A big, unreserved recommendation for the Food Barn! Go eat there, you will love it!
I first heard of The Food Barn a few months ago. I was at a wonderful “Feast of Mindfulness” organised by The Institute for Mindfulness SA. Among the eight or ten people with whom I shared a table at lunch were various people who were passionate about good food, including Stephen Flesch, head of the Cape Town convivium of the Slow Food Movement. (OK, I’m giving myself a small round of applause for linking to such worthy establishments in a single paragraph, and also berating self for not having gone into much more detail about them before.)
I put a question to the table: If it were your birthday this week, and you could choose any restaurant in Cape Town for a special meal, where would you go? Stephen’s recommendation was The Food Barn, which sounded great and which I promptly forgot about for several months until a close friend enthused about it again recently.
So when we all woke up late on Sunday morning, with a lazy rainy day stretching ahead, I called on the off-chance that they might have a table available. They could fit us in for 2.30, which was perfect as it left plenty of time for the meandering drive to Noordhoek.
When we arrived, the restaurant was still full with its main lunch bookings, and our waiter asked somewhat apologetically if we’d mind waiting ten minutes. The restaurant is situated in Noordhoek’s farm village, and I was quite happy to take Kolya for a wander around the lovely plant nursery. The delay turned out serendipitously for me: I found two big, healthy gooseberry plants, mine for the princely sum of R20 a pop (around £1.20).
The big name behind the restaurant is Franck Dangereux, of award-winning La Colombe fame. Dangereux recently teamed up with business Pete de Bruin to bring his signature style of French cuisine to a more rustic, family-style establishment. As the name implies, the restaurant is a converted wooden barn, freshly whitewashed and decorated in a bright, clean modern style. It’s noisy and kid-friendly, with jungle gyms and swings outside for kids (and the kind chefs have included a nice non-threatening kiddie menu too).
The bistro menu offers starter, main and dessert as well as a carafe of wine, for R195; alternatively you can order individual items off the a la carte menu.
For starters, the others at the table tried the bouillabaise, which was rich, delicately spicy and delicious. I opted for possibly the most adventurous thing I’ve ever ordered: hand-chopped steak tartare, which arrived with a tiny fresh quail’s egg perched on top of it. Pouring that raw egg onto my raw meat was, I think, one of my more challenging culinary experiences ever! It was served with three olive-oil drenched French bread croutons and a salad of spicy green leaves, and I loved every mouthful. Next time I think I’ll have to try the goat’s cheese tart or tuna carpaccio, both of which were greatly tempting.
For mains, there were two orders of linefish (fresh tuna), which was served with linguine and an amazingly delicate sauce. I wish I could remember (or download) the menu description, but I notice from the restaurant website that the menu changes frequently, and yesterday’s dishes are not reflected on their online menu. My dad ordered the rack of lamb. He initially looked nonplussed by the minimal portion, but it was a rich dish, with a gorgonzola sauce and served with a candied cocktail shallot tatine and a tiny lamb kofte. It seemed to me that the portions were perfectly sized – neither too hefty nor too petite – for a menu designed to include three courses.
For dessert, the others chose the chocolate and almond Yule biscuit with homemade ice cream, served on an impressively patterned sabayon. I chose the caramelised pear tart with cinnamon ice cream and caramel toffee sauce. It was all utterly heavenly. Service was friendly and unobtrusive, and our waitress happily took Kolya’s tupperware of lunch to the kitchen for warming up. The staff also seemed quite unfazed by my request to turn a few chairs on their sides to cordon off a corner for Kolya to play in without having him get lost in the larger restuarant. This is not something I would be able to do at La Colombe, I don’t think, but it was all just fine at the barn. The restaurant was busy, and we were quite happy to make a long, lingering lunch of it. For three courses plus wine and mineral water, and corkage for an additional bottle of wine we’d brought along, plus 10% tip, the meal came to R710 (about £54 or $78) for three people.