My husband and I choose not to celebrate Valentine's Day on Valentine's Day. I never really enjoy myself when the restaurants are over-crowded and I tend to feel a bit rushed. So we opt for going out on the closest weekend and spending a relaxed, chilled afternoon eating and drinking. (Fun!)
I'd been wanting to try out Bistro 13 for a while and I was so glad we visited. The chef and owner, Nic van Wyk, has done a great job in creating a relaxed, yet elegant setting, with a menu that matches well. The décor is earthy, chic and modern and I felt that the food met these same standards. The restaurant is set out in such a way that you can see the kitchen and the pass. I really love this, as I think it really gives you a feel for the effort that goes into each dish, from the time your order is placed, to the time it is placed in front of you. The dishes are beautifully-presented and you can tell that a lot of care goes into the plating. You're also getting value for money - I found the portions to be hearty and quite filling. (I didn't even have space for dessert, so now I will have to go back!)
For our wine, we ordered the Stellenbosch Vineyard's Sauvignon Blanc (see below) as their tasting room is right next door. This wine was really enjoyable. It costs R120 a bottle or R30 a glass, which is really worth it.
Because we went on a Sunday, we had the option of choosing a two or a three course meal from their a la carte menu. The three course costs R320, which is well-worth it, in my opinion. We chose the two course though, as I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to fit in. If you have a starter and a main, which we did, it costs R265, but you can also choose a main and a dessert for R245.
For the starter, Gary chose the Steak Tatare (see below). It was served with a quail egg on top and croutons on the side. I'm always a bit scared to order 'raw steak', but this was particularly nice, and beautifully-presented.
I ordered the Tempura Prawn (see below). It was served with a smoked padron chili, aubergine and tomato compote, avocado and aioli. The flavours of the smoked chili came through nicely and the prawns were really nice.
For the main course, Gary ordered the Venison Loin (see below left). It was served with cep gnocchi, chargrilled corn, baby marrow puree and thyme sauce. The venison was really tender and the dish had a great flavour. I had the Asian-braised sticky pork belly (see below right), which was served with fragrant black rice, tatsoi and mange tout. I didn't know what tatsoi was, but now I know that it is a leafy vegetable, a bit like spinach, but with a distinct flavour. I really liked the flavours of this dish, but I would have preferred the pork belly to be served in smaller pieces - it was served in a big chunk. However, that is just personal preference. I had never had pork belly served whole before, but I guess it makes the dish more bistro-like. The black rice was also something different and it had a nice flavour, and the crackling on the side was great!
We didn't have space for dessert, but they had some interesting-sounding ones. We probably would have chosen the Lemon curd mille-feuille, which is served with raspberry coulis, Italian meringue and lemon ice cream. They also have a cheese and preserve pairing, which costs R30 extra, where you get 5 cheeses and 3 preserves.
I'd really like to have the Tasting Room Experience when we go back. It costs R95 per person and you get 5 wines paired with little appetisers prepared by the Bistro 13 chefs. The estate (Welmoed Farm) also hosts a Pizza and Wine Festival, which sounds great. It costs R160 per person and includes a tasting glass, five wine tasting coupons, R30 pizza discount vouchers and live entertainment. The next one is at the end of March.
The Welmoed Farm also has another restaurant called The Bus Stop (see below). They serve wood-fired pizzas, burgers, salads and waffles. The concept is pretty cool because it's built around a 1980 yellow bus, which becomes the bar, and the furniture is made up of refurbished bus chairs. And I love that it's situated on water. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll be popping round soon.
OVERALL RATING (based on a Bistro): 86%
Food: 85% - We loved the food and found it to be good value for money.
Wine Selection/Price: 90% - The wine menu has a few wines within each cultivar, which I think is great. They also offer some wines by the glass or carafe. They charge R50 corkage, which is quite steep, but I don't really think you'd need to bring your own wine - the Stellenbosch Vineyards wines are great!
Service: 85% - The service was good. We were seated promptly, our waitress was friendly, efficient and professional. Although the manager was walking around asking if people were okay, he did not ask us.
Ambiance: 85% - The décor was really modern and earthy and thus created a relaxed atmosphere. Although the restaurant was full, the tables weren't too close together, so it wasn't noisy inside. The big windows make it nice and light inside.
Would I go back? Yes, definitely. I'm keen to try the desserts and also to visit the tasting room.
Contact: 021 881 3044
Address: Welmoed Estate, R310 Baden Powell, Stellenbosch
Side note: Unfortunately, Bistro 13 has now closed down. It will be re-opened and re-named Stellenbosch Vineyards Eatery towards the end of March 2017. We look forward to visiting!