Sticky and crispy lamb.
Sticky and crispy lamb.
Image: Supplied

Stellenbosch’s buzzing food scene has been enriched by a host of talented young chefs as they branch out from the places at which they cut their teeth, and open their own restaurants. One such chef is Jess van Dyk, who has spent the last few years working at the helm of La Colombe group’s Protégé restaurant, and who has now opened Post & Pepper.  

Located within the historic Oude Postkantoor building in Stellenbosch, old meets new, as the promising young chef cooks up fresh takes on classics — with touches of Asian- and SA-inspired flavours — within the modern interiors of the new eatery, which aims to deliver fine fare without the fuss.

The space itself is beautiful, retaining old aspects of the original building including the magnificent window frames and contrasting them with plush hues of gold, grey and deep emerald green along with textures of natural wood.

The menu runs 10 dishes long and has been designed for sharing, with the suggested ordering approach being to enjoy five to seven dishes per couple. Starting from the top down, the dishes are listed in order from smaller lighter starter-style dishes to the heavier, richer mains.

We deliberate and eventually whittle our selection down to eight small plates. Excluding desserts, it’s a little more than recommended but we reason that the oyster and bread courses don’t really count and nor should dessert because, well, that’s its own occasion.

Bread course with home-cured olives.
Bread course with home-cured olives.
Image: Supplied

Start with the aforementioned oysters, here they’re dressed in Ssamjang with cubed green apple and textures of lime and curry leaf. It’s an interesting little mix of flavour, the spicy sauce cut through by the tart apple and lime components with the curry leaf adding an extra dimension of texture. A less is more approach to saucing would allow the oysters natural ocean-like salinity and umami to come to the fore here.

Pan fried gnocchi.
Pan fried gnocchi.
Image: Supplied

Crispy and sticky lamb lollipops arrive next, they’re more about the scrumptious glaze and charred foam than the meat. The tender cuts, glazed in a flavour-forward Asian style bbq and dusted with sesame seeds, are to be dipped into the smoky, charred spring onion espuma. While I would’ve loved to have tasted the lamb itself through the sticky sauce, the dish still delivers punchy and bold mouthfuls.

The standout dish was undoubtedly the pan-fried gnocchi with textures of Jerusalem artichoke, roasted cauliflower and chestnut chutney. The pillow-like potato puffs accompanied by comforting winter flavours, make a wonderfully balanced, warm and hearty dish. The summer salad, with tomatoes done three ways, an olive crumb and fior di latte bursts with freshness and acidity, making for a perfect pairing with the richer gnocchi.

Pan fried gnocchi.
Pan fried gnocchi.
Image: Supplied
Smoked Springbok and chicken liver.
Smoked Springbok and chicken liver.
Image: Supplied
Oysters.
Oysters.
Image: Supplied

It’s then onto the five-spice pork dumplings which are memorable for their deep and tasty Szechuan broth with peanuts and chilli flakes; and the smoked springbok and chicken liver parfait, which is the dish most reminiscent of the dishes the chef cooked up at Protégé.

Mains come to a close with fried mac n cheese, which arrives topped with the most succulent pulled smoked-short rib, a host of pickles and accompanied by a Parmesan velouté. It’s a wholesome dish and had it had just slightly more cheese with the macaroni itself, it would’ve been elevated from very good to outstanding.

Salted chocolate cremeux with triple vanilla ice cream.
Salted chocolate cremeux with triple vanilla ice cream.
Image: Supplied

Last but not least is dessert: the salted chocolate cremeux arrives covered with coco-pop-esque accoutrements and a triple vanilla ice cream. It’s all the wonders of a childhood breakfast with an extra side of chocolate and then some. It’s absolutely, decadently, delicious and ends the meal on an absolute high.

Post and Pepper is undoubtedly one to watch; I for one can’t wait to see the establishment grow from strength to strength. With the promise it’s showing after a mere few months since opening, I’m certain we can expect big things from chef Jess and team as they settle into their magnificent new home. I look forward to my next visit already.

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