Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant
Fine wine, fine art and fine food in Franschhoek
From the moment you enter La Motte wine estate you’re elevated into another world—one where beauty and grace reign.
We’re on our way to lunch at the farm’s on-site restaurant, Pierneef à La Motte, and at the top of the winery’s driveway, we’re greeted by a tall, bronze sculpture of a woman holding an overflowing cup of wine. The Franschhoek mountains and sprawling vineyards cut a dramatic backdrop behind her. In the foreground, indigenous plants, from orange-red proteas to violet agapanthus, lead us to the reception with bright spots of colour.
We pass the Farm Shop, which stocks everything from fresh produce to specialty items, such as ceramics and culinary tools; cross over green grass populated by people drinking wine while watching their children play; and amble into the restaurant.
The interior of the Cape Dutch building manages to be luxurious and elegant without being stuffy. The feel is traditional yet contemporary, and I have a hunch the food echoes this.
At our table we linger over flutes of La Motte Méthode Cap Classique listening to the wind chime through the chandeliers made from porcelain crockery.
As we peruse the seasonal menu we discover that the Franschhoek eatery is a custodian of lost recipes: it not only specialises in Cape Winelands Cuisine, but played an important part in resurrecting it. Encouraged by La Motte’s owner, Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg , and CEO Hein Koegelenberg, the team conducted exhaustive research and reached back into three centuries of Cape Winelands food heritage, ingredients and techniques to create a marriage of Cape Dutch, Flemish and French Huguenot fare.
“The recipes and cooking traditions have been passed on from generation to generation from the many different nationalities that travelled to this region,” explains Executive Chef Chris Erasmus.
Our starters arrive. My dining partner’s Cape Bokkom Salad (Chris’s favourite) comes to the table in a fine-grain wood bowl. Inspired by the classic Salad Niçoise, it’s plated with utter care, from the angle of the Shiraz-soaked crouton to the placement of the boiled egg. It’s this artistry that so characterises the restaurant; it is, after all, named after South African painter Jacob Pierneef (the wine estate has an on-site gallery of his work).
Needless to say, as a gastronomic tribute, the beauty of the famous artist’s local landscapes comes alive on the restaurant’s plates. My beef tartar with cauliflower cream and pickled ox tongue is just as beautifully executed as the signature salad.
From garden to plate
The majority of the restaurant’s vegetables and herbs are grown on the estate itself. “Daniël Kruger is our passionate Mr Green Fingers,” says Chris. “And together we plan every season’s sow and harvest. This summer we produced amazing heirloom tomatoes in orange, yellow and purple as well as aubergines, courgettes, salads leaves [and more].”
“At the moment I’m loving the fresh beetroot and lemon verbena,” continues Chris. “I roast the beetroot at high heat for two hours, then peel off the charcoal and use the sweet heart; this method gives the beetroot a fragrant anise taste. The verbena we turn into an infused olive oil and use to glaze our garden vegetables.”
My main course comes off the specials menu; a trout roulade topped with caviar served in a pumpkin velouté. It’s summer in a bite and is beautifully complemented by the organically grown La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc.
While the ingredients and preparation of many of the dishes may be unusual, there’s still something to suit most palates: for the meat lovers, there’s Steak and Hay Potato Chips or Slow-Cooked Karoo Lamb, and vegetarians are spoilt for choice with dishes like Cape Winelands Vegetarian Curry or Slow-Roasted Beetroot with walnuts and goat’s cream.
The dinner menu, including a special Chef’s Menu and a selection of Family Classics, is just as tempting and inventive. Think Prickly Pear-glazed Smoked Pork Belly or Crisped Skin Linefish with pecorino, crayfish and chive gnocchi. I know I’m coming back for the King’s Bread Soup made with roasted bone marrow, lamb shank karmonaadjie, and potbread.
Glass half full
Above all else, wine plays a pivotal role in how the chefs prepare the dishes. “We cook with a lot of wine,” says Chris. “It’s been custom in the region for a long time.”
“Funny enough, the spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and mace —used in a lot of our traditional dishes match perfectly with the La Motte Shiraz.”
It’s lucky then that the estate’s signature robust red is exceptional; as is the golden Chardonnay I’m currently swirling in my glass.
The culinary team of Pierneef à La Motte have woven a compelling story: one that taps into the heart and mind. The delivery is unique, the ingredients authentic and the heritage is as rich as the Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate dessert on the menu.
A meal here is both a journey into South Africa’s culinary past and an on-trend, fashionable gastronomic adventure.
Tip: Take the recipes home. Cape Winelands Cuisine: The La Motte Cookbook by Hetta van Deventer and La Motte is available for purchase from the restaurant.
Bill: The prices are reasonable considering the location and quality of fare. Starters begin at R55, and mains at R79.