also had the cake. Okeydokey.) The cake was surprisingly light though, and in the end I was pleased to have had it. The caramel ice-cream was all caramel and no salt, but had a good creamy texture nonetheless (and Nick’s chocolate ice-cream was excellent). If you simply can’t bear the idea of tearing yourself away from the beach for lunch, Grootbos also provides a pre-packed picnic basket service, so you can enjoy your lunch while dipping your toes in the Atlantic Ocean.
DINNER AT GROOTBOS
Dinner at Grootbos is a lovely leisurely affair. Each night, you are invited to enjoy a meal consisting of an amuse bouche, starter, soup, palate cleansing sorbet, main and dessert, all included in your room rate – only drinks are extra. The menu changes daily according to what is available, although the tom yum soup and the cheese board are permanent fixtures. The dining area is candlelit and serene – there is background music which is never intrusive, and if you sit near the bar area you also enjoy the benefits of the crackling fireplace. On our first night, we ordered a bottle of locally-sourced Creation Viognier (R180) from the extensive wine-list, which also features many other Hemel en Aarde Valley wines (such as Paul Cluver and Hamilton Russell) and a fair selection of wines by the glass. The amuse bouche (which I forgot to note down – bad blogger!) was accompanied by excellent wholewheat dinner rolls and a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. I started with a small but perfectly former perfect fishcake on a slick of lemon mayo, while Nick had a tomato and basil salad with croutons and shavings of Parmesan. We both had the cream of mushroom soup which was thick, full-flavoured and satisfying. For mains, I had the Karoo lamb loin with baked peach and a cauliflower & gruyère puree – although it was the cauliflower and gruyère puree that originally caught my eye, it was the tender and herby Karoo lamb paired with the sweetness of the peach that still lingers in my memory. Wonderful. Nick had the pan-fried linefish with roasted corn, Napolitana sauce, and focaccia. The roasted corn added a great smoky flavour, but Nick said he would have preferred more fish and less focaccia – still, a very tasty and attractive dish. Dessert for both of us consisted of a lemon tart served with chocolate ice-cream. The tart shell was excellent – buttery and crumbly – and I loved the smooth texture of the filling, but for me it was too sweet and not lemony enough – more condensed milk than lemon curd. But I was very taken with the honeycomb bits scattered all over the plate, which was heavy with the flavour of real honey.
For dinner on our second night we started with an amuse bouche (noted down this time!) of tempura asparagus – a wonderful way to eat these vegetables and not used nearly often enough. For our starters, we both chose the ostrich terrine with toasted brioche and berry chutney. Ostrich makes a wonderfully meaty and flavoursome terrine, and it paired very well with the sweet berry chutney. For the soup course, Nick tried the tom yum which was hot, sour, steamy and pronounced delicious; while I went traditional with a creamy leek and potato soup. For my main I had to have the sous vide pork belly with flash fried green beans, and a butter bean puree; while Nick opted for pan-fried prawns with a deconstructed salad Nicoise. The pork belly (as the waitress had correctly warned me when I ordered) was not crispy, but rather the unctuous, tear-apart-with-your-fork consistency that sous vide cooking brings, and packed with flavour. I loved the combination of soft pork, crispy beans, sweet balsamic reduction and the earthy note of the beans. Nick was impressed with the size and juiciness of his prawns too – evidenced by his reluctance to share with me! For dessert, Nick could not resist the lure of the chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice-cream, a decadent plateful of chocolate; while I chose the cheese selection with home-made fruit compote, which included a delicious cumin-studded cheese.
Overall, I found the food at Grootbos to be very impressive – all the ingredients were outstandingly fresh and care had been taken with the plating. Although nothing here was particularly cutting-edge or ground-breaking, there is a lot to be said for nicely presented food that has not been messed about with too much – which is exactly what chef Duane and his team have succeeded at so well. I also appreciated that despite the length of the dinner menu, all the dishes were relatively light and correctly portioned, and I did not stumble away from the table vowing never to eat again because I was so full. I also have to mention that the staff were exceptional. I have never seen so many friendly and smiley staff members, all of whom seemed genuinely keen to hear what we had enjoyed about the meal and the resort. Staff training was also excellent, as questions about the menu were easily answered and plates were not cleared until both of us had finished our food.
Grootbos is situated about 120km from Cape Town, on the slopes above De Kelders and Gansbaai. Nightly rates start at about R1,600 per person per night in low season, rising to over R2,900 per person per night in high season – but remember that these prices include a welcome drink upon arrival, luxury accommodation, three meals per day as described above, and the activities I specified previously as being free. Grootbos often run specials (like their Month of Love promotion in February) or last-minute deals where you can get 50% off their room rates if you call 48 hours or less before arrival to reserve your room.
DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed my stay as a guest of Grootbos but received no other remuneration to write this post and all opinions are my own.