Fine dining with Russian flair at Hazendal's Avant-Garde Restaurant
There’s a new Winelands food destination where chef Michelle Theron cleverly brings Russian and South African cuisines together, writes Kit Heathcock
Hazendal is putting the little known Stellenbosch wine area along the Bottelary Road firmly on the food map.
The historic farm, owned by the Russian Voloshin family since 1994, has undergone a total revamp, meticulous attention lavished on every aspect: the boutique wine cellar —showcasing the diverse terroir of the Bottelary Hills, Wonderdal — a first-of-its-kind interactive play centre, and an exciting food offering.
When chef Michelle Theron left Pierneef La Motte for Hazendal last year, we knew it was one to watch. She’s been loving the new project.
“I had an inkling of Russian dishes but never in-depth knowledge before this. The family were sharing their recipes with me, bringing me food from home to taste, and your mind starts thinking of all the things you can do. It’s super-exciting!”
Michelle masterminds the whole varied food offering:
- Avant-Garde Restaurant for elegant lunches;
- Babushka Deli for casual meals, coffee and cakes;
- The Russian Tea Garden for a traditional Russian tea ceremony complete with samovar; and
- Zakuski for early evening tapas.
A beer garden with fire-grilled food is being built in the old kraal, and picnics are a summer treat with serene views over the Stellenbosch mountains.
At Avant-Garde Restaurant, Michelle plays with the connections between Russian and South African food in contemporary à la carte menus that change each month. The cuisines share a love for hearty dishes, meat and potatoes, she has found.
“All cultures are so tied together. Russian pelmini are quite similar to Italian ravioli, a pasta pocket filled with a meat filling, so I’m doing a ramen-style dish where I use pelmeni instead of noodles.”
Snoek and potato pampushki (croquettes) arrive in a dome of fragrant citrus smoke, with a lively twist of curried sweet potato and apricot.
My main of lamb shoulder on barley porridge with mushrooms – deep, rich and umami to the max, the meat fall-apart tender – was an enveloping hug of flavour. Succulent roast duck breast echoes traditional Russian Christmas fare served with a kei apple glaze for South African reference.
Desserts are an extravaganza fit for kings, almost too beautiful to break into, Apple Sharlotka living up to its looks, heavenly thyme and honey ice cream, chocolate and hazelnut shell with apple cake centre.
As Michelle says, it’s something a little bit different – the energy, innovation and infectious enthusiasm of the staff delighting locals, who quickly become regulars.
• Avant-Garde Restaurant at Hazendal (Bottelary Road, Stellenbosch) is open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday, from 11:30 to 15:30. Visit hazendal.co.za
This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za