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50 Dorp St
BY NEAL MARTIN | NOVEMBER 11, 2022
Onion bhaji, Sout tert, Smoked snoek cream horns
Crusty bread en potbrood, whipped butter and Die Opsitkers
Ricotta dumplings, Usana soft egg, crisp potato, leek cream and nasturtium
Raw trout, “Koper pennie slaai”
Braaied stokvis (hake), here bone, sorghum, marrows, dune spinach and Umquombothi broth
Dry aged beef, spinach, carmelised onion, confit garlic, beef fat jus
Die Eike – acorns, dark chocolate mousse, chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream
“The apple does not fall far from the tree”
1966 George Spies Cabernet Sauvignon GS 92?
Bertus Basson is one of the Cape’s most successful restaurateurs. Having learned some of his craft at Chez Bruce, Basson built an impressive portfolio that includes Overture and Spek & Bone, the latter impressive when I dined there during my last visit; Eike is located nearby. Like Spek & Bone, Eike specialises in traditional South African cuisine, though Eike seems a tad more upmarket and refined, yet it’s far from starched collars and spotless linen tablecloths. On the contrary, it has a casual, easy-going ambiance serving young and lively clientele on the night I visited.
located in a historic building known as “Die Eikestad” – The Oak City – from
which it takes its name. Simply furnished with spartan whitewashed walls, large
oak beams looming overhead, its open kitchen is a hive of activity at the far
end. Head chef Kyle du Plooy gave me a brief, pre-prandial tour and demonstrated
how they use open charcoal to cook many dishes. This technique, so successful
in London, infuses dishes with a veneer of rusticity that complements the skillful
cooking, intensifying flavours where necessary and enhancing that all-important
Cape/braai theme. One quirky feature that stood out is their plates and cutlery,
a mishmash of old-fashioned chinaware that your grandparents might have used,
retro rather than chintzy.
bhaji, Sout tert, Smoked snoek cream horns
three-way starter included wonderful miniature onion bhajis, Sout tert, a small
savory tart made from egg and ham, and Smoked snoek cream horns, “snoek” local
dialect for sea pike. These were delicious and oddly reminded me of the foie
gras mini-cornetto that Philip Howard used to serve as an amuse-bouche at The
bread en potbrood, whipped butter
I don’t often dwell on the bread. Maybe I should since it is a litmus test of many a restaurant. At Eike, the dough deserves discussion. Potbrood translates as “bread baked and served in a pot”. This came with homemade butter and Die Opsitkers, which looks like a black candle. In bygone times, prior to electrical lighting in rural communities, when a girl brought her suitor home, the length of the tallow candle indicated how long her father would permit his prospective son-in-law to remain under his roof. The longer the candle, the more chance you stood of not being asked to sling your hook. Our candle was made of rendered beef fat flavoured with ash and rosemary. Presented with a box of matches to light the taper, the candle (short incidentally) melted so that after three or four minutes we had delicious dipping for our bread.
dumplings might be the highlight of an impressive multi-course dinner. These
came with a Usana soft egg, from free-range chickens allowed to roam around the
namesake farm and fed naturally, potato, leek cream and nasturtium. This was
beautifully balanced and packed full of nuanced flavours, perfectly seasoned and
dumplings, Usana soft egg, crisp potato, leek cream and nasturtium
to my fellow diners, raw trout with grilled carrots is a popular accompaniment
for a braai, and it was wonderful. The fish was so fresh that it threatened to
swim off my plate, glistening in colour, whilst the carrots were tender and
lightly charred to add a welcome tang.
trout, “Koper pennie slaai”
Next came braaied stokvis, which translates as barbecued hake. This came with here bone, sorghum, marrows, dune spinach and Umquombothi broth. The fish was perfectly cooked with a crisp, slightly charred skin and flaky white fish underneath. The Umqombothi broth, a Xhosa traditional beer made from maize, was subtle in flavour and complemented the fish, though the popcorn felt surplus to requirements.
