We recently visited Leopard's Leap to experience their new South African Table lunch. This modern and chic venue is situated on the R45, along the Franschhoek Wine Route. It's not easy to miss it, because if you keep an eye out, you'll be able to spot the infamous leopard statue (see below). The leopard, (if you take a photo at a much better angle), almost looks like it is part of the mountains in the background and has quickly become a photo must-have when visiting the estate.
The estate also supports the conservation of leopards, in particular, the Cape Mountain Leopard, and you can read up about their conservation efforts and other interests here.
As I mentioned above, the venue itself is really modern and the materials sort of reflect the mountainside in the background. The entrance is really welcoming and you are greeted at the door as your arrive.
The inside is really beautiful. Just look at the lights that look like whisks! So cool! I also liked the high ceilings and that the same wooden touches outside are also mimicked inside.
If you are visiting for their "normal" lunch - their rotisserie-style buffet - you can either sit inside the venue or on the enclosed patio. I have had this lunch before and it was really delicious! I would recommend sitting on the patio (so, book ahead) as you have such lovely views of the garden and the vineyards.
This time, however, we were visiting for the South African Table experience and so we got to sit in the kitchen! (Well, practically 🙂 See more on that below)
As part of the experience, you receive a welcoming drink of their bubbly - a sparkling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend (see below).
We then joined the massive table that is situated right at the kitchen. These long table eating experiences are becoming more and more popular. Although you can visit with your own friends and family, you also have the opportunity to meet new people and make new friendships.
Leopard's Leap aims to create a homely, hospitable feel through this experience and they really get this right. You sit right where you can see Head Chef Pieter de Jager cooking away, he chats to you from across the pass, and also joins your table once he has served you your courses. So the vibe really is homely! You feel like you are at your friend's house and that you are chatting to them while they are cooking, all while sipping on your glass of wine.
What I thought was really cool was that there are also two screens at either end of your table, so you can actually watch what's cooking (literally) and perhaps learn a thing or two! Chef Pieter (I can call him that, because we are friends now), is more than willing to explain his steps too if you're keen to hear.
One tip I can give you before coming for this lunch is to not have breakfast 🙂 Because you are piled with food! 🙂
We started off with this delicious snack platter (see below). Chef Pieter explained to us that these 'balls' were called "mosbolletjies", and they, like the rest of the menu have a South African touch. They're sort of like "vetkoek" I suppose, because they are fried in fat, but they have a bread-like texture. They were delicious! They were served with chicken fat (sounds gross, but tastes yum), a chutney, biltong and quince. It was a really yum platter and got the conversation around our table going.
As I mentioned earlier, their aim is to create a menu that is South African-inspired. But they also aim to add a personal touch to it. So a lot of their recipes and ideas for the recipes come from their own family members and are passed down from generation to generation. (There is even a book on the table for you to look at that contains hand-written recipes from the grandmother of the Sous chef!) What the recipes are, and how they came to life, is a story for the chefs to share with you personally and so you will have to visit yourself to hear all about it!
Now to the food!
Our first course was Chef Pieter's take on "Pap en Wors" - a delicious combination of homemade sausage and deep-fried pap balls (I'm sure the pap balls have a name, but I can't quite remember!) I loved this dish! The sausage was slightly spicy and the onions were pickled in a light, curry sauce. The flavours worked so well together! This sweet and salty combination probably made this course my favourite one.
This course was served with a glass of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir rosé blend (the still wine, this time). I enjoyed the strawberry and raspberry flavours of the wine. Due to the larger percentage of Chardonnay, the wine complimented this dish really nicely as the dish contained a light, curry flavour.
As part of this table experience, you don't only get to learn about the food. You also get to learn about the wine! They have a wine ambassador at your table to explain the wines to you and also to suggest why they would make a good match for the food. We had Conway de Vries with us and he was really passionate about the Leopard's Leap wines! Also, he's not shy to pour you a decent glass of wine! And so you really get your money's worth! 🙂
It was a really cool experience to get to see what goes on behind the scenes in the creation of your dishes. And I always enjoy watching the plating of the dishes - so much precision and concentration is involved - it's a real skill!
The second course was equally impressive! It was a suprisingly really filling perfectly cooked tender Springbok! (How's that for a mouthful?) It was served with a delicious puree, gravy and buttered carrots. The square block was a sweet cake-like accompaniment that had a corn base, if I remember correctly. I liked the flavours of this course and I especially enjoyed the meat - it was delicious.
This course was paired with the Grand Vin wine - a red Bordeaux-style blend with mulberry and spicy aromas. It's not too "heavy" but it is quite complex and so I think it was a good match with the main course. The meatiness in the food added to the spiciness in the wine quite well.
As you can imagine, we were getting quite full. But as with a typical family lunch meal, there is always room for dessert! 🙂 This came in the form of a Malva pudding - topped with homemade custard and coconut - authentically South African! It was really tasty and I liked the addition of the coconut.
(Although this was fantastic, I was SO full! Luckily, my brother in law was with us to finish off mine!) 🙂
This dessert was served with a glass of their Muscat - a really lovely sweet wine with flavours of rose-water, Turkish delight and hints of tropical fruit. Because it was not too cloying, it paired nicely with the sweet dessert. (I managed to finish the glass, of course! Always space for dessert wine) 🙂
After our lunch, we then relaxed a bit with our cup of coffee, while Chef Pieter had to get back to work (unfortunately, it takes a lot of work to run a kitchen). But the Sous chef is also fantastic and he does an excellent job of running things while Chef Pieter socialises 🙂 Ha ha! All the staff work really hard and they are continuously churning out good-looking plates of food!
You, too, can experience this South African Table lunch. What I love about it, is that it only costs R295 per person! I really feel this is SUCH good value for money. A glass of sparkling wine, three other glasses of wine, a snack platter to share, THREE courses AND you get to chat with the Chef! I honestly feel this is one of the best value-for-money experiences currently on offer and well worth a visit!
The South African Table takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 12:00 – 13:00. Be sure to arrive on time as, due to the nature of the lunch, the rest of the people at the table are waiting!
Reservations can be made in advance at email@example.com or +27 (0)21 876 8002.
Thanks so much to Hatch Communications, Chef Pieter, your fantastic kitchen team, Conway, and the Leopard's Leap team for having us! I feel like we are now part of your ever-growing family!
Thanks also for not only including The Husband, but also my sister and brother-in-law too! I'm sure they will be back soon for more of the malva pudding! 🙂
Contact: +27 (0)21 876 8002
Address: R45, Main Road, Franschhoek
Star Rating: ****
Note: We were invited to attend the South African Table experience and thus our lunch was complimentary. This review is thus solely based on this specific experience. The chef, however, was not aware that we were writing about the lunch though, and so I can safely say that you should receive such warm hospitality when you visit too.