Review: Terroir at Kleine Zalze

The Proposition

For any reader who has not yet visited this highly recommended Cape Winelands restaurant, the casual “Mediterranean” outdoor seating under the trees is a fine option during the warmer months while the equally casual interior is useful through all seasons. Service has always been a strong suit, with staff that are usually long serving and knowledgeable. The wine list is mainly focussed on their own (very good) selection, with a decent look at other quality bottles. A blackboard offers further vintage options.

At a recent lunch, we were ably reminded of Terroir’s longevity by the waitress when she explained that the prawn risotto starter with sauce américaine* has been on the menu since the very beginning (October 2004), and that there would be a public outcry if it were removed. She then confidently ran through the rest of the menu explaining which were her favourites and which were the chef’s – it’s a commendably terse selection of around four starters and four mains, and it appears that she and the chef could not agree on favourites.

The Experience

The name suggests a food philosophy, but over all the years of dining here, I’ve never found the kitchen to be particularly focussed on a specific place – the menu certainly does not trumpet the provenance of any ingredients. Furthermore, the food tends to be “modern classic” in direction, as opposed to “seasonal” or “local”, as the menu from this late summer visit illustrates:

The courses we selected were a series of plates that were bold in plating, confident in flavour and technically excellent. Terroir’s cuisine has always tended towards richness and classic sauces, but the profound depth of these are expertly balanced by textures and variation. Highlights were the tantalising flavours of the onion tart, the perfection in how deftly the fish was cooked, and the superb desserts.

Braised pork cheek, gremolata, onion purée, corn bread
Onion tart, goat’s cheese, honeyed figs, barbeque sauce
Line fish, asparagus, lemon and fennel sauce
Beef fillet, mushroom purée, “Anna” potatoes, baby carrot
Vanilla tart
Sacher torte

The Verdict

This is not a fine dining restaurant in the sense of any airs nor graces, but the quality and detail on the plate allows it to compete very comfortably with places that are far more pretentious, and for Terroir to take its rightful position as one of South Africa’s best.


Kleine Zalze Estate, R44, Stellenbosch

021 880 8167

*Despite the suggestion of its name, sauce américaine apparently hails from Armorica, ‘the name given in ancient times to the part of Gaul between the Seine and the Loire that includes the Brittany Peninsula’.