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Enjoy dialled-down fine-dining in a forest setting at Franschhoek's Arkeste

After eight years at Tokara, chef Richard Carstens is enjoying doing his own thing at this leafy eatery on the Chamonix Wine estate

19 February 2020 - 00:00 By KIT HEATHCOCK
Enjoy some dialled-down fine-dining at chef Richard Carstens’ Arkeste.
Enjoy some dialled-down fine-dining at chef Richard Carstens’ Arkeste.
Image: Kit Heathcock/Supplied

Views are two a penny in Franschhoek, shady forest glades not so much. So it’s a delightful surprise after climbing the mountainside to Arkeste on Chamonix Wine estate when we leave the panoramic view at the parking lot and descend into the dappled shade of tall forest trees.

Surrounded by green leaves and birdsong, whitewashed building spilling out to a wide wooden deck over the kloof forest floor, Arkeste has an alpine feel – simple and unpretentious.

After a long and varied career, culminating in eight years at Tokara and opening RiffelCarstens consultancy with Reuben Riffel, chef Richard Carstens is enjoying doing his own thing since opening in October, getting away from the glitz of fine-dining and focusing on the food.

“It’s the food I love to cook,” he says. “It’s the evolution of my cuisine and all my influences over almost 30 years. I’ve gone back to more of the French, contemporary, taking some classics and relooking them. But I love Japanese cuisine, so I bring in those elements as well.”

The refreshing simplicity of Arkeste.
The refreshing simplicity of Arkeste.
Image: Kit Heathcock

A la carte and chef’s tasting menus were ideal for Franschhoek summer weather – fresh, varied, each dish beautifully calibrated and nuanced.

We started with a layered tuna sashimi and tartare on sushi rice, mozzarella crème, daikon, yuzu and wasabi dressing, fig oil and black grapes – complex and balanced.

And a tomato variation sharing many of the same elements, with black olives replacing grapes for salty contrast.

Next corn cappelletti and roast prawns surprised with the luxurious fruit acidity of fresh raspberries contrasting rich parmesan cream, and the Chamonix Feldspar Pinot Noir 2017 bringing out the berries.

Then a delicate cucumber salad with so many nuances of shiso and basil mint, seeds, cashew nuts, gooseberries, goats’ cheese, grated horseradish and lovage oil that it entertained the palate throughout.

Richard has packed away his molecular gastronomy tools for now, leaving behind the smoke and mirrors, but his skill and extensive experience is evident and he’s passing that on.

“I’m training up the next generation of chefs with all young people in the kitchen. I’m in the kitchen cooking every day, every service, and I’m really enjoying it.”

Some of the food on offer at Arkeste.
Some of the food on offer at Arkeste.
Image: Supplied

Black pepper glazed ostrich, aromatic sauce featuring cocoa, star anise and cardamom, continued the summer fruit theme topped with blueberries, richly velvet with the Chamonix Troika Reserve 2016.

Then dessert, the highlights a beautiful orange buchu ice cream with chocolate mousse and hazelnut dacquoise, and Richard’s updated classic, gorgonzola ice cream with macadamia honeycomb and apple poached in Chamonix Reserve.

Locals have already become regulars at Arkeste and the word is spreading.

Arkeste is open from for lunch (12pm to 3pm) and dinner (6.30pm to 9pm) from Wednesday to Sunday. For more information call 021 876 2393 or visit arkeste.com

Image: Supplied

This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za


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