(2 October 2017)
Back in May of this year, we went to a lovely wedding in the Lake District (UK). We stayed in a Pub B&B and ate there on the Friday night. At a table next to us were a couple who, it emerged, were well-travelled and enthusiastic foodies. When we told them of our plans to visit Cape Town, and nearby Franschhoek, they were keen to recommend a particular restaurant where, they said, they had eaten one of their best ever meals.
Thus we find ourselves seated at a table in “Foliage”. I booked online several months ago and let them know that Mr. F and I would be celebrating our Wedding Anniversary, so I am giddy with excitement to find that we have been given the table next to the open kitchen, with a bottle of Champagne already on ice!
Menus at Foliage are derived each day from the best available local produce and the daily foraging expeditions into the nearby hills and mountains. Wild herbs, mushrooms, and flowers form an integral part of the dishes, which arrive at the table on rustic, artisanal platters. Outside the restaurant, looking like a small scale replica of Stephenson’s Rocket, stands a smoker. My beef brisket main course had spent some time in there, and emerged with a distinct smokey, salty, slightly caramelised flavour, and a texture that fell apart under gentle pressure from a fork. Presentation is beautiful – literally as pretty as a picture.
Mr. F’s fish main was marked as excellent. He loved the complimentary tastes and colours and our desserts were as delectable as they were indulgent .
Observing the kitchen at work is a rare treat. If you’re expecting flaming histrionics and culinary hissy-fits, you’ll be disappointed. This team work together as a mutually respectful, well-oiled machine, efficiently bringing together different components into one whole. The food is continually tasted, seasoned and tasted again and, when chef is satisfied with the finished dish, its arrival into the world is announced not by a jarring “SERVICE!”, but by a barely audible tap on a small bell. Waiters are knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic and very much part of a “one team” ethos.
A great meal is always about more than the food. For example there is now a growing acceptance that the life lived by the animal infuses the meat on our plate. Hence the interest in outdoor-reared, organically-fed animals. I believe that how the food is prepared, and the atmosphere in which it is created, also transfers. This is not so different to the idea of “soul” food – food from the soul, for the soul. What arrived on my plate at Foliage wasn’t only food that had been carefully-sourced, skillfully-prepared and meticulously-presented; it was food that came from a place of heartfelt enthusiasm, unpretentious respect and expertise worn-lightly. And I swear I could taste that, too!
Happy Anniversary, Mr. F. X