Spring has sprung, along with a bevy of new establishments. When the news broke that acclaimed chef Margot Janse would be leaving The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, everyone was wondering what would replace the iconic Franschhoek landmark, and who might be at the helm. Fast-forward to July, and Le Quartier Francais, now part of the Leeu Collection of luxury properties, has undergone a refined refurbishment and opened a brand-new restaurant, La Petite Colombe. The restaurant is collaboration between La Colombe’s proprietors, chefs and business partners Scot Kirton (Eat Out Chef of the Year 2015) and head chef James Gaag. Worry not, though, the duo will not be moving from their famed Constantia location; they have entrusted the task of heading the new kitchen to young chef John Norris-Rogers.

On our maiden visit, manager Morné Wessels, a Le Quartier Francais stalwart who is praised and respected for his exemplary standards, suggested we give the full Gourmand Menu with wine pairing a try (R1 600). Not that we ever doubted him, but he was certainly right to suggest the full food and wine pairing, because it was sensational. Kudos to the little-known Norris-Rogers — the young chef is likely to become a household name soon. Dish after dish at La Petite Colombe lived up to its billing, with carefully thought-out, French-inspired cuisine that excites the eye and dazzles the palate, served with orchestral precision.

Now for our pairing of the month. I’ve opted to choose two, because it was simply impossible to pick just one. My first favourite was the Asian-style salmon, aubergine, miso, kalamansi, avo, and cucumber, paired with the Fable Mountain Jackal Bird. “The salmon dish has an array of flavours and textures, which play well with the complex five-grape variety blend,” Wessels says. My other favourite was the delicate seared Wagyu beef, braised brisket, sweetbread, soubise, burnt thyme, and sherry, paired with Black Elephant Vintners Back Roads Petite Syrah. The burnt thyme jus and sherry veloute adds extra richness to the already flavoursome beef. The dense palate, intense flavours, and healthy tannins of the wine perfectly complement the dish. “Here the wine is as much the star as the dish, because the estate produces only 800 bottles of this wine, and it is available exclusively at La Petite Colombe,” Norris-Rogers says. lapetitecolombe.com

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