Liam Tomlin strikes again! Busy building an empire by empowering his young chefs with restaurants to minister over, his latest outpost in Franschhoek is headed by protege Dave Schneider. Taking over the kitchen at Maison, Chefs Warehouse has revamped the space. Cool grey and cream wood give a luxurious feel to the interior, while light-footed waiters ferry trays across the restaurant. Schneider is so tall and muscular it seems impossible for him fit in the cabin-sized kitchen. Possessing the space like a captain in a cockpit, chefs dart and dash behind him, adding little flourishes before his eye glides over dishes, doing a final check as they go out of the kitchen.
Schneider, whose experience includes two year secondment to a butcher, prides himself on his ability to work with produce. Everything at Chefs Warehouse Maison is produced from scratch. Butchering, curing, preserving and baking their way through the seasons, Schneider works with a host of micro-producers and revels in the challenge of receiving small batches of heirloom fruit and vegetables, foraged herbs and seasonal game. They are also the first of the Chefs Warehouse iterations to produce their own bread - a delicious ciabatta straight from the wood-burning oven.
The signature dish - spicy beef sirloin pastrami with horseradish, charred onions and a soft pretzel - showcases the techniques Schneider holds dear. Everything, from the curing, brining and smoking of the pastrami to the pretzel is produced in house. The cured Franschhoek trout, marinated daikon radish, dark rum dressed beetroots and buttermilk labneh was so delicious it caused a fork war with my usually well-mannered dining companion. The standout dish of the night for us was the pork belly with a Vietnamese garden salad - all of the herbs grown locally - smothered in the most delicious spicy peanut dressing, shot through with slivers of grapefruit and pomelo.
All the dishes were paired with wines from the Maison estate, which are only available on location. The most interesting of these was a straw wine - a silky, honey-coloured beverage which paired perfectly with the pecan nut pie with which we rounded off the meal.
Tomlin and his team have a perfectly judged outpost here. Go for lunch under the oak trees, or a leisurely dinner in the warm hub of the restaurant but do go. Definitely go.