Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock
As I open the car door the screech of a peacock rings through the valley giving me a huge fright. The rushing sound of water, the light is golden and the parallel arches of the Quoin Rock Restaurant await our entry. Located next door to one of my favourite small wedding venues, Knorhoek, Quoin Rock is the latest edition to the Stellenbosch gourmet food and wine map.
The Function Venue
Much like Bosjes, the beautiful function venue has become the face of Quoin Rock and understandably why. Relying on stone, steel and glass, the structures are a perfect marriage of minimal masculinity and mother nature’s green enveloping surrounds with complimentary flowers, bird calls, sunsets and moon rises. I recommend arriving before sunset to experience the venue both before and after dark.
Gate restaurant continues the integration of nature and structure. Much attention to detail has been giving to the structure of the restaurant and bar, including inlays of various materials on walkways and dining tables, bar counter panels, LED lights, tree structures inside and water features outdoors.
There’s a discrete smoker’s table a fair way from the dining area (thank you because second hand smoke and food is so gross together), a large lawn acts as a canvas for a large statue of a torso statue (which, I wonder, is created by the same artist who did the ‘wind swept’ pieces on Franschhoek main road?). A field below and the mountains act as the perfect backdrop for the modern buildings.
Dinner at Gåte
Gåte offers a 16 course tasting menu paired with Quoin Rock’s delicious (and varied) MCC, white and red wines. Each dish is incredibly creative, artful and – most importantly DELICIOUS! This has always been the one thing nagging at me about fine dining. I NEVER sit at home and say, “Oooh yes. I feel like course 3 from a, b, c for lunch.” Yet this enTIRE week the dishes at Gate have been floating up in my mind. Some because they were the familiar reconstructed, some because they were just so damn tasty and others because my mind still hasn’t quite figured them out yet. The experience has left me engaged long after leaving the property. THAT is magic. That is art.
So, without sharing everything (my Instagram followers voted for my top 5 dishes) so as to not spoilt it for everyone who has booked for early December, here are my top 5 dishes from Gate
Course 2: Bread Course
The bread course was the first wow factor that I saw of the Gate plates. A cigar, so simple, so familiar yet so much fun! It’s gymnastics for the mind to eat something delicious that’s visually associated with something either lovely or gross (depending on whether you love cigars or not). Some people have gone, T”Yum!” upon seeing my Instagram Story, others have said, “Oh, no, I’d struggle with that.”
The bread course was one of my favourites because it was downright delicious. Excuse my random explanations, but this food is next level and is genuinely hard to describe! But – think about when you’ve cheese and chive crisps and you suck off the caked up salt from your finger tips. Take that taste, coupled with a vinegary, pretzel roll taste of a hot dog (minus the heartburn) with a smidge of rye, that’s what this tasted like. Beneath the soft (non-gritty) ash is a mustardy mousse which is light, airy and packed with flavour. Bottom line – YUM! AND fun.
Course 3: Oysters
Now, let’s just get this out the way. I don’t eat seafood, but I didn’t tell the kitchen that because I feel like it’s your responsibility as a diner to open yourself to new experiences when visiting a creative kitchen like Gåte.
So I ate the oysters from Saldanha Bay (I don’t hate them as much as other seafood), and they were incredible. I’m conflicted in saying that because how can anything from the sea be delicious?! Usually I’m dying over it. But these oysters had been cleaned up really well – meaning on creepy crunchy bits. The texture was SUPER smooth, more like a custard than a creature. Coupled with pops of added flavours and oils, this dish lives up to its presentation.
Course 5: Scallop
Again, seafood, eek! Having grown up fishing for crayfish on the west coast of Namibia, I’m more comfortable with crayfish and scallop textures as they feel more meaty than fish. So I was pleased to find a scallop dish on the menu and what a dish it was, my word! Ironically, I always eat scallops when we visit Venice because, “when in
Venice Rome” and all that. But this was hands down the best scallop dish of my life!
The side on the white plate has the most beautifully caramalised scallop. It was SO buttery and soft and caramelly and amazing. BUT, I think I may have liked the black side of the plate more, which is weird as it was a ceviche! But the lemon-lime cream just popped! The dark crisp on top added a much needed crunch but wasn’t very fishy so if you’re not big into seafood then you can happily eat it without being overwhelmed.
Course 8: Cauli & Cheese
The Cauli and Cheese was my comfort food plate. The one thing you know you’ll absolutely love, familiar and delicious in taste, but new in textures. Whenever I’m watching a cooking challenge show, two things always come for me. Me on the dessert challenge, “Not another f*cking crumble”and the judges always comment on foams. They seem to be to go to’s on cooking shows, but I have to disagree on this occasion. The foam on this plate was incredible! Bubbles that tastes like Parmesan are awesome!
I love cauliflower and this dish served it in so many ways, coupled with Parmesan cheese in as many ways. Layers of smooth, sweet, crunchy, sour (pickled), foamy, and the BEST Parmesan cheese (I think they said there was a 25 year old one?!). Long story short, it was just a good ol’ fashion darn delicious plate of food, the end.
I just want to add a little note here about the reconstructed Caprese Salad – while the flavours are all familiar, it was a much needed “bring you back down to earth” moment. So I just want to send it a shout out for putting everything into context and allowing my mind 2 seconds to catch up before going onto the next courses.
Course 11: Peacock
THE PEACOCK PLATE! YEP. No wonder they were crying when we drove in 😉 . This plate hands down broke my brain. I’m ok with eating game and the portion size was perfect. The popped rice was perfect against the softer black grains, but the pickled grapes were just TOO higher grade for my mind. And grilled feta!? I literally couldn’t take it all in! I need to eat this plate at least two more times to really get it – but that’s why I love it. It’s had me puzzled all week! I keep trying to connect the dots but that’s hard to do when the textures and flavours are all new.
Bonus Course – Course 14: Cheese Board
This is what a cheese board looks like at Gåte. The most amazing offering on this plate is the Parmesan ice cream. It has the temperature of ice cream, it has the texture of ice cream but there’s NOTHING about it in flavour about ice cream. It is pure, massive cheesy goodness that will just blow your mind. Mr John didn’t eat any of the food (long story) but I forced him to taste this and even he agreed it was epic.
Lovely crispy bread, goat’s milk cheese wrapped in gold, pops of olive oil “caviar”, fresh thyme, mustard seeds and capers with fruit, gels and a KILLER ice cream! Amazing.
Again, I’d love to have this plate again so that I can experience it again. We took a really long time taking all our photographs (but I think you’ll agree it was worth it) but it did slow the pace of the meal. This meant I was SUPER full by the time I was reaching the end of the meal, so much so that I couldn’t really eat all of it. Bummer!
This is hands down the best fine dining experience I’ve ever had not only because of the food but because of the beautiful location and engaging architecture.
I can honestly say I’ve sat at my desk and dreamt about many of the courses again. Isn’t that the point? To experience something unforgettable? Job done.
Quoin Rock is a beautiful venue with exceptional food. While there have been staff changes since my initial visit, I’m looking forward to returning again in the future.
BOOK WHILE YOU CAN! Michelin stars loading >>>>>.