REVIEW: Poolside Elgin eating

dsc_0014.jpg Most restaurants tweak their menus and ease up a little on staff training after they’ve made it through the first few chaotic weeks. The Pool Room at Oak Valley is certainly still in that test run phase, but a very pleasant lunch during one of the Elgin Open Gardens weekends suggests that they’ve got a winning summertime formula for a daytime restaurant and deli. The light-toned eatery is centred around a sparkling swimming pool (no dipping allowed), with cane furniture, tables and umbrellas lining either side. A raised area accommodates more diners.

The Pool Room menu is small and simple, the presentation classy. Everything is focused on what Oak Valley rears, grows or bakes. In other words, grass-fed beef and acorn-fed pork which the Rawbone-Viljoen family has spent years developing on their expansive farm. Vegetables and herbs are also grown behind the restaurant. dsc_0018.jpg There is good bread from ciabatta to baguettes and sourdough. Former Joburg restaurateur Nicole Precoudis has dry-cured a charcuterie range that includes pancetta, saucisson sec and an orange and walnut salami. Precoudis’ excellent Terre Madre MCC-style apple cider is also on the wine list and worth searching out.

Three of us ordered most of the savoury menu, washed down with chilled Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc (R85). We shared a charcuterie platter, followed by a grilled vegetable salad with chickpeas and goat’s cheese (R55), and a generous portion of two plump acorn-fed pork loin chops (R95) served with a creamy wholegrain mustard cider sauce. ov_gourmet_burger.jpg The accompanying handcut crispy fries are always served with homemade mayonnaise. Fries also accompany the gourmet burger, made from farm free-range beef, served with a mature Huguenot cheese, red onions and pickle - even the bun is homemade. No evidence yet of the pricy marbled Wagyu beef Oak Valley is producing, but I’m told it will be on offer from time to time. Thumbs up for simple and attractively presented dishes with an emphasis on free-range and farm-grown items. Desserts are on offer - homemade apple tart and lemon tart - but we didn’t get that far.

dsc_0013.jpg At this stage more of the charcuterie seems to be available for purchase in the Deli than on the menu – an R85 charcuterie platter included pancetta with items such as rare roast beef, liver terrine, rillettes and cheese. But then it’s near impossible to leave without Deli shopping. Ready-to-cook meats such as pork belly and shank vie with Precoudis’ stylishly bottled strawberry jam and tomato and chili sauces. There are inexpensive sweet bakes and cut flowers (Oak Valley supplies Woolworths). The legendary Christmas cakes made by Elgin neighbour Elizabeth Wood are worth seeking out, and Wood’s Rockhaven extra virgin olive oil is the house oil on diners’ tables.

THE POOL ROOM, Oak Valley Estate, Oak Avenue, Elgin, Tel 021 859 4111 Oak Valley. Check opening times.