FOODSTUFF: Restaurant Seven opens in numeric style

samanthaclifton-sevenrestaurant-georgejardine.jpg Somerset West dining has just got more exciting. New Restaurant Seven with George Jardine is upping the ante for quality smart casual dining, just off the main street.

“This is a restaurant for young professionals from Somerset West, who don’t mind spending R20 more if they know they’re getting a superior product,” says Scottish chef-owner George Jardine.

Open for lunch and dinner in shop seven of a small upmarket shopping centre, it has a wine bar and a florist as tenant neighbours.

Previously, Somerset West locals made up about 50% of the clientele at Jardine’s two other Stellenbosch restaurants. Now they don’t need to travel to eat well.

samanthaclifton-sevenrestaurant-00007.jpg INTERIORS
Jardine and Le Riche sourced most of the restaurant décor elements themselves. The open kitchen and the entrance area show off eyecatching wallpaper customised to the numeric theme, using favoured film, advertising and book icons. These include a 7 Up soft drink, agent 007’s From Russia with Love, to Enid Blyton’s book Secret Seven and Yul Brynner starring in sixties Western The Magnificent Seven.

Unstained tables and chairs in ash wood were crafted by Somerset West furniture designer Louw Roets. Dirty olive or tan leather is used for the seats. The lighter wood contrasts the restaurant’s walls in dirty green, and yellow with a teabag stain. The long dining space is framed by a charcoal ceiling. Charcoal banquette seating, upholstered in textured green fabric, cleverly double as storage units.

Spare a moment to admire the floor. The former tenant was a laundry with unsightly square vinyl tiles, but now an epoxy coating has transformed worn vinyl indents into an arresting contemporary surface.

oysters Bloody Mary
Seven head chef Brendan Thorncroft previously worked at Jordan restaurant with George Jardine, and at Restaurant Jardine in central Stellenbosch. He is not keen to label the Somerset West restaurant’s style. “The food is just honest food cooked well: three, four, five ingredients,” says Thorncroft. “We bring the best out of the ingredient with no funny things added.”

Jardine agrees. “If you call it bistro, people will say that it’s not really a bistro. So we said, let’s just call it shop seven.”

Brendan Thorncroft
The single-page menu seems deceptively uncomplicated, hiding the skill and input that goes into making proper stocks and sauces. Take the artisanal brioche toast partnering bone marrow richness with earthy mushroom duxelles in stocky jus. Or the steak, partnered with unctuous béarnaise and shallots currently, but perhaps a bourguignon or pepper sauce in future renditions.

As starter options there are signature Saldanha oysters, served with a Bloody Mary and celery splash. Or perhaps, an outstanding prawn boudin blanc starter using pressed, crumbed prawn and hake, resting on an intense prawn bisque pool of salty intensity, with crushed broad beans and pea puree.

sirloin béarnaise with charred shallots
“Going into summer we’ll see more things such as the green gazpacho,” says Thorncroft. This delicious chilled soup is a vibrant mix of steamed leek and zucchini with a broad bean, diced avo and cucumber base. Served with Buffalo milk labneh, it’s finished with toasted almond nibs.

Even non vegetarians will enjoy the roasted celeriac dish with silky celeriac velouté, perky hazelnut crust and prune butter. Salad or handcut chips are side orders.

For dessert, most times you’ll find a decadent dessert for dark chocolate lovers, or the cheese trolley can be wheeled out for those with savoury tastes. Don’t miss the signature warm, sweet soufflé — mine was Grand Marnier, flambéed, with a dollop of ice cream dropped in.

samanthaclifton-sevenrestaurant-00138.jpg Seven’s food is classics with a twist: visually appealing plates served in a welcoming environment. The long space is noisy when full of diners. It feels like a neighbourhood restaurant yet the crafted plates are pitching quite a bit higher at people who enjoy food and as Jardine puts it “want to eat everything”.

RESTAURANT SEVEN WITH GEORGE JARDINE Shop 7, Drama Street, Somerset West. Open for lunch and dinner Tues to Sat.
Tel 021-851-3146, Restaurant Seven with George Jardine

A version of this appeared in Business Day HomeFront in October 2018