There is a new formula to opening a restaurant these days, wherever you are in the world.
The first thing is to get yourself a cool, stripped back space and then add some quirky furniture and the obligatory signature lighting from the latest fashionable designer. Throw in crockery that can be sold in retail and finally develop a themed menu: it could be a style of food, a country of origin, or some other unique theme that requires much explanation at time of ordering and hey presto…a restaurant is born.
Not so for the lovely people who created The Table, whose name says it all. Simple and to the point. Camilla Comins, brother Jason and hubbie Russel Wasserfall listened to all the friends who had dinner at their home and said they should open a restaurant. After years of considering it, the trio finally opened this Stellenbosch hideaway last year.
Based at the unassuming De Meye vineyard, Russel is the ultimate host when you arrive to find your table perfectly situated under the acorn trees. He is charming, relaxed, professional and ever so adorable…as well as a little bit naughty. And his photography is not bad either!
There is no menu to peruse as there is only one set menu on offer here and that is bold and refreshing to me. You only have to read Barry Schwartz ‘Paradox of Choice’ to understand what a great relief that is. If you are worried about the menu, their website is a food lovers haven so you can make your choice knowing what is on offer, or discuss alternatives with Russel.
This weeks menu was pretty much my ideal choice: a simple starter of potted prawns and freshly baked bread followed by beef with bearnaise sauce, thin crispy chips, seasonal salad and heirloom tomatoes. For dessert, there was a perfect pear tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream. I can honestly say the three and a half hours we spent loitering under those trees, chatting to Russel, drinking his recommended wine and guzzling our way through this perfectly prepared food was one of the best meals I have ever had. Maybe I should have taken up our host’s offer to grab a blanket and doze under the trees to really indulge, but we had definitely outstayed our welcome by then.
It is not surprising with their credentials that Camilla and Jason are turning out such wonderful approachable food and not to be out-done, Russel brought each plate out with a passionate description of what it was and where it was sourced. They have really worked with local specialists to get what they want and make the most of it, and that is not always easy in this country. This attention to every detail continues throughout the meal, from local heirloom tomatoes to succulent grass fed angus beef; from tarragon supplied by the farm over the hill to the most incredible puff pastry on the tarte tatin which was made by a cleaner that Camilla discovered at her workplace who was making pastry as a side line. Needless to say, it is now a start up business. Even the bill arrived in an old tin passed down through Russel’s family which reflects the tradition of South Africa.
Seasonal and local are not just words to these guys – it is a genuine way of life.
And if you get a chance, sign up for one of Russel’s food photography courses. You can see a couple of select examples adorning the walls inside and they are once again simple and beautiful. I am gutted my trip is not timed to coincide with one, but at least it gives me an excuse next time. Watch out Russel – I am definitely coming back!