FABER restaurant’s philosophy of crafting edible bounty is off to a promising start.
Built in a style similar to the farm’s original 1700 Cape Dutch homestead, FABER is inside the building that holds Avondale’s cellar and wine-tasting area. The restaurant’s high-volume ceilings, terracotta tiles and cement floors contrast with a modern open kitchen that is finished with Moroccan mosaic tiles.
CHEF ERIC BULLPITT EXPLAINS WHY PAARL IS THE PLACE
We wanted a short and catchy name that explained what we were and connected us to Avondale Estate. FABER is not just about being craftsmen: it’s our love for the land and our connection to it … to the chickens that run in the field.
My grandpa had a self-sustaining farm in Rustenburg, so we’d go into the garden if we wanted a salad. Johnathan Grieve, Avondale’s owner, also toils in the vineyards here, so the connection fits. There is nothing more exciting than eating food that has a story.
I’ve always thought of Paarl as that little town just past Stellenbosch. Yet we are just off the N1, closer to Cape Town than to Stellenbosch. FABER is opposite Boschenmeer Golf Estate and Val de Vie. There are people with money to spend. We drove around and thought maybe we could do something special.
Not simple food, but simplicity. Avondale wines are farmed biodynamically so our meat and vegetables won’t come from here primarily. But the idea is to get a lot of our produce from the farm in the next few years, from eggs to broiler chickens and pasture-reared organic beef. Our menu includes what is available in the field, what is on the farm, what is good right now. We serve Avondale’s biodynamic red and white wines, and will offer other labels once we are licensed.
Most of us have lost touch with what farming used to be. We want to showcase Avondale’s chickens and duck and hen eggs from the farm “egg-mobile”. We had a cow that lived its life eating grass from the Avondale field. I had a taste — it’s phenomenal how different it was from feedlot animals.
The chickens running here can’t be poached quickly; they have to be slow-cooked. Chicken isn’t usually an exciting option but this is not your average chicken. It is skinny, so the meat is wilder, almost like guinea fowl. That makes it a special chicken in my eyes. We call the dish the Avondale happy chicken because it was happy until it met its end.
We’re not here to reinvent our cooking. The style is technical but not overcomplicated: a few key ingredients on the plate. The roasted Karoo lamb shoulder is one of the most rustic things we do — it’s so perfect and tender in what it is. It’s served with pumpkin seed pesto, wilted greens and herbs. The menu will always be one page, focused on what is available.
I don’t think we will ever serve a crème brûlée. You might find a soufflé on our menu but with a creative component to it: fermented banana and chocolate, or maybe peaches and beer. Our popular cream cheese and blueberries dessert (cream cheese and honey sorbet, with coconut crumble and blueberry macaron) was inspired by blueberry cheesecake.
FABER Avondale Wines, Paarl. Open Wed to Sun lunch; Wed to Sat dinner.
Tel 021-863-1976 FABER
A version of this appeared in Business Day Homefront in November 2016