A farmer’s son from Gweru, Zimbabwe (a tiny little place in the middle of the country) Jack Coetzee has grown up with not only a deep love of food, but a profound respect and understanding of it too — a result of having witnessed first-hand the effort that goes into growing, rearing, and preparing produce. It is this lived experience that has shaped both his food philosophy as a chef, and now what he brings to Gåte Restaurant — the fine-dining restaurant on Stellenbosch’s majestic Quoin Rock estate.
A self-described resourceful minimalist, Coetzee’s food is an homage to the produce he works with, often incorporating the ingredients from nose-to-tail or root-to-top. In his eyes, a carrot top is as important as caviar and should be used to equal effect — a mindset that continues to push him to discover ancient techniques, forgotten ingredients and alternative cooking methods, all of which he brings with him as he embarks on this new project.
Speaking about Gåte, Coetzee is excited about the new location and all the points of inspiration it brings with it — whether it be people, produce or perspective. He’s done away with the molecular gastronomy, wiped the slate clean and is heading in a refreshing, new direction. It’s one that puts emphasis on Southern African ingredients, cooking techniques and, when possible, farm-to-table cooking — drawing from the bountiful array of ingredients available on his doorstep.
“There is already so much beautiful produce on the farm. We have over 12 varieties of fynbos, pine trees, black wattle trees and more. Our nursery also produces all our microgreens, too, while our other sites will soon provide us with Wagyu, venison, raw honey, honey bush and speciality vegetables.”
He’s calling the concept “contemporary Southern African cuisine” and the experience has seen the chef embark on a culinary journey; investigating, and discovering the region’s numerous cultures, techniques and ingredients, hoping to showcase them to the best of his abilities with a fine-dining touch.
On the menu, guests can expect the likes of wagyu sirloin served with a baobab labneh, mopane jus and Baleni salt. The chef, clearly excited about the dish, describes it like this: “The labneh has an incredible acidity from the baobab which cuts through the richness of the wagyu. The Baleni salt — which is sourced from Limpopo — complements the dish beautifully, really enhancing the flavours as well as highlighting the wine we’ve paired with it.”
The pre-dessert is another of the chef’s favourites: pine needle sorbet served with Australian bush pine seeds. “We harvest the pine needles and Australian bush pine seeds from the farm, and they’re such wonderful ingredients. The tannins in the pine needles leave your mouth refreshed and dry as a bone. I think it’s a perfect prequel to dessert,” says Coetzee. This, the chef teases, is just a taste of what is to come.
The dining options include a seven-course dinner menu, a five-course lunch menu (a five-course vegan option is available, too), and an à la carte offering. Those who opt for the wine pairing will be treated to a selection of wines from Quoin Rock and neighbouring Knorhoek. Working closely with Quoin Rock winemaker Schalk Opperman and viticulturist Nico Walters has allowed Coetzee to create wine pairings that show off the estate’s terroir to full effect.
• The restaurant is open for lunch from Wednesday to Saturday, and for dinner from Thursday to Saturday. Visit quoinrock.co.za/gate-restaurant