“Your soufflé will be ready in five minutes”, I am informed. My main course plate is half-eaten, and I am in the middle of conversation. The waiter is not having a good day. Earlier, my suggested wine pairing with the starter, the Newton Johnson Albarino, was not available by the glass (which makes no sense) but the waiter assured me that I could try a glass of Jordan Riesling as “they are one and the same thing”.
Waiters and the training of wait staff are some of the most difficult components of operating restaurants. Staff turn-over and a modern lack of interest in the job severely test managers – but at the same time what is often lacking is managerial presence to control, smooth things over and create an overall sense of consistency, and hospitality. “Eyes on the floor” is the mantra too many places do not live by.
Jordan is not an example of a restaurant with lacklustre service, which is precisely why my soufflé threat was so surprising. I looked at him. He looked at me, then explained that the dessert takes 20 minutes to prepare and now it was five minutes away. I suggested this is not my concern, but rather his timing challenge. He went off and a second soufflé was made for a more generous time after my main course. It was very good indeed, hazelnut, with a Valrhona chocolate ice cream.
Jordan Restaurant has a dreamy setting, with valley and vineyard views and open glass to soak it all in. The open kitchen creates a modern feel, and the food is art on the plate. The austerity of the space really allows focus on the plate, and the exterior. A choice wine list is naturally led by the superb wines of the Jordan estate itself.
My Albarino-lacking starter was a “honey and soy glazed lamb rib, slightly spicy greens, toasted sesame, crispy garlic and honeyed parsnip”. The crunchy (and perfectly tart) leaves perfectly offset the rich lamb – parsnip also made an appearance on the impressive bread board, as delicious parsnip butter.
The soufflé-threatened main was “confit Joostenberg Vlakte rabbit, roasted potato gnocchi, parsley velouté and crispy pancetta”. Joostenberg is an area renowned for its pork products thanks to the eponymous wine farm with its superb bistro. The rabbit is excellent too, it transpires; the plate was very well executed with the exception of an overly-salty parsley velouté. Alongside me, an “organic carrot and ashed goat’s cheese risotto” was delightful to look at and delicious to boot.
A recent lunch at George Jardine’s other eatery, the tiny Jardine Restaurant in the middle of Stellenbosch, was of similar good to very good quality, and for exceptionally fair costs. So these restaurants both offer finer dining at the right price. If you want the “winelands” experience, Jordan is the one, while a walk-around the historic centre of Stellenbosch village can be well victualised by lunch at Jardine’s old-fashioned town courtyard.
Jordan Wine Estate, Stellenbosch
021 881 3612
1 Andringa Street, Stellenbosch
021 886 5020