Review: Critically Acclaimed Farro Restaurant Opens at Gabriëlskloof Wine Farm

Farro menu

When it comes to restaurants, the Cape winelands is full of pretentious eateries offering tasting menus that cost more than your monthly car insurance payment. Sure, these are some of the best restaurants in the country, but 10-course tasting menus aren’t exactly something most can afford, or want, to experience every weekend. Sometimes you just want to enjoy a delicious plate of food, paired with an equally delicious glass of wine, in a beautiful setting. Fortunately, Gabriëlskloof Wine Farm in Botrivier is offering just that with the launch of the much-loved Joburg import, Farro.

The brainchild of dynamic husband and wife team, Alex and Eloise Windebank, Farro enjoyed a very successful two years as the talk of the town in Johannesburg’s trendy suburb of Illovo. But, while the critically acclaimed restaurant was often credited as the start of a new era for the restaurant scene in Jozi, the Windebank’s made the difficult decision to close their beloved eatery at the beginning of the national lockdown.

Gabriëlskloof and Farro
Gabriëlskloof & Farro (L-R) – Nicolene Finalyson, Alex & Eloise Windebank from Farro and Peter-Allen Finlayson from Gabriëlskloof.

But, after a year-long stint in the corporate world, the two decided that it was once again time to get back into restaurants, this time with a pop-up dining experience at Café Frank on Cape Town’s Bree Street. Capetonians quickly lined up to experience a taste of the fine modern European food for which Farro had become renowned. Of course, as excited as we were to have them in Cape Town, we knew it was only a matter of time before Farro found a permanent, more glamorous home.

Visiting Gabriëlskloof Wine Farm for the first time, it’s clear that Farro and Gabriëlskloof go together like copy and paste. The relaxed-luxury vibe of Farro’s menu is the perfect fit for a salt-of-the-earth wine farm like Gabriëlskloof, where collaboration and passion projects are not only encouraged, but celebrated.

Gabriëlskloof wines

“We love the fact that the food at Farro and our Gabriëlskloof wine really shine together,” says Peter-Allen Finlayson, co-owner and cellarmaster at Gabriëlskloof. “The food is honest and soulful; an approach that fits beautifully with our attitude towards winemaking at Gabriëlskloof.”

A taste of Gabriëlskloof Wine Farm

Upon arriving at Gabriëlskloof we were greeted with a glass of Madame Lucy MCC (one of Gabriëlskloof’s many experimental project wines) before heading out on a tour of the farm. Peter-Allan Finlayson, and the Gabriëlskloof team, take great pride in giving themselves space to experiment with alternative fermentation and ageing methods. The wines in the Projects Range offer wine lovers something a little different in limited batches while giving the team an opportunity to play.

Gabriëlskloof wines

This spirit of experimentation was made even more clear on our tour, where we were given the opportunity to see and taste straight from the amphorae. Elegantly displayed in a stunning cathedral-like setting, these human-sized clay pots stand proudly alongside the classic wine barrels that we’ve come to associate with modern winemaking. With floor-to-ceiling windows offering sweeping views of the valley, there’s no better place to enjoy a first taste of an amphora wine before it has been blended and bottled.

Amphora wine is a growing trend in South Africa, with many winemakers producing interesting and exquisite wines that push the boundaries of traditional flavour profiles. The amphora can add a unique component to a blend and is often used to add more complexity and freshness. The white amphora wines we sampled at Gabriëlskloof offered a delicious preview of what wine lovers can expect from their new vintages, and it is indeed very exciting stuff!

Gabriëlskloof wine farm

If you get the opportunity to pop into Gabriëlskloof you simply cannot leave without a trip to the cosy tasting room of this Overberg wine farm. Guests can book tastings online via the Gabriëlskloof website. The farm offers two tasting options, (with the wine tasting fee waived with wine purchase). The Taste of Gabriëlskloof (R60 per person for 5 wines) experience takes you through the Gabriëlskloof range of wines. When available, guests will also be able to try wines from the Projects Series. The Taste the Landscape experience (R150 per person) invites you to slow down and taste the wines in the Landscape Series, with a specific focus on terroir. Specialised tastings with the winemaker or cellar master are also available upon request and with advanced booking.

