Out of the ashes and into the fire
Claim to fame: Landing the country’s Best New Restaurant of the Year award
Reason to go: Nailing the tricky casual fine dining concept with quiet grace
To look out for: Indigenous ingredients such as klipkombers and sout slaai
He was the mayor of South Africa’s culinary capital Franschhoek, helming The Kitchen at Maison. And then he up and left. Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg packed his great skills and dedication, moved to one of the city’s busiest areas, and opened Janse & Co, on an undisputably challenging food strip. That didn’t faze him much though, his ace in the hole being unrivaled knowledge and respect for ethically and responsibly sourced ingredients, rarities that he treats minimalistically, allowing each ingredient to be recognized and celebrated.
Iconic Kloof street is set just below awe-inspiring Table Mountain, a visual buffet that towers over Cape Town. This inner-city, chaotically cool neighborhood makes everything from parking to promenading a challenge, but once inside, peace prevails in an all-charcoal space so pared down that even the silverware is hidden in an out-of-sight, secret box. A simplistic approach to the décor makes for minimal distraction and persuades you to focus on the fine, no-frills fare. That said, we guarantee you’ll fall for local artist Claire Homewood’s striking street art wall mural of edible flowers that greets you upon arrival. Go early and sip classic cocktails or a non-alcoholic quaff in the low-lit, hydroponic-walled, al fresco dining space and hob nob with the city’s who’s who.
The menu changes regularly, owing to van Rensburg’s philosophy of sourcing and using a-la-minute seasonal ingredients within a minimal-mile radius from the outskirts of the city, it leans toward eclectic dishes incorporating healthy and medicinal elements that honor your wellbeing while simultaneously coddling you in a luxurious, top-end dining space. Set menus are by no means limiting as they refreshingly present two- to seven-course options. Each dish features a maximum of five ingredients and will have you wondering how duck, cherry and shiso could work until you experience this combination playing perfectly on the palate. Saltbush, a well-known fodder plant in South Africa, is elevated and positioned alongside tuna and red pepper. Suckling pig finds sublime flavor partners in cucumber, coconut and lime. Vegans are embraced with a potato, kale, seaweed and avocado dish that will have the staunchest carnivore coming in for a taste. Don’t let unconventional offerings such as soutslaai, veldkool or santer scare you; a handy glossary puts you right on track and inspires you to try something not to be found elsewhere.
Well versed, unobtrusive yet attentive staff guide you through a vast selection of great, reasonably priced South African wines. Courtyard cocktails showcase local, artisanal gins, hand-crafted organic absinthe, Mpumalanga cane sugar rum or a Karoo-grown agave spirit. If you’re the designated driver, you’ll be spoiled with blueberry and rooibos kombucha or the likes of ginger and lime beetroot kvass.