A hidden gem on Orphan street: Small and intimate bistro-style eatery with extra-special ...
Benguela on Main is Now Nom Nom in Somerset West
The restaurant has changed to Nom Nom Eatery on Main Road in Somerset West – discover some awesome new experiences here
UPDATE: This restaurant is now funky new Nom Nom eatery on Main Road in Somerset West. Get delicious pastries, beautiful breakfasts and excellent lunch and dinner options, plus: double-your wine on Wednesdays and the new Nom Nom gin bar. Get the latest info on the all-new Nom Nom restaurant.
Half an hour from Cape Town, hidden in the heart of the Winelands, Somerset West has been building a reputation as a haven for gourmands. Benguela on Main, which opened its doors late in 2015, enters into the town’s tradition of epicurean indulgence with easy elegance and bold flavours.
At the heart and helm of this fine dining establishment is chef Jean Delport, whose earnest blue eyes and dimpled smile would rake in the ratings if he ever tried his hand at Masterchef. But the innovative young chef is serious about his culinary calling- passionate in his quest to achieve that elusive perfect plate. Trained at the celebrated Zevenwacht Chef School, he mastered the traditional European techniques which his inventive menu infuses with a fresh South African flair and flavour. The chef’s inspiration comes from the soil and seasons of the Western Cape. ‘Nothing outshines the ingredients themselves’, he says- ingredients which are lovingly and locally sourced, some even hailing from kitchen staff’s smallholdings.
Benguela on Main’s approach to fine dining is one of easy opulence, with no fussy formal dress code. The décor has a relaxed air of drama: Moroccan tiles and marble, with the bright bling of gold accent walls reflecting the evening candlelight. My chair is pulled out for me by an attentive waiter, and I sink back into the sumptuous shearling throw draped over the seatback. With their impeccable service and chic interior, Benguela on Main has achieved a rare feat, combining a sense of comfort and occasion. It is both a laid back dining lounge for locals, and the perfect place to pop that particular question. ‘We want to make fine dining accessible. You’re supposed to enjoy it, not be intimidated by it.’
The restaurant may be young, but its chef and sommelier have already put together an impressively varied and balanced offering. The three menu options offer an experience tailored to every taste and appetite. The à la carte menu, featuring reimaginings of classic dishes, reflects the traditional tastes of Somerset West’s countryside community. But this is no steak and chips joint- a strikingly plated medley of grass fed fillet, tender shin and salt beef served with creamy parsnip and rich hazelnut butter, showcases Delport’s celebration of texture and taste.
This haute cuisine leaves no one hungry – the à la carte menu’s mains are complemented by a selection of sides and starters, from seared scallop to potted rabbit. Desserts are decadent, whimsical plays on temperature and texture- Orange Chocolate offers eight iterations of the citrus and chocolate pairing, inviting diners to experiment with exciting combinations of temperature and flavour.
The set menu offers guests a two or three course experience, allowing them to sample a selection from the seasonally evolving à la carte menu. Three courses, paired with two Benguela Cove wines by the glass, come in at a very reasonable R310. Chef and sommelier have worked together to ensure that the menu is perfectly balanced with an excellent selection of offerings from regional vineyards. While the set and à la carte menus present an earthy but elegant introduction to gourmet dining, it is the Menu Degustation that is the true showpiece of Benguela on Main. The Chef’s Tasting Menu is a multi-course miracle- a journey through the inspired tastes, textures, aromas and aesthetics of this creative, world-class kitchen.
Rustic pumpernickel and aromatic fennel butter welcome us to the table, and with my napkin smoothed over my lap like a seatbelt, I settle in for the culinary ride of a lifetime. Rather than navigate the wine list of one of the most comprehensive cellars in the cape, we’ve opted for wine pairings overseen by Denis Garret, Benguela’s charming, and encyclopedic, sommelier. The Frenchman fell in love with South Africa’s Winelands when he travelled the Cape on his motorbike in 1998, tasting 4000 vintages along the way. He tells us of one estate’s special secret- 70 hectares of ocean fronting vineyards, where the grapes are cooled by a chill night breeze drifting in over the cold Benguela current. The unique terroir and slowed maturation produces the harmonious and complex wines of Hermanus’s exclusive Benguela Cove Lagoon Estate. The balanced flint and fruit of the Sauvignon Blanc he serves for us do not disappoint, and provide the perfect complement to an amuse bouche of cured salmon and sweet pickled maitake mushrooms. The gifted matchmaker next marries a rare beauty, The Middelburg Chenin Blanc 2013, with silky ribbons of Sichuan pear. This subtle triumph has been hailed as one of the finest wines in the country, and its tropical notes sing in combination with the first course’s surprisingly intense flavour kick of fermented black bean and parmesan custard.
Jean tells me that he strives to ‘make the food look pretty, but the flavour profile comes first’. He has been absurdly modest- to call these elaborate platters of edible art, ‘pretty’ is to call the Mona Lisa ‘nice’. Dishes like ‘Seasons of Pumpkin’ elevate even the humble squash to a sculptural masterpiece. Playful seed coated ‘ice-creams’ nestle in rosemary wafer cones, while a vivid line of charred pumpkin ash offsets an artful arrangement of fromage blanc and vibrant ocher gnocci.
Benguela’s bold and modern flavours dance together both on the plate and on the palate, creating a rich symphony of taste which demands to be savoured slowly. The tasting menu carefully balances portions and pairings, richness and freshness, to curate a taste journey that leaves the diner on the edge of their seat. This is more than food- it is a display of world-class virtuosity from an ambitious but accessible kitchen driven to bring gourmet to the country at a reasonable rate. There are stars in chef Jean Delport’s eyes, and this writer hazards a guess that the most covetable star of all may grace his menu in the future, too. Offering Michelin standard food at mid-range prices, and a seasoned sommelier to guide you through the premier selection of wines at The Taster, their relaxed and luxurious wine bar and tasting room, Benguela on Main is more than worth the short drive from Cape Town.
Tip: Benguela on Main’s chic dining room can be booked out for events and weddings for up to 60 people. The knowledgeable and passionate sommelier also hosts tutored tasting experiences in their luxurious wine bar and tasting room. Bottles and cases are available for order from The Taster’s boutique at cellar door prices, with convenient delivery to your door.
The Bill: While booking is not essential off-season, it is advisable. With three menus to choose from, Benguela on Main offers a range of reasonable price points. Starters run from R75 to R110, sides are available at an affordable R40, and mains start at R155. Set menus are can be enjoyed at R240 for two courses, or R310 for three courses and two Benguela Cove wines by the glass. The multi-course Chef’s Tasting Menu, to be enjoyed by the entire table, is available at R600p/p. Wine-pairings by French sommelier Denis Garret accompany the menu at R850p/p.
For more info on some of our other top sip and swirl spots, check out 20 of Our Favourite Places to do Wine Tastings. Also, if you are looking for another eatery that boasts a crackling hearth, check out our overview of Restaurants with Fireplaces in the Winelands.
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