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Popular Joburg eatery Farro reopens on a Cape wine farm

Gabriëlskloof wine estate in Bot River is the new home of this eatery. Hilary Biller visited to enjoy old favourites and some great new tastes

08 May 2022 - 00:00
A table set by Farro.
A table set by Farro.
Image: Courtesy Farro

I could have kicked myself when Farro in Illovo, Johannesburg, closed down in June 2020, one of the many casualties of Covid-19 pandemic. In two short years, husband and wife Alex and Eloise Windebank's restaurant had made its mark on Jo'burg's dining landscape.

I’d never eaten there but felt as if I had as friends and colleagues shared their juicy titbits about the delights on the menu. I was never going to taste Alex’s tangy homemade pickles. Nor the most delicious sumac-and-smoked-paprika-spiced beignets.

Or the velvety duck liver parfait served with a splodge of homemade plum jam and brioche toast. A friend called it “such a clever marriage of flavour, the richness of the parfait ... the sourness of the jam”. Or Eloise’s signature delights, the dark chocolate, peanut butter and cream truffles that came with coffee.

Farro has reopened on the Gabriëlskloof wine farm in Bot River in the Western Cape.
Farro has reopened on the Gabriëlskloof wine farm in Bot River in the Western Cape.
Image: Courtesy Farro

So I couldn’t believe my luck when recently I found myself in their new incarnation of Farro on Gabriëlskloof wine farm in Bot River in the Western Cape for Sunday lunch. They’d opened two weeks earlier and, apart from having the pleasure of their excellent food, we had the good-news story of their move.

Eloise manages front of house and chef Alex is the genius in the kitchen. Their aim after the closure of their Joburg restaurant was to find a food career outside restaurants, something less scary and more stable, said Eloise, and they worked in the corporate sector in Cape Town for a while. A chance visit to Gabriëlskloof and coffee with winemaker Peter Allan Finlayson, who had been a regular visitor to Farro in Joburg, was to change their destiny.

“He wanted us to reopen Farro on the wine estate, something that had been in the back of his mind for a while,” Eloise said. “Well here we are. We moved to Bot Rivier having made an enormous life decision in minutes, quite surreal really.”

Eloise and Alex Windebank.
Eloise and Alex Windebank.
Image: Courtesy Farro

Their passion for good ingredients is foremost in their minds. Alex speaks of the quality and variety of ingredients they have access to in the Cape.

“We did our best in Joburg with what we could find,” said Eloise. For them it’s wonderful to have access to locally caught seafood through Green Fish, a specialist fish supplier. She talked about a delivery of newly harvested Gabriëlskloof honey that Alex couldn’t wait to turn into Bot River panna cotta. And the excellent artisanal cheeses in the area.

For Farro followers, the good news is the house pickles (R20), sumac beignets (R30) as well as delicious arancini served with a truffle mayo (R40) are on the menu. We enjoyed the nibbles,  well matched with an ice-cold Gabriëlskloof sauvignon blanc 2021, or try their excellent bubbles, Madame Lucy’s MCC.

We went on to enjoy a selection of starters, including the duck liver parfait (R100), this rendition served with quince and brioche. So delicious, creamy and, yes, velvety smooth.

The octopus romesco with chickpeas (R110) was robust and flavoursome, though a little chewy. I'm not a fan of runny egg, yet the Wagyu tartare with pickled onions (R120) was rich and delicious.

For mains we left it to Alex to choose — the chicken and bacon cream with a mustard cream (R180), delicate and creamy with a light smoky flavour; a west coast crayfish tail in a spiced bisque (R220) that could have done with more dousing of the yummy bisque.

Then came the unexpected, the best burger we’d eaten in ages, so much so we squabbled over the last bit. It was a house cheese burger with the most divine chips, and excellent value at R160. We enjoyed an easy drinking red, a smooth Gabriëlskloof The Blend with the mains.

House cheeseburger and chips.
House cheeseburger and chips.
Image: Courtesy Farro
Chocolate cream, malt ice cream, cocoa.
Chocolate cream, malt ice cream, cocoa.
Image: Courtesy Farro

Before rolling back to the beautiful cottage on the farm where we were staying, we’d been warned not to leave without having dessert. Alex’s chocolate cream with malt ice cream (R90) is divine. It had the great malty taste of Horlicks. His rendition of vanilla panna cotta, with strawberry ice cream and a side of sesame brittle (R90), was moreish. And just because I could, I packed up two of Eloise’s peanut butter truffles for later. These were delivered to the table by their adorable son, Otis, 4, a charming young man whose future definitely lies in the restaurant business. He’s a natural. 

• Farro is located on Gabriëlskloof wine estate in Bot River, Western Cape and is open from Monday to Sunday for breakfast and lunch between 9am-5pm (last orders at 3pm).

Bookings: gabrielskloof.co.za


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