REVIEW: Prickly fare at a Robertson restaurant

Unusual but tasty: pecan nut soufflé
On a rare weekend in Robertson, we were after a lunch stop worthy of a detour. Food lovers I asked all pointed to one place. Mo & Rose Wine Bistro, at Soekershof guesthouse, on the Robertson-Ashton road.

Nearly four years ago German Axel Daniel bought Soekershof with his Italian wife Monica. The luxury guesthouse is the couple’s main focus. Daniel, using his hotel management training, also creates a two and three-course bistro menu. Belgians Jeff ‘chef’ van Moffelen and wife Ilse alternate with Daniel in the kitchen.

We were seated at modern, open-air veranda tables, with grand glimpses of the cactus garden established in 1953. I discovered that fact afterwards – our friendly waiter could only talk food.

dsc_0011.jpg Kranskop wooded Chardonnay, and De Wetshof Limelight Pinot Noir, were both R35 a Spiegelau glass. Main courses showed off vibrant colours but interspersed too many strong flavours. Perfect country greens, but confit duck saltiness and dry, smoky duck-breast slices. Peculiar beetroot dumplings contained fried croutons.

The bacon-wrapped pork fillet dish was tender but too intense with its sundried tomato pesto sauce, over a barley and diced veg ‘risotto’.

The best dishes were starters. Homemade ravioli pockets: two with feta and mint; two holding lamb ragu in a light, herby tomato sauce. And a granular, unusual pecan nut soufflé ‘special’. Quietly comforting, its red onion jam not overly sweet.

A smartly dressed Afrikaans family ordered. Dutch tourists chattered. Sadly a shared chocolate fondant partnering pleasant cherry compote lacked a signature bittersweet kick. A kitchen chat revealed the dark Valrhona chocolate hadn’t arrived that week.

Confit and smoked duck with beetroot dumplings
We loved the local quiver tree, a toothpick cactus from Bolivia and the plump golden barrel cactus from Mexico, cheekily named mother in law’s seat. Effort went into a charmingly presented meal. But on a late summer’s day the garden stole the show.

What to eat Look to the monthly changing menu, which is tweaked around available ingredients.

When to go Sunday lunch – the best time to appreciate the views.

Who to take Your partner, and a couple of friends.

What not to do Get too hung up on the food. Keep in mind this is a guesthouse, occasionally serving diners from elsewhere.

What to drink Affordable, boutique labels from an extensive, mostly Robertson list. Magnums, vintage wines and craft beer also on offer.

Whatever you do don’t miss the Soekershof cactus garden, where some of the oldest cacti in South Africa grow. Take a stroll before dessert.

How much? Two courses at R250. Three courses at R310.

The verdict Go if staying over in Robertson but don’t make a special trip.

MO & ROSE WINE BISTRO, Klaasvoogds West, Robertson. Open for Sunday lunch and dinner Wednesday to Saturday, mid-April until October. Tel 023-626-4134, Mo & Rose

This review appeared in The Times on 1 April 2015.