REVIEW: Winter weather-friendly eating at Dornier’s Bodega

dsc_0014.jpg There aren’t a lot of city or Wineland restaurants that offer a solid menu, pleasant outdoor spaces and overhead cover from wet Cape winter weather if it sets in. So with rain being a feature of late April and May 2012, Dornier’s Bodega is an all-weather venue worth remembering.

The restaurant offers an uncomplicated, creative chalkboard menu (any two courses at R190 or any three at R240 per person) and a colourful indoor eating area. Tables fill fast on the covered terrace whenever winter days loose their chill - mountain-flanked views of the Dornier winery and orange-tinged autumn trees are easy on the eye. And for younger family members, the proximity to lawns, dsc_0005.jpg
a sandpit and an impressive boat-shaped jungle gym means parents can relax to some degree.

Our group of four adults struggled to find four different starters and main courses to order, but overall the flavours were delicious and the all-round experience made the venue enjoyable. The restaurant advertises “farm cuisine inspired by fresh ingredients” and that is pretty much what is served. There was evidence of a professional chef in colourful plates that sometimes tried too hard, yet clumsiness in some of the execution. The oxtail main special looked divine and was fall-off-the-bone tender, for instance. But it had sweetness overkill from both the tomato sauce surrounding the oxtail and a sweet carrot mash. The chocolate tart (one of only two desserts) was brittle and tasted of flour, served with quite mediocre maraschino cherry ice cream. We were relieved we only ordered one. dsc_0012.jpg

However we loved a starter of creamed snoek-filled fresh tortellini, vibrant and comforting with a pea, mint risotto, creamy sauce and crispy bacon bits. The slowcooked-to-perfection pork belly was flavour-rich and perky with its butternut risotto, ideal starter morsels on a plate. In main courses the free-range ribeye had a salty tang from anchovy butter and dissolved like velvet under the knife. It was a delight to have the steak partnered by great chips sprinkled with rosemary and salt flakes. All redeeming factors.

The Bodega wine list offers a good selection of Stellenbosch labels – I spotted Waterford’s Kevin Arnold Shiraz at R240 - and a plus is that Dornier wine mark ups on cellar door prices are slight. dsc_0013.jpg We sipped flutes of Villiera Brut Rose (R170 per bottle) when the Cocoa Hill Chenin Blanc was sold out. Later we were talked into trying an unfamiliar Dornier Do-X Cabernet Franc 2008. It’s a wine with delicious plummy elegance I’ll order again. It sells at cellar door at R93, and at a very reasonable R123 on the wine list. Service was good with attentive waiters throughout the meal. We lingered for a while afterwards and never had the feeling that we were in the way of staff going home.

BODEGA AT DORNIER, Dornier Wines, Blaauwklippen Road, Stellenbosch, Tel 021 880 1200 Bodega. Check opening times and specials during winter. Children’s menu available.