SPICE Route is a wine brand that is associated with the west coast, but its new home is alongside the famous Fairview winery, on a hill with fantastic views of the valley and mountains. The old tree on the patio offers shade, while the interior has been recreated as a cool Mediterranean space.
The courtyard offers wine tastings, which can be paired to chocolates as this farm is also home to DV Artisan Chocolate and will soon also be the home of Jack Black beer, with the old wine cellar transformed into a brewery. There is also a showroom and studio of hand-blown glass.
Spice Route, as a wine brand, references the commercial raison d’être for 17th-century Dutch interest in the Cape, and the restaurant follows suit, inviting diners "to explore a romance between food, spices and wine".
Two-and three-course set menus (R165 and R195) make it easy for groups to order.
Lunch started with a playful amuse bouche: a duo of biltongs — venison and tofu.
The textures were fun but tofu (as ever?) proved a recalcitrant ingredient, more a carrier of flavour than much else, and purists will be happy to note that meat makes the best biltong.
A special of the day was a ceviche of mussel and prawn, the seafoods very delicately flavoured (R75) — it certainly needed the body and flavour of the Chenin Blanc to lift it. Other starters included Cape Malay pickled fish; young green pea soup with blue cheese; and ginger-cured ostrich tartare wrapped in seaweed.
The chef, who has many years experience at Cape Town’s famed Aubergine, had recommended the lamb korma (R128) and this was superbly cooked, the lamb tender and delicately flavoured. It was served with basmati rice but more fascinatingly with a selection of sambals, including pickled waterblommetjies, that was a true success.
Other mains that caught my eye were the beef short ribs cooked in red wine and chocolate nibs, and the vegetable biryani, or the citrus seared line fish with a ricotta tortellini and a pear-cider-butter sauce. The waiter informed me the most popular was the fillet, served with a honey mustard crust and potatoes Dauphinoise, which may explain why, with a clientele that prefers plain food, the menu does not particularly deliver on the promise of spice.
My dessert, a light passion fruit cheesecake with a strawberry salad and honeyed nuts, was good (R45), as was the gracious service we received.
FOR: Lots to see and do; a reliable menu
AGAINST: No groundbreaking flavours.
RATING: Three-and-a-half stars out of five
* JP Rossouw is editor of Rossouw’s Restaurants, the independent guide to dining in SA. All visits are made unannounced and are paid for. www.rossouwsrestaurants.com