stokvis (hake), here bone, sorghum, marrows, dune spinach and Umquombothi broth
aged beef, from cattle reared next to the Meerlust winery, was served with spinach,
caramelized onion, confit garlic and beef fat jus. The meat was so tender and
flavoursome, the sauce rich but not overbearing.
beef, spinach, carmelised onion, confit garlic, beef fat jus
desserts completed the dinner. The “Die Eike” comprised of a dark chocolate
mousse and chocolate cake with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream. This was
outstanding, exquisite in terms of presentation with a slightly granular
texture that complemented the richness of the mousse. Finally, the “Apple
doesn’t fall far from the tree” was another fabulous presentation, in fact, I
was so agog as the dry ice poured from the plate that I never wrote down any
details. I’ve since tried calling the restaurant to no avail, so I’ll leave it
to readers to decipher from the image (I’m pretty sure it was an apple sorbet!).
Eike – acorns, dark chocolate mousse, chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream
The 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon GS is South Africa’s most vaunted, coveted, mysterious
and nowadays, expensive wine. It is the Cape’s own 1945 Romanée-Conti, although
its mythical status has only risen over the last decade. Those unfamiliar with the
South African scene will be shrugging their shoulders in blissful ignorance.
Bear with me because it is a fascinating story of how a wine once selling for just
a few dollars was auctioned for a cool R32, 830, approximately $2,000 per
bottle four years ago, probably even more now.
apple does not fall far from the tree”
1918, South Africa’s wine industry had been essentially nationalised and run by
KWV. Though formed to solve over-production, the KWV back then was known for stifling
innovation and cared little for quality, regulating production methods, their
brands hidden from the rest of the world that rightly refused to trade with a
repressive regime. Following the abolition of apartheid, the KWV was
reorganised and turned into a private enterprise and exists to this day. As a
new era dawned, a handful of wine aficionados realised that during the dark
period of apartheid, a few bottlings, especially originating in the Fifties and
Sixties, bucked the trend and had aged marvelously, fabled bottles of 1957
Château Libertas and the 1961 Lanzerac Pinotage were spoken of in hushed tones.
But the one most revered is the 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon GS. Its fruit was allegedly sourced from Durbanville and made by George Spies, hence his initials. Spies received no formal training and had worked as winemaker at Monis of Paarl and later the Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, though there are unsubstantiated whispers that he was not in fact responsible for the GS, that the cuvée was an experimentation of wine stabilisation never commercially released and sporadically dribbled out, occasionally under a different moniker. Who knows? All records were lost, and Spies passed away in 1997. For certain, it was not produced the following year and none after a less-lauded 1968 appeared. It simply entered folklore.
was the second bottle that I have tasted; the first was during my first visit
to the Cape with Duimpie Bayly, who had worked under Spies and recalled his
former boss’s fondness for Spanish dancing. It is known for being variable
bottle-to-bottle and my generous guest mentioned that though sound, it was not
the best example he had encountered. This bottle is still quite deep and limpid
in colour. There is a lot of volatility on the nose with black plum, cassis and
liquorice, touches of camphor emerging with time. The palate is, again, quite
rich and remarkably youthful considering its age, though its overall balance is
upended by the volatility. Hints of espresso and blackcurrant emerge towards
the slightly viscous, minty finish. This must clearly be a formidable wine when
it’s on form - cross your fingers if one ever comes your way and hope for the
Eike lived up to expectations – the food was just delicious and exhibited just the right amount of flair whilst keeping it “real”. As my host had been so generous with the fermented grape juice, I offered to pay for the food. It came to the princely sum of around £30.00 per person. That’s a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere, confirming, not that it is necessary, that the Cape is rich pickings for epicures and unbeatable value-for-money. If you happen to be passing through Stellenbosch then pay Eike a visit to experience local gastronomy with flair and craftsmanship, all dished up with a buzzing atmosphere.
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