The Restaurant at Waterkloof's closure is a blow to SA's fine-dining scene

Steve Steinfeld laments the loss of this award-winning Somerset West eatery and urges you to book for one last meal before it forever shuts its doors

12 November 2020 - 12:01 By Steve Steinfeld
Chef Gregory Czarnecki's keen eye for plating meant the dishes at The Restaurant at Waterkloof were always a thing of beauty.
Chef Gregory Czarnecki's keen eye for plating meant the dishes at The Restaurant at Waterkloof were always a thing of beauty.
Image: Supplied

In what comes as a monumental loss to SA’s fine-dining scene, renowned chef Gregory Czarnecki has announced that The Restaurant at Waterkloof in Somerset West, in the Western Cape, will be forever shutting its doors later this month.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, subsequent government-mandated lockdown, and continuing level one restrictions — which until recently limited international travellers and hence all but decimated the "season" Cape Town restaurants depend on — has resulted in the difficult decision to close the award-winning restaurant.

The chef announced the terribly sad news with a “heavy heart” in a lengthy and personal post on the restaurant’s social media channels, stating: “Despite all of our efforts to keep the restaurant afloat, our dream alive and to pursue our passion in these strange and difficult times, it has become impossible for us to follow our business model.”

View this post on Instagram

Dear Patrons,

It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing the closure of the Restaurant at Waterkloof. Despite all of our efforts to keep the restaurant afloat, our dream alive and to pursue our passion in these strange and difficult times, it has become impossible for us to follow our business model. When I started this journey at Waterkloof 11 years ago, I could not have ever conceived that it would end this way. It is unfortunately a battle that we can no longer keep fighting and so, we have decided to hang up our aprons. From starting out as the "new kid on the block" to becoming the best restaurant in the country, Waterkloof has been an amazing journey filled with memories that I will treasure forever. It has helped me grow as a chef and made me who I am today. My thoughts are with my entire team, some of whom have been with me from the very beginning. I want to thank them all for their hard work, commitment and dedication to their craft. I deeply regret the effect that this closure will have on them. I hope our paths cross again in the near future. With great challenges, sometimes, come great opportunities.

I wish to sincerely thank everybody who has been supportive of us throughout these wonderful years. You were the reason we kept pushing boundaries and enjoyed sharing what we loved the most.

Our last service will be lunch on Sunday 22 November, so please do join us for a final experience before we say farewell.

With regrets, Gregory Czarnecki & The Restaurant Team —— The Tasting Lounge will remain open for wine tastings and platters from Thursday to Sunday, 10h00 until 17h00 (last tasting at 16h30) Healey’s Deli is open from Monday to Friday from 9h00 until 17h00 for wine sales, breakfast, platters and light lunches.

A post shared by Waterkloof Wines (@waterkloofwines) on

This is not the first eatery to close as a result of the current crisis, nor sadly is it likely to be the last, but its loss is a particularly painful one. The Restaurant at Waterkloof was at the pinnacle of SA's fine-dining scene and our food landscape was made all the richer by its presence. It will forever be remembered as one of our country's best restaurants and its closure leaves a gap that will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill.

I can remember the dishes I've enjoyed at The Restaurant at Waterkloof with vivid precision. The smiling marron with tomato concasse and hollandaise from my first visit comes to mind. Seemingly simple yet deceptively complex, it was a mind-blowing experience: the perfect acidity from the tomato, the delicate, tender meat of the marron and the rich, creaminess of the sauce coming together in perfect harmony.

The egg 63 is another. A true display of Czarnecki's culinary genius, this dish featured a sous vide egg yolk, to be gently burst open at the table, the warmth of the gloriously trickling yolk slightly melting fleurettes of Tete de Moine and mixing with a rich onion velouté; petals of charred onion added texture and a splash of spinach oil brought everything into balance.

I could wax poetic about many other dishes too.

With his "less is more" philosophy, razor-sharp precision and keen eye for plating,  Czarnecki pushed culinary boundaries with unrivalled attention to detail, flavour and presentation. I have no doubt he will continue to do so in whatever venture he pursues next.

The Restaurant at Waterkloof's last service will be on November 22. To book a table, visit waterkloofwines.co.za

Follow the author of this article, Steve Steinfeld, on Instagram: @thejoburgfoodie