I must confess to a genuine interest in Hemelhuijs. I am totally biased, having eaten there a few times and just love Jacques Erasmus. I love his talent, his take on design, his approach to food, he is such a special person. The restaurant world of Cape Town is fortunate to have someone like him in its midst. My only regret is that I don’t get there often enough.
Manley Communications sent me a release about Jacques new winter menu. I have eaten, and loved, Jacques’s pan-fried lamb kidneys with mushrooms, mustard and Marmite toast soldiers. His drinks are magical, try the quince and Prosecco Bellini or a white pepper and orange blossom gin with tonic and freshly pressed ruby grapefruit.
IT is a universal truth that things must change and as nature embraces its own flux with the changing of the seasons, so too does Jacques Erasmus, the creative and culinary mastermind of the chic café Hemelhuijs.
Since its inception in October 2010, Erasmus has transformed this creative space according to the seasons and his menu is an ever-changing celebration of seasonal ingredients and inspirations. For many food-and-design aficionados, Hemelhuijs is a favourite, familiar haunt that constantly surprises and offers something new with each visit. This winter is no exception.
As always it is the food that draws one to the warm, beautiful interiors of Hemelhuijs again and again. The menu exemplifies the love for the coldest of seasons. ‘Despite the brutality of winter it is the comfort and the nourishment of the winter flavours that I love’ Jacques says. The menu is an honouring of simple flavours from winter memories of baked quinces and the fragrance of burning peach wood.
So under the heading ‘Humble Beginnings’ you will find the comfort of slow-cooked onion soup, topped with brioche and baked with Kleinrivier Gruyere or if you prefer a cream of roasted cauliflower and chestnut soup with hints of truffle. Under ‘Warm the Heart’, you will find the familiarity of pan-fried lamb kidneys with mushrooms, mustard and Marmite toast soldiers. Or farm style beef and cabbage ‘frikadelle’ served with truffled bean and potato mash. There is also white pepper fried calamari dressed with radish, green apple and miso mayonnaise. Or an open burger of slow roasted beef brisket with prune and peppercorn cream. And for those who could eat breakfast all day long there is the sweetness of old-fashioned sago ‘melkkos’ with a generous dusting of cinnamon, or French toast with homemade quince marmalade and brie. There are poached farm eggs with artichoke hearts and Hollandaise and there are lightly toasted ‘mosbolletjies’ with home made anchoïade.
To drink, you can enjoy hazelnut dark hot chocolate ganache with steamed milk or vanilla dulce du leche with thyme steamed milk, when the weather is cold or enjoy freshly crafted juices like pear, naartjie and carrot, or winter melon, apple and lemon when the wintry sun is out. In the mood for something cool and alcoholic? Then consider the quince and prosecco Bellini or a white pepper and orange blossom gin with tonic and freshly pressed ruby grapefruit.
On the design front, the walls of Hemelhuijs have been painted a river clay terracotta shade and are accented with muted delft tones of blues and whites. Mounds of quinces, when available, are artfully displayed because at Hemelhuijs seasonal produce is visually celebrated as well as deliciously offered on a plate. Against one burnt orange wall stands the multitude of gold-labeled brown laboratory bottles filled with flavour compounds developed by Jacques and known as Flavour Intense. These glass flasks bursting with flavours, were introduced last year and have proved so popular as small gifts or self-indulgent purchases that they are now an integral part of the Hemelhuijs collection – a collection to which Jacques has added something very special this winter. Taking his cue from the Victorian botanists who first collected and preserved a diverse selection of flora for later identification and study, Jacques has introduced The Botanicals, a visual celebration of our own flora. The ever-changing collection of leaves and flowers are lovingly collected and meticulously prepared, pressed on acid free paper or pure linen. Each piece a natural masterpiece – a perfect capturing of a very specific (and fleeting) moment of beauty.
Capturing fleeting moments of beauty is what Jacques Erasmus does best. Whether he presents them to us to enjoy with our eyes or to feast on with our taste buds, oftentimes both. Afterwards we take these moments of beauty away with us, to treasure and remember them when our spirit needs comfort… And therein lies the magic of Hemelhuijs.
Hemelhuijs, located at 71 Waterkant Street, Cape Town.
Open from 9am to 4pm from Monday to Friday and from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.
For reservations call 021 418 2042