Restaurant review: Terroir, Stellenbosch
By Anna Trapido, 23 July 2019
Sitting down to lunch at Terroir on the Kleine Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch is like greeting an old friend. Simultaneously comforting and interesting, there is trust and familiarity but also an anticipatory excitement to see what’s new. Chef Michael Broughton’s food is consistently innovative yet grounded in classic French technique. His restaurant’s mood is always classy but casual with the kind of quiet calm that comes from long experience and thorough pre-preparation. Customers can relax and enjoy safe in the knowledge that a skilled team have paid attention to every detail.
I find that the most accurate predictor of a great meal is good bread at the beginning. It is superficially so simple and yet requires such skill to get right. On my recent visit to Terroir, the salt and rosemary crusted focaccia (served with a quenelle of soy-lime butter) was reassuringly fabulous. Every bite was infused with deep flavours and perfect textures. My starter was a pretty pink, green and white salmon pastrami with fennel, chives and potatoes. The delicate mayonnaise-yoghurt dressing offered a beautiful balance of rich, blanketing velvety lubrication and piquancy. Each fish flake was crusted with a slightly sweet, salty, spicy, smoky perimeter. Paired with the zesty, flinty, herbaceous fabulousness of Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection 2018 Sauvignon Blanc it was quite the best thing I have eaten since the last thing I said was the best thing I have ever eaten.
My friend’s prawn risotto (with a deep yet delicate, seafood sauce Américaine) was viscous pottage of pure pleasure. The prawn lady followed her risotto with Karoo lamb on an aubergine and lentil melange. It was blessed with a glorious, glistening, chestnut brown jus. I sipped Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2018 as I ate my beautiful butternut terrine with pecan risotto and a bouffant blob of soft, tart gorgonzola cream. Everything came together as a whole derived from well thought out, layered construction.
Can you see the patterns emerging above? Michael Broughton is the king of real sauces. Not those silly squeeze-bottle dots, flavoured-oil dribbles or unsightly smudges of blended goop that pass for sauce in most modern restaurants but proper, complex sauces that unify and structure the component parts of a well-conceived meal. Thought is everywhere apparent. Every ingredient on every plate is there for a purpose to create a coherent whole.
The only dud note was dessert. Even then it wasn’t that dud. We shared a pleasant but unremarkable soufflé. The promised pistachio flavour was absent but the light as air texture was textbook.
Service is amiable, unpretentious, unobtrusive and super smooth. Needs and wants are anticipated not imposed. Prices are extremely reasonable. Two courses with two glasses of Kleine Zalze wine R295 per person. Three courses will set you back just R395.
Chef Michael Broughton has been running Terroir for almost two decades. He shows no signs of fatigue or complacency. This makes me very happy. I can think of no restaurant in the Cape winelands that I’d rather return to and I can’t wait to do so.
Terroir: 021 880 8167; Kleine Zalze Estate, R44, Stellenbosch
- Dr Anna Trapido was trained as an anthropologist at King’s College Cambridge and a chef at the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine. She has twice won the World Gourmand Cookbook Award. She has made a birthday cake for Will Smith, a Christmas cake for Nelson Mandela and cranberry scones for Michelle Obama. She is in favour of Champagne socialism and once swallowed a digital watch by mistake.