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Ashton’s Restaurant at the Greenways Hotel
Decadent views add flavour to this top-notch, Cape Town fine dining spot in upper Claremont.
If the Ashton Restaurant dishes up cuisine even only half as delicious as the decadent view I’ve been devouring from their veranda for the last 30 minutes, I’d be happy, I thought to myself.
Needless to say, al fresco dining in the presence of six acres of immaculately landscaped rolling lawn and indigenous gardens is a specialty of the five-star Greenways Hotel restaurant, and with a cloudless sky and the mercury hovering around a sensible March temperature, today, I’m certainly not one to argue otherwise.
“Most of our guests and visitors take their meals on the veranda, unless of course the weather’s poor,” reaffirms the property’s owner Susanne Faussner-Ringer in a curt German accent as she sits down to lunch with us. “In the winters we light the fireplace and visitors can dine in the dining room.”
While I can imagine the old-world charm, the European art and the wood-panelled interior of Ashton Restaurant makes for a comfortable, cosy eating experience, it nonetheless feels like it would be an injustice of sort to confine a culinary adventure to within the four walls when a “Gone with the Wind” style, stately veranda lays just steps away.
The property, tucked away in the leafy Bishop’s Court suburb and hidden from street-view by oaks and pines that must be approaching a hundred years old, has an intimate air about it, but it’s luckily open for breakfast, lunch and dinner to the public.
In fact, the restaurant entertains with Jazz brunches in the summer months, Sunday spit braais year-round and Fondue evenings upon request. Not to mention, it’s played host to its fair share of local celebrities over the years.
“Tutu comes regularly, because he lives up the road. The Minister comes for breakfast. I did Helen Zille’s birthday when she turned 60. It was a nice story, because her husband asked to take her out privately. When she arrived the cars were hidden away, the curtains were drawn, and the table set for two, and then all of her friends and family on the terrace surprised her with a ‘Happy Birthday’.”
And with over forty homemade jams, like a kumquat mixed with Earl Grey tea, homemade bread and vegetables, fruits and herbs sourced from an impressive on-site garden, it’s little wonder Ashton has pulled in some of Cape Town’s most esteemed residents for the first meal of the day.
Anywho, we’re here for lunch, and like much of the boutique hotel, the menu has an understated elegance about it; South African flavours and favourites mingle with European mainstays, like terrine, carpaccio and ragout.
“Are there any slow-roasted springbok shanks?” Faussner-Ringer asks our waiter, Patricia.
I take our hosts comment as not only an indication that the meat is fresh and seasonal - the menu also changes depending on what’s available as the year goes on - but also as a recommendation.
Susanne (we’ve moved to a first name basis) sticks with a Cape Malay chicken curry slowly cooked to perfection, and my colleague opts for the chicken supremestuffed with brie and roast hazelnut on potato rosti.
All heavy choices for an afternoon meal with much of the workday still ahead, but Susanne insists we skip the lighter Ashton summer salad – a delicious sounding medley of watermelon, spanspek, feta, red onion and kalamata olives served on fresh organic mint and rocket – and sample something with which the kitchen can show-off.
And as the three dishes arrive plated to perfection, there are certainly no regrets on our part. The meat from my shank is as aromatic as it is tender, the clove and vanilla flavouring adding an innovative element to what would otherwise be a standard red wine jus; with the crushed new potatoes making for simple, but tasty accompaniment.
We wind-up a lunch that has taken a surprising turn – we’ve been discussing the challenges faced by the South African education system - with single espressos; though, if there at a later hour, I would have insisted in indulging in one of the mouth-watering desserts and a night cap in the handsome cigar lounge.
The service has been impeccable, but not intrusive, and it takes a fair amount of will power to tear myself away from my perch above the grounds and forego a glass of red or white from the extensive wine menu.
Susanne walks us once more through the grand old Manor House and bids us farewell next to an aloe that she claims is the largest in South Africa.
“That’s what we sell…space…green…open air,” her earlier comments echo in my mind as we amble down the asphalt path and out into the world below; and while the Ashton Restaurant may play second fiddle to the sprawling vista, it still offers patrons first-class flavour and a top-notch fine dining experience.
The Basics: Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner (served from 5:30pm to 9:30pm). Ashton's Restaurant also hosts intimate dinner parties and private functions. Children are welcome, and there is even a menu especially for the little ones.
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