Saturday, February 19, 2011

Global Gourmet: The Restaurant at Clos Malverne

A flair for contemporary classics and complex flavour combinations are just two of Nadia Louw Smith’s culinary talents, as Theresa Lozier discovered when she chatted to Clos Malverne’s executive chef over a sophisticated seasonal lunch.

Childhood memories – we all have them. Those moments that stay with us our whole lives, taking us back to the way we felt, to the sights, sounds, and smells that we had for that fraction of time. For some of us, like Nadia Louw Smith, a childhood experience can have the power to influence the course of our lives.

“I remember my family going to my grandmother’s home for Sunday lunch,” she explains. “The house was always filled with the smells of her freshly baked bread and traditional roast. Those were very happy times.” She continues, “My grandmother was my biggest influence and inspired me to follow my interest in food. Being in the kitchen never felt like work to me – it was always fun, creative – and I often helped my mother in the kitchen in the evenings. After a while, my dad used to tease her that my food was better!” She laughs gently, and the twinkle in her eye belies her humble demeanor.

Her father was right to take note of her early talent. Nadia’s career has spanned South Africa’s culinary landscape – from five-star luxury at Cape Town’s Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel & Spa, to the Cederberg’s world-renowned Bushmanskloof Wilderness Resort (hailed as the “Best Hotel for Food” by Condé Nast Traveler magazine), and the cosmopolitan flair of the Cinnamon Boutique Restaurant in Wilderness. In 2009 she traded the shores of the Garden Route for the rolling hills of the Devon Valley outside Stellenbosch, becoming the driving force behind the launch of The Restaurant @ Clos Malverne.

Nadia relfects, “I’ve been here since the beginning – since the launch of the restaurant. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get to set the standards, train the staff and the menu is me – it’s my food. I love combining flavours and, since the wine adds such an important dimension to the dining experience, I really enjoy the added complexity.”

Located 40-min from Cape Town, Clos Malverne is an idyllic country getaway set among the vines. Its gorgeous spa is a highlight for those looking for some daytime pampering - combined with lunch, visitors can really get away from it all. Other drawcards include award-winning wine, a sophisticated yet approachable setting, the wraparound balcony with a view of the vines and unpretentious, global cuisine.

As executive chef, Nadia ensures the menu takes its cue from nature – most of the fresh greens come from the wine estate’s own organic vegetable and herb garden – and offerings change every few months to make the most of the seasons. As much as possible, ingredients are sourced locally and handcrafted onsite – like the Franschhoek salmon trout that Nadia cures herself. A cosmopolitan influence of flavours is evident on the menu but the common denominator is a feeling of down-to-earth accessibility. Nadia says, “There are so many cultures to be inspired by – even here in South Africa, our food reflects our diverse roots – we have Dutch, Afrikaans, English, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Indian influences – and it’s wonderful to enjoy these flavours as contemporary classics. Soon we’ll even be launching a series of five-course gourmet evenings where we’ll have a bit of fun celebrating these flavours with all the style of fine dining.”

The lunch menu is made up of three indulgent courses, incorporating complex flavours like dill, thyme, citrus, and star-aniseed. For starters, Nadia recommends the tempura prawns served with a homemade chili sauce – the crispy batter, sweet meat and hot spice are complemented by a cool mango salad and paired with the estate’s crisp Sauvignon Blanc. For mains we try Nadia’s personal favourite, the orange and star-aniseed marinated duck breast, served with roast vegetables and a sweet potato cake that is coated in bread crumbs and fried until crisp on the outside. The combination of textures and rich, deep flavours pair well with the estate’s slightly fruity shiraz. The signature grilled beef fillet, sourced from a local farm, comes topped with your choice of sauces – but if you ask me, the creamy brandy pepper sauce is a “must-try”. Pair it with the flagship Auret, a distinctive blend of cabernet, pinotage and merlot that delivers elegant structure and just enough berry. Whatever you do, save a little space for dessert – both the vanilla pod crème brûlée and the dark chocolate fondant are to die for – the latter oozes with 80% Belgian chocolate and makes your plate an absolute mess of utter delight.

The Details:
  • The Restaurant @ Clos Malverne Wine Estate is now also open for Sunday lunch
  • A series of five-course Gourmet Evenings kick-off on Friday, 25 Feb for R295 per person
  • For more information or to reserve your table phone 021 865 2022, visit or email

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