Don’t call it a comeback

The infinitely wise, LL Cool J said it best; “Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years.” With this exciting new location, Farro at Gabriëlskloof is by no means a comeback for the successful eatery, but rather a new chapter in its colourful story. The new version of Farrow will see a seasonally led à la carte menu, with dishes constantly evolving to celebrate all the ingredients the Botrivier region has to offer. Chef Alex Windebank’s classic-meets-comfort style of cooking will be showcased once more with a refined, pared-back approach to farm-style dining. The menu is all about embracing simplicity and offering an elevated take on comfort food.

Farro
Rump, Tomato, Chips & Mushroom Aioli.

“This is the next chapter for Farro. More relaxed but with the food we love and for which, we hope, we have become known,” says Alex. “It’s about taking our respect for both food and locality to the next level. There’s such a wealth of produce here that we just didn’t have access to previously that’s going to help drive my culinary ethos and direction in a way I just couldn’t before. It’s all about well-grown produce, treated with respect to bring out the maximum flavour.”

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Fans of Farrowill be thrilled to find old favourites on the menu; including the velvety duck liver parfait, buttery brioche toast, seasonal veloutés, and a melt-in-the-mouth pork belly with mustard sauce and local greens. These are joined by a selection of dishes inspired by the new farm locale and country way of life in the Overberg — think marbled ribeye and chips, home-smoked Elgin trout, Cheeseburger and chips, and country-style terrines with pickles and preserves from the abundant harvest of the Gabriëlskloof kitchen garden.

Farro Polenta Cake and Apple
Farro Polenta Cake and Apple.

Exploring Farro in 3 courses

I must be honest; sitting down for lunch at Farro for the first time felt a little overwhelming. Not because the menu is confusing; in fact, just like the food, the 1-page menu is simple and gets down to business with succinct dish descriptions. I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to be starstruck by a restaurant, but I was scared to order the wrong thing and miss out on the dish you’re supposed to order when visiting the famous Farro. My internal dialogue battled with whether to start with the much talked about Duck Liver Parfait, served with quince and brioche toast (R100) or to try something new, like the Tomato Rarebit Tart (R90). Fortunately for me, it quickly became clear that anything you order at Farro is the right thing to order.

In the end, my craving for toast settled the debate and I opted for the classic Duck Liver starter, which is everything they said it would be, and more. Velvety soft, loaded with flavour, and delightfully simple, this refined take on the classic ‘pate and toast’ is truly sensational. The sweetness of the brioche and quince perfectly balances with the rich buttery flavour of the parfait, while the crunch from the toast and smooth parfait makes for a delightfully satisfying mouthful.

Farro at Gabriëlskloof
Duck Liver Parfait, Quince, and Brioche.

For mains, I had the grilled Hake with Crayfish and Dill Pickle Cream. Served with a battered crayfish tail in a smooth Dill Pickle Cream, this seafood treat is the perfect winter dish. The cream was the standout of the dish for me, boasting all the salty, ‘briney’ goodness of dill pickles in a rich and creamy sauce that elevated the mild sweetness of the hake and salty-sweet flavour of the crayfish. I made sure to mop up every last drop of the cream before my plate was whisked away by the super attentive Farro staff.

Ending off my meal was another opportunity for internal debate. Presented with the difficult choice between a Bowl of Ices (R70) or Chocolate Brownie with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Milk Sorbet (R90), I finally opted to take my pick of the famous Farro ice cream and sorbet selection and enjoyed a trio of Salted Caramel ice cream, Milk Sorbet, and Malt ice cream. If you consider yourself somewhat of an ice cream connoisseur, then you simply have to try the ice cream at Farro. The dessert menu offers a variety of delights to choose from, but the ice cream is an absolute triumph in simplicity and well worth trying, even on a chilly winter day.

Farro
West Coast Crayfish Tail, Yoghurt and Curried Bisque.

Whether you’re already a Farro fan, or have not yet had a chance to sample the wares from this delightful eatery, a visit to Farro at Gabriëlskloof is indeed well worth the drive. The restaurant offers visitors an unpretentious atmosphere where good food and a relaxed country attitude are the order of the day. Those with children will also be thrilled to know that families are welcome at Farro, with a kids menu catering for little tummies. So, do yourself, and your loved ones, a favour and take a morning or afternoon to enjoy the simple things in life at a restaurant where simplicity is anything but ordinary.

Farro at Gabriëlskloof is open for breakfast and lunch from Monday to Sunday from 09:00 – 17:00 (last orders in at 15:00). Bookings can be made online. No reservations will be taken by email.

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