Idiom: Tradition and innovation intersect high up on the hills

By Bianca Coleman

Working for something worth having is not an original thought; many have been quoted on this matter, including Theodore Roosevelt, who said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”

Keep this in mind on your way to Idiom, because it is by no means an easy road to travel (especially if you are directionally challenged; I’ve included simple instructions below) but at the end of the journey along highways and byways and gravel roads, you will be rewarded with a magnificent location, an extraordinary venue, and remarkable food and wine, and any grumpiness over the drive that took so much longer than it should have, immediately evaporates.

From its position high up on the hills, the view from Idiom stretches across wide expanses of pristine emerald lawns to the bluegum trees beyond. The vista extends to the Helderberg basin and the full expanse of the Cape Peninsula, from Table Mountain to Cape Point, with False Bay glistening in the foreground.

The building which houses the Idiom Restaurant and Wine Tasting Centre was designed by architect Thomas Leach in close partnership with Idiom owner Alberto Bottega and his son Roberto, to mirror South Africa’s unique positioning in the world of wine: a composition of New World modernism on a base of Old World support. The self-supporting arches are made from local stone quarried on the farm, and the solid wooden posts and beams were cut from selected alien Eucalyptus Cladycalyx (bluegum) trees.

There is a further father/son connection with the “Generations of Expression” exhibition of works by artists Anton Smit and Lionel Smit, some of which are displayed outside while others reside inside the glass-walled structure, along with pieces by other artists.

The venue is still new, having opened in June this year. In the restaurant Chef Irwin de Vries is a culinary artist who uses the plate as his canvas and has been tasked with creating food that in true Idiom style is creatively expressive. He has worked at numerous five-star properties and has cooked for Will Smith, our waiter Jonathan told us, clearly impressed by this tidbit.

The menu has two options – the Explore section offers platters and salads to be shared, as well as a burger comprising a patty made with Glenoaks pork, porcini mushrooms and grass fed beef topped with wagyu marrow, caramelised onions, wild rocket and aioli. Another easy eating choice is a pizza from the wood fired oven.

If you want to go less casual, the Idiom Food & Wine Experience is what you want. Two to four courses are priced from R290 to R490 and each dish includes a small splash of paired wine.

My friend started with panko-crusted Mozambican prawns served with crushed wasabi avo, aioli, and coriander and pine nut pesto. It was paired with Viognier. I had the game trio – Zinfandel salt-cured springbok loin with beet and buchu emulsion, charcoal-seared kudu carpaccio with sweet chestnut puree, and smoked gemsbok tartar with quail yolk. Paired with the Rhone blend, this dish was a winner.

For our main course we both had the flamed beef fillet, described on the menu as chargrilled. It’s served with smoked mushrooms, potato fondants, steamed veggies, and a cabernet sauvignon reduction. The small piece of meat is served sliced, and neither arrived as ordered, both being overdone. Jonathan later explained that the sous-vide cooking method is employed, which can affect the colour of the meat, but I’m not convinced. We had a few other questions about the food during the meal, and no one could answer these without going back and forth to the kitchen to check. This is something that can easily be addressed with proper training and educating all the staff about the menu.

The restaurant does not have a liquor license yet, hence the accompanying tasters of wine offered with each course. If diners want more they can buy by the bottle from the tasting centre. After lunch Jonathan conducted a tasting with us, from the entry level Heritage series through to top of the range single varietals. The focus is on Italian reds like Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo, as well as a complex and rather divine 100% petit verdot. This is in the 900 Series, which are rare and limited, coming from just three barrels yielding 900 bottles. The Idiom Wine Tasting Centre is open from 10am to 5pm daily. The Idiom Restaurant

Is open from 10am to 5pm (Wednesdays to Sundays). For Idiom wine tastings and restaurant reservations call 021 204 1059. For more information, go to www.idiom.co.za.

The address is Da Capo Vineyards, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Knorhoek Estate entrance, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Somerset West.

Better directions than Idiom’s website: Take the N2 through Somerset West. At the traffic light to Gordon’s Bay, turn left to Sir Lowry’s Pass Village. Drive through the village (over a circle, a four-way stop and a railway line).

Turn right. Shortly after that turn left, where you see the brown building called Kingdom Builders Ministries. Continue along that road until you reach the Knorhoek Estate. The security guard will direct you further. Do not ask local police to help you.

They don’t know as much as you’d think.

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