After a stint working as a celebrity chef overseas, cooking for the likes of Mariah Carey and other fussy Hollywood types, Chef Jenny Ward decided to come home and get back to basics with a new concept restaurant that challenges everything, we know about fine dining. Fast-Fine Dining is a popular trend overseas but when Jenny opened her now super popular spot a year ago the concept was almost unheard of in SA. To be honest, I’ve become tired of buying into the hype of all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds new restaurant openings in Cape Town, only to be left feeling underwhelmed, but with its uncomplicated menu and laid-back approach to fine dining, Chefs deserves every last bit of hype it gets. It’s unlike any restaurant I have been to in Cape Town and most importantly, the food is bloody delicious!
I popped into Chefs a few weeks ago to sample the new summer menu and this being my first visit I was a little bit like a kid in a candy store. If you’re a foodie then you will love this open concept restaurant which gives you a peek into the goings-in the kitchen. But it’s not just the idea of getting a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making the dishes on the menu that fascinated me, the whole concept of Chefs is too cool for words. Loads of restaurants have theatre-style kitchens these days but Jenny Ward decided to take it one step further by cutting the fat and creating a restaurant that is all about the food. At Chefs, there are no waiters, no complicated formal menus, nor overly pretentious decor – just great food!
I’m a big fan of fine dining but sometimes you want fine dining quality food without all the fuss that comes with going to a fancy-pants restaurant. Chefs is a place where great food is served without all the fuss that normally surrounds a first-class meal and it is indeed refreshing. Ward is a master of wood-fired cooking and honest food. Her love for simple and traditional cuisine, using fresh and seasonal ingredients and her desire to serve her meals as quickly and economically as possible is a winning combination. Jenny creates her new menu daily depending on the weather and what’s fresh from her suppliers and there’s an element of surprise every time you dine at the Gardens eatery.
Each day there are only three main meal items (usually one vegetarian, one meat, and one fish) and one dessert on the menu with the daily menu being posted on the Chefs’ website every morning to give diners a chance to pre-plan their visit and salivate over the thought of what’s to come at lunch or dinner time. Once you arrive at the canteen-style eatery Jenny herself will greet you at your table and present you with a tablet displaying the menu items for that day. You simply pick your meal and let her know if you’re in the mood for dessert and leave the rest up to the kitchen. As for drinks, the selection is simple with a few homemade cordials as well as carefully selected locals wines and beers to choose from.
The day I visited the eatery was serving a delicious homemade Pink Raspberry Lemonade which I used to wash down the Rosemary Burnt Butter Wood Roast Chicken (R165) I ordered for lunch. Served with a side of chilli salsa and whipped yoghurt mayonnaise, moreish triple cooked chips and a beautifully fresh salad of crisp summer leaves, fennel, baby greens, crushed feta, and caramelised seeds, this dish was a true taste sensation. The chicken was incredibly tender and juicy and each bite offered a fresh burst of citrus with just a touch of heat. It was roasted chicken at its very best and the portion size was super generous (I was served half a chicken!) – two ladies could easily share this dish for lunch.
I didn’t have much space left after the chicken extravaganza but I did manage to sneak in a few bites of the dessert of the day – a Smoky Vanilla Crème Brulée. Baked to perfection, this sweet treat was served with a mint and pineapple sorbet which helped to cut the sweetness of the surprisingly light custard in the Crème Brulée and add a touch of freshness. This dessert was Crème Brulée as it should be and I loved that it wasn’t overly heavy or sweet – it was indeed a welcomed treat after my heavy main course!
With their generous portions and reasonably priced drinks menu, Chefs is indeed a breath of fresh air in the Cape Town restaurant scene. The food is truly exceptional and gives guests the opportunity to enjoy top-quality food made from the freshest ingredients in a more casual and accessible way.
The eatery is open for both lunch and dinner, Monday to Friday and they don’t take bookings so it’s best to get there early to secure your spot. The kitchen opens at 12:00 for lunch and closes at 20:30 for dinner but dinner guests are welcome to sit and enjoy the space and order more drinks once the kitchen has closed.