This wasn’t my first time at Makaron. I’d been lucky enough to enjoy a meal at this incredible restaurant before. Full disclosure, I fell head over heals for this quirky spot from my very first visit – from the bright green cacti flanking the desert-themed courtyard to the beautiful minimalism of the interior, I loved it all. This time around I was there to taste the new small plates menu crafted by head chef, Lucas Carstens and his team. As someone with a real food envy problem, small plates appeal to me. They give you, and the hordes of other greedy buggers (also known as friends and family), at your table a chance to share and try a little of everything from the menu. If you’re concerned about leaving hungry, don’t sweat it, while the plates are small, the portions are indeed a little more generous than most other ‘tapas-style’ dining spots I’ve been to and each morsel is packed with flavour.
The exciting new menu offers diners a choice of 18 small plates, and although the menu is broken into a recommended journey of ‘Suggested Start’, ‘Followed Up By’, ‘The Serious Choice’ and ‘To Finish’, guests are left free to curate their own culinary experience. No matter what you decide, the small feast always starts with an amuse bouche (compliments of the kitchen) of leaves from the Majeka vegetable gardens, tossed in rooibos vinegar and served alongside mielie pap croquette & sheba, brioche toast with cheese & korrelkonfyt, and sourdough bread with a spiced butter dip. If you’re not quite sure what you’re getting yourself into with this whole ‘small plates’ business then this bread course will help to set your fears aside. It really does set the scene for what’s to come … pure culinary bliss.
As for the rest of the menu, chef Carstens has made sure that each dish focuses on just a few ingredients, showcasing those as the hero on the plate. I got the chance to sample a fair bit from the new menu but a few dishes stood out for me as must-tries when you visit. Chef Carsten’s much-loved baby marrow risotto remains on the menu and if you haven’t tried this dish it should be the first thing you order. It’s a rather unusual dish that will leave you feeling like you’ve popped down a culinary rabbit hole only to emerge in a world where eggs masquerade as parmesan cheese and it’s perfectly acceptable to dip bread in a bowl full of melted butter. Topped with raw mushrooms and infused with truffle, the secret ingredient is the shavings of cured egg yolk that provide an extra dollop of richness to the perfectly cooked Arborio rice.
Another winner of note is the beef tartar poke bowl. This fresh dish offers a South African twist on a traditional Hawaiian dish and is brilliantly executed. The combination of raw beef tartar, nori, avocado, and a sesame crisp sweetened with honey make this dish a must try for sushi lovers. If it’s different you’re after then you certainly also need to try the house made duck breast ham served with baby figs and cos lettuce. Brined for three days, then cured for up to three weeks, it arrives thinly sliced over baby figs done three ways (fresh, dried and pickled in a red gastrique). I also loved the pan-fried springbok rump – topped with bacon crumb, pickled red onions and a beetroot crisp, this generous dish offers bold, uncomplicated flavours that you won’t soon forget.
As for dessert, there’s no doubt you need to leave room for the sweet stuff when enjoying this menu. If you’ve only got space for one thing then make it the Leipoldt se melktert ice cream sandwich. This playful cinnamon-infused ‘ice cream sandwich’ was dreamed up using an original milk tart recipe from C. Louis Leipoldt as the inspiration. Chocolate fans will adore the Dark Chocolate Cremeux with almond milk ice cream served with a side of home-brewed ginger beer. This delightful combination of sweet and bitter flavours is a great way to end your meal and ready your palate for an after dinner coffee or cup of tea.
Makaron Restaurant is open daily for dinner from 18:30 – 20:30 (closed on Wednesdays in winter). Diners can choose between either four (R450), five (R565), or six (R675) courses from the ’small plates’ menu with an optional wine pairing available, at a cost of R770 (4-course), R940 (5-course), or R1100 (6-course) for both food and wine. There’s also a brilliant winter special on at the moment which will allow you to spend the night at the beautiful Majeka House and enjoy dinner! Pay only R1420 per person sharing a night including breakfast and dinner at Makaron, available from Sunday to Thursday, May to end of August 2017.
Find Makaron at Majeka House & Spa at 26-32 Houtkapper Street, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch. For bookings call 021 880 1549 or email email@example.com. For more information visit the Majeka House website.