A relative newcomer in Franschhoek, Marigold is part of the Leeu Collection which acquired Le Quartier Français and has replaced its erstwhile icon restaurant, The Tasting Room, with an offshoot of another Cape icon, La Colombe, in the form of La Petite Colombe.
Marigold, billing itself as “authentic Indian” is not part of the same building as Le Quartier, however, but across the main road and occupying a stand-alone building, the interior of which is rather lightly clad in Indian decor touches. On this lunch, I enjoyed the light-filled and less cluttered space, but the feeling I had was that it may not feel as cosy or plush as one would like over dinner. The lunch service was busy (considering how quiet Franschhoek can be in winter), and there were quite a few tables of international visitors, and even a large Indian family who wandered in to get take-aways… making it feel very authentic indeed.
Looking at the menu, two initial impressions: with main courses hovering around R130, the value seems very good (assuming good food); and there’s a page dedicated to chaat (roadside snacks) and to thali (tasting platters) – so a rather refreshing change from the Indian menus that offer the main proteins in all iterations of curry. Other pages offer tandoor, ten or so signature curries, a couple of dals and a few biryanis.
Meanwhile, as the restaurant filled, the initially good service slipped a little, but the personable manager was quickly on hand to catch. An impressive poppadum arrangement landed on my table looking pretty peacock-like.
I ordered the thali for one (“what the chef likes the best”, the menu explains), and my platter consisted of well-judged portions of: butter chicken, lamb tandoori, amritsari (of dorado), yellow dal and a vegetable raita.
The chicken had been cooked to a point of near-disintegration, but the sauce was very good, with a welcome tang. Raita was mainly yoghurt, a few pieces of cucumber trying to come up for breath. The dal was great, with big hits of ginger and cardamom, but the amritsari was dry, though not as dry as the poor lamb… in the end I regretted not ordering the vegetarian thali.
For dessert (part of the meal), a cinnamon kulfi which had been frozen onto an ice-cream stick, a fun touch, although the nut crumble that was a part of the dessert was only accessible while the tip of the ice-cream was intact (after this, the nuts were beyond reach as the stick prevented reaching the bottom). While the wine list contains at least a few wines that do pair with Indian food (a welcome change), I was disappointed by the lack of any interesting teas to finish. Indeed the waiter was quick to suggest a cappuccino…
Marigold’s obvious competition, and perhaps peers, are Bombay Brasserie at the Taj Hotel, Indochine at Delaire Graff and the original Bukhara. All of these offer more polish and more vibrant cuisine. If Marigold is aiming to be more “casual”, then the comparison would be Thali where chef Liam Tomlin has taken his Chefs Warehouse “tapas” concept into the Indian realm. After one dining experience here, I can report that the succession of little plates are good, if not likely to stop you mid-sentence – but this job is ably handled by the extremely noisy cacophony of diners and kitchen. There’s little chance of a romantic conversation, but you do feel you are in the midst of it all – which is, I guess, as Indian as it gets.
Heritage Square, 9 Huguenot Street, Franschhoek
021 876 8970