The Blockhouse Kitchen: Constantia Valley's new family-friendly hangout
This eatery pairs lekker chow and reasonably-priced wine with fabulous mountain views, and a bike park for a little action, writes Kit Heathcock
Locals remember it fondly as The River Café, it spent four years as Open Door, now the old school house at the entrance to Constantia Uitsig wine estate has a new name, new chef, new menu, and it’s all about accessible, unpretentious food.
Chef Brad Ball – back in the restaurant business after three years private cheffing and catering – already loved the space from his time as executive chef at the River Café.
“There’s such a rad connection with the building. I’ve come back and it’s like I never left,” he says.
As a local with kids himself he knew exactly what the area needed. “Somewhere family-friendly to take the children, in the heart of the valley, with lekker chow and decent, reasonably-priced wine.”
We’re all about doing simple food really well. We buy the best ingredients, do very little besides cook it well and treat it with respectChef Brad Ball
Families with kids gravitate towards the open deck and dining room next to the playground, which has fabulous mountain views and the bike park action to watch. That leaves the main dining room and conservatories for relaxed grown-up dining away from the playground activity.
It’s bistro fare is designed with regulars in mind. “We’re all about doing simple food really well. We buy the best ingredients, do very little besides cook it well and treat it with respect,” says Brad.
He started by designing the nicely varied kids’ and breakfast menus, and the rest all fell into place. Comfort food basics include fish and chips, dry-aged steaks and hand-cut chips, salads, home-made fresh pastas, soups, beautiful burrata, and a full-on dirty cheeseburger of grass-fed beef from Bredasdorp, caramelised onions, and gloriously melting cheese.
Somehow in the busy all-day kitchen, they make time to smoke and ferment too, demonstrated in the delicious hot-smoked Chinese BBQ pork belly, sweet and succulent with sticky hoisin and ginger, served with tantalising cucumber pickles and crispy-at-the-edges smashed new potatoes.
A weekly chalkboard special menu rings the seasonal changes.
We loved the fresh zest of a classic kingklip ceviche, thick-cut fish marinated in lime, and the rich oozy meatiness of arancini filled with beef mince and cheese, topped with a dollop of reduced Napolitana sauce.
Ginger chicken was a spice-lover’s treat – free-range breast stuffed with ginger and apple with a smoked jalapeno pepper “angry” barbeque sauce.
A white chocolate crémeux was the final dessert flourish, meringue shards sprinkled with sumac, pistachios and berry sauce making a well-judged foil to the rich chocolate cream.
• Visit The Blockhouse Kitchen at Constantia Uitsig Wine Estate, Spaanschemat River Rd, Fir Grove, Cape Town. See blockhousekitchen.co.za
This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za