FOODSTUFF: Zany macaroon finish at Makaron

dsc_0016.jpg A lunch invitation to experience chef Tanja Kruger’s menu at Makaron this week wasn’t to be missed. Kruger will be competing as part of South Africa’s 2012 Culinary Olympics team, and her skills lean very definitely in a finer dining direction (I realised I’d tried her food once at another venue that never really got off the ground). Kruger seems a good fit for the glammed up, seriously swanky tones and decadent designer pieces of Makaron restaurant at Majeka House luxury guesthouse, set between Stellenbosch and Paradyskloof.

dsc_0009.jpg We only had a taster, but the meal introduced some noteworthy homemade items. These include pink beetroot-infused salt flakes, a black savoury gougère choux pastry ball filled with avocado mousse, and chicken cooked to tender-moist perfection in nasturtium leaves and flowers. Fresh from a stint at Alain Passard’s L’Arpege in Paris, Kruger is on a bit of an edible flower kick. I’d describe the free-range chicken dish as a study in gentleness – lemon veloute, a nasturtium flower beignet, and barley and pea risotto. Elegant Dalla Cia Chardonnay 2011 (predominantly unwooded plus a barrel-fermented dash) kept to the understated theme.

dsc_0014.jpg Eating at Makaron is detail-heavy in surroundings, service and on plates – and some of it takes you by surprise. The coconut pudding served with pineapple sorbet started off with unappealing desiccated coconut dryness, then spooned up a lovely moist crème caramel base below. I don’t often have capacity to eat petit fours after dessert, but lime macaroons here are worth trying. Co-owner Karine Dequeker-Van der Merwe says they regularly try Paris’ finest macaroons and find the fillings too sweet, so Kruger’s macaroons sandwiched by meringue with a limey gel centre seem particularly clever.

Nice to see spunky Swedish sommelier Josephine Gutentoft (showing off the nasturtium chicken base). She’s left Grande Roche to manage Makaron, and will soon be piling the new walk-under-doorway of the glass cellar with interesting labels.

MAKARON, Majeka House luxury guesthouse, Stellenbosch, Tel 021 880 1549 Makaron. A la carte lunch and dinner daily. Menus start at three courses for R295.