I love the Western Cape. Even though I’ve travelled a lot, I always find myself back in Cape Town, exploring all the magic that this region has to offer. Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock is one of those magical places.
I had visited Quoin Rock in the Knoerhoek Valley just outside Stellenbosch once before for a commercial shoot – as some of you may know, I’m an actress who just happens to have an immense love of food, and so I split my time between learning lines of whatever character I’m approaching next and deep-diving into the culinary arts with my tastebuds.
But even though I was familiar with the beauty of the estate itself, I had yet to experience the Quoin Rock wines and the highly-acclaimed Gåte Restaurant (“riddle” in Scandinavian; pronounced “gah-tey”).
It’s no secret that I love fine dining. And I think I almost always start my articles on fine dining with that sentence. It still holds true though.
I love the detail that goes into creating different flavours, I love the conglomeration of textures, I love the finesse that fine dining entails.
Food is food, but fine dining is art, and it’s something that deserves to be celebrated.
Most fine dining restaurants I have visited in the past create a phenomenal menu, and then pair the dishes with wines that best enhance the flavour of the food.
The intimate 40-seater Gåte Restaurant approaches this slightly different.
At the heart of Gåte Restaurant is the wine production, so Head Chef Jacques Coetzee and his team taste the phenomenal Quoin Rock wines and then create dishes around the wine.
This is the first I had heard of this approach of things – and it works beautifully!
With that, let’s take a quick look at the Quoin Rock wines.
Quoin Rock Wines
Quoin Rock is a boutique wine estate in every sense of the word – a small farm with a small selection of wines.
But what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality – the Quoin Rock wines are divine!!!
Their wines offer a myriad of well-balanced flavours, focusing on red varieties (Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon) from the Stellenbosch vineyards, and whites (Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) from the Elim vineyards.
The wines are divided into two ranges, the Quoin Rock Wines and the Namysto Wines, the lifestyle range, though the estate has also recently acquired Knoerhoek Wines.
Of the Quoin Rock Wines, you have the:
- Black Series Méthode Cap Classique 2014
- Chardonnay 2018
- White Blend 2018
- Shiraz 2016
- Red Blend 2016
In the Namysto range, you’ll find:
- Sauvignon Blanc (2018)
- Shiraz Cabernat Sauvignon (2016)
- Rosé (2020)
Interestingly, the Quoin Rock wines are seen as the “heart range”, the essence of the estate, and the fine embossed rings on the label echo the concentric age rings formed in the heart of a vine.
By contrast, the Namysto label celebrates the beaded necklaces of Ukraine, which are similar to necklaces in African cultures and those of modern-day fashion, and signifies the coming together of different cultures.
The Gåte Restaurant Menu & Prices
The Gåte Restaurant menu celebrates the