I started off this year with a few things on my 2015 bucket list and I’m not even ashamed to say that most of them had something to do with food. Recently I got to tick off one of the things at the top of my list – lunch at Babel, Babylonstoren. I’ve been wanting to visit this restaurant for ages but it was a little difficult when I was living in Joburg for three years. Sure, I visited Cape Town often but for some reason I just couldn’t make it there. So, when I moved back to Cape Town I knew that this was my year. My year to try this eatery that everyone and their dog raves about, and let me just start off my saying that the hype is real people. If you have a foodie bucket list then you need to add a trip to Babel restaurant to the very top right away. But be warned, there’s a 2-month waiting list (eep!)
Before I paid a visit to Babel I imagined it being super fancy pants but when we arrived I was surprised to find an incredibly laid back atmosphere – with no snootiness in sight. The decor of this spot is beautifully minimalist and instead of over complicated table settings you will find nothing but a simple flower or vegetable arrangement on the bare wooden tables. The most striking thing in the room is the back wall, which features a giant cow motif, and doubles as a specials board. Sunlight pours in through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors of the glass-encased restaurant, making it the perfect spot for lunch on a sunny afternoon. But, if the outdoors is where you want to be then you can also book a spot outside in the courtyard.
The incredible menu also leans towards simplicity – with an adventurous edge. The meals at Babel are creative and unlike anything else I’ve ever tried before. Piled high with fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits gathered daily from the Babylonstoren garden, the plates at Babel are a veggie lover’s dream. My favourite thing about Babel is that they don’t like to tamper with the food (especially fresh ingredients) too much – the restaurant believes in serving fruits and veggies with their skins still on and they don’t slash ingredients into unrecognisable bits. The Babel philosophy is pick, clean, serve and the food reflects the colours of the season with each plate sticking to a certain colour palate. In summer you can expect things like Orange Salad of pumpkin, oranges, carrots and maybe a handful of pomegranate seeds; in winter there will perhaps be a slow-cooked leg of lamb to warm you up. I paid a visit in spring so the menu represented green, red, and yellow and a rather exciting selection of in-season ingredients.
For starters I chose the Trout Fish cakes (red) with pickled beetroot, strawberry and radicchio, red onion crisps, blood orange, hay smoked pink oyster mushrooms, ruby peas, pink caesar-style salad dressing (R85). When my plate arrived I was taken aback by just how much there was on the plate and just how beautiful it was. Two soft and crispy fish cakes took centre stage among a cacophony of red, purple, and green vegetables and fruit and disturbing it almost felt like a crime. Needless to say the fish cakes were done beautifully and were the perfect morsel to start off the meal.
From there it was on to mains. I opted for the San Foraged dish of leek and chard stuffed quail with asparagus, honey bush red wine sauce with mushroom, and plum wood smoked farm bacon (R170). My quail was cooked to absolute perfection and I loved that our main course was served with a side of steamed vegetables and crispy roast potatoes. The boyfriend tried the KhoiKhoi Nomadic Herder which offered flamed grilled beef fillet on the bone with kapokbos and root or bulb vegetables, smoked bone marrow, and Babel blend sauce (R210). He offered me a bite of his dish and so naturally I went straight for the bone marrow which was wonderfully buttery and oh-so-indulgent.
Dessert was an epic moment of note and we were offered a choice of 3 dishes which were broken up into Sweet & Savoury, Bitter & Sweet, and Sour & Sweet categories. I opted for the Sweet & Savoury option which offered a warm beetroot doughnut with beetroot salted caramel and Babylonstoren Shiraz ice cream (R65). This dessert was a sight for sore eyes and is definitely one of the most interesting desserts I’ve ever had. If you love mixing savoury and sweet things then you will adore this sweet(ish) treat. The Shiraz ice cream was out of this world amazing and a definite must-try if you find it on the menu when you visit. I also stole a bite of the boyfriend’s Bitter & Sweet dessert which offered Seville marmalade and chocolate fondant with creme anglaise (R85). I must admit, I had major food envy as the fondant was beyond delicious.
As for drinks, Babel offers a wide selection of wines (from Babylonstoren and beyond) at very reasonable prices as well as a selection of craft beers, homemade cordials, iced teas, ginger beer, and other soft drinks.
Once you’re done with lunch don’t forget to stay a while and explore the farm. There’s a magnificent garden to explore and plenty to do on the farm once you’ve filled up.