Chez Shiraz Restaurant at Devonvale Golf & Wine Estate

A fine taste of France in the scenic Stellenbosch Winelands 

Long the territory of gentlemen boasting sleek nine-irons and strong backswings, Stellenbosch’s picturesque Devonvale Golf & Wine Estate is fast becoming a familiar stomping ground for those wielding forks and a passion for fine food too. That is, the December 2012 launch of the farm’s distinguished Chez Shiraz restaurant has not only served to add yet another ingredient to the property’s recipe for success – aside from the famed 18-hole course, there’s also a four-star lodge, conference facilities and a working winery – but to establish the stretch of land as a must-visit culinary haven.

“People are starting to recognise Devonvale as a place to eat, not just a place to play golf and have a drink afterwards,” explains Restaurant Manager and Events Coordinator BB Provoyeur-Bernardo, daughter of owner JJ Provoyeur, as she invites my partner and me to take a seat on one of the comfy couches that rest alongside the eatery’s scattering of neatly dressed tables. “Guests now come here just for the dining experience.”

Moments later, as we shift over to our lunch position by the window, I quickly discover just why the space holds such a pull. Expansive glass sliding doors yield spectacular views that extend out over the wraparound wooden deck and onto verdant manicured greens, a glistening dam edged with drinking springbok and a series of hulking mountains in the distance. There is a tranquillity and serenity about this setting that stills the mind and invites complete relaxation.

While outside offers a stunning slice of South African scenery though, inside presents a rich taste of Europe. Formerly a very simple restaurant dishing up casual pub grub, the new Chez Shiraz (it replaced the old informal bistro) claims a classic French fine dining focus, owing largely to the founder’s roots in this charming Mediterranean republic.

“My family has a French background, and we all love the place, so it’s nice for us to have a bit of France at home,” BB says warmly, nurturing fond memories of her many visits to the nation.

In developing a seasonal menu that pays homage to the country, the eatery’s team was intent on crafting an offering that’s as authentic as they come. Thus, rather than relying on clichés, they went directly to the source, consulting BB’s aunt in France about the dishes she makes regularly for her family at home.

The Caramelised Onion Soup that I’ve ordered as an ‘entrées’ is one of her brilliant recommendations. Slowly brewed over a four-hour period,  the broth is a steaming bowl of creamy sharp sweetness, complemented by a divine topping of melted gruyère cheese, a garnish of browned onion crisps and a side of warm homemade bread, delivered to the table as a complimentary gesture.

“I don’t think there are many other places that bake bread as fresh as we do,” asserts the restaurant's chef Benito Lesch, who’s popped out of the kitchen to connect with today’s customers. “If our bread was any fresher, it would still be baking.”

Born and bred in the Cape, the passionate cook fostered his love for fare as a little boy watching his mother, who has her own catering company, bake cream puffs and pastries in the wee hours of the morning. Today, his greatest joy is seeing the expression on satisfied guests’ faces after they’ve tucked into one of his moreish creations.

It’s on his recommendation that I opt for one of the signature mains, the Classic Beef Fillet (though, the Crispy Skinned Salmon and Chicken Wellington are strong competitors). Although everything here is made fresh – the herbs, for instance, are picked straight from an on-site organic garden – and only on order, the dish arrives timeously looking as much like a Monet masterpiece as it does a meal I can’t wait to devour. The tender meat, done just the way I like it, is crusted with pepper; chaperoned by mixed exotic mushrooms, carrots and cubed potatoes; served on a biting parsnip and horseradish purée; and embellished with a heavenly jus made from Devonvale’s own Shiraz (the name Chez Shiraz, which means ‘at Shiraz’, is a tribute to the estate’s flagship varietal).

Though my full-flavoured steak is a prime example of the type of gourmet fare the Winelands restaurant now specialises in, the eatery, which aspires to be accessible to everyone, does also cater for less fancy tastes with a simple, light bar menu (think options like pizza, fish and chips, a burger and club sandwich) and a conventional breakfast offering (they’ll do your eggs any way you want them). In fact, quite ingeniously, Chez Shiraz manages to combine a refined edge with a relaxed, family-friendly ambience – even little ones are welcome and accommodated for with a kids’ menu and an outdoor playground.

I suppose it’s not entirely surprising then that as I sit back and soak up this atmosphere, and tail off my lunch with a sinfully decadent Chocolate Terrine dessert , I find myself feeling a little like I’ve just scored my first hole-in-one.  

 Tip: Alongside its standard breakfast, lunch and dinner spread, Chez Shiraz also boasts a range of other special offerings. Guests can indulge in a hot and cold Champagne breakfast on weekends, tuck into a full lunch buffet on the last Sunday of every month in summer or opt to order off a three-course set menu any day of the week (until the end of the 2013 year). Not to mention, the restaurant also puts together picnic baskets that visitors can enjoy out on the estate’s rolling lawn (booking at least 24 hours in advance is essential).

The Bill: Expect middle-of-the-road prices that are rather fair, considering Chez Shiraz is an upscale gourmet eatery. Salads run from R40 to R65, starters sit between R40 and R60, mains range from R75 to R130, desserts cost between R40 and R55 and the bar menu claims items between R50 and R99 (a Chef’s Platter). The eatery’s special offers yield great savings: the set menu is priced at a very reasonable R130, the Champagne breakfast goes for R85 in winter and R90 in summer and the summer Sunday lunch buffet is set at R160 for adults.

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Eager to make a full night of a meal at Chez Shiraz restaurant? Read more about Devonvale Golf & Wine Estate’s stylish four-star lodge.

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