Foliage takes sustainable dining to a delicious new level
Foodies can expect the unexpected at this Franschhoek restaurant where many of the dishes on the menu are made with foraged ingredients, writes Kit Heathcock
One of Franschhoek’s top food destinations, Foliage, bucks the fine dining establishment norm, playing by its own rules.
Chef and owner Chris Erasmus jokingly likens his kitchen to a pirate ship, with infectious laughter, energy and enjoyment spilling from the open kitchen so that you’re smiling even before you taste the food.
The incredible beef crackling bread with spicy baba ganoush that started our bread service widened that smile even further.
For Erasmus, it’s all about living off the land in a sustainable way. “Everything needs to fit in with the whole circle,” he says. “We don’t just barbeque our beef, we braise it first in whey. The whey comes from making our cheeses. A 15-year-old local boy keeps three cows and supplies us with raw milk. We use fig leaves (no animal rennet) to make our soft cheese, and milk thistle roots for our harder cheeses like feta and cheddar.”
He aims for zero wastage, harvests wild plants and mushrooms, and grows vegetables and edible indigenous plants in his and his neighbours’ gardens. Locals as well as tourists eat here, sometimes bartering the riches of their garden or the bounty of a successful hunt.
Off season, the restaurant is closed for lunch and the whole team goes out with baskets. This is serious foraging; everyone learns to identify wild mushrooms and edible plants, perhaps returning laden with porcini mushrooms if the rains have obliged. Then it’s back to the kitchen, preserving, pickling and processing.
In hunting season, Erasmus visits local farms overrun by Egyptian geese or peacocks and shoots with a bow and arrow for the pot, turning the birds into a beautiful ramen broth, picking the meat for dim sum and using everything.
Grassroots South African staples sometimes perplex diners from afar: the samp and beans supports luscious chicken ravioli, with earthy flavours lifted by the acidity of indigenous carissa (aka num-num); a rich skilpadjie accompanies the pork belly, deep and substantial, with mieliepap and pineapple beer waffle.
The adventurous spirit comes through in the flavours, which are alive and often surprising: think braaied cheesecake rolled in amaranth with fresh crunch of herbs and ferns, piquant horseradish, herb stems and sorrel with Franschhoek trout.
Expect the unexpected at Foliage and enjoy the foodie trip. With the frequently changing menu, it’s one to return to often.
This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guides. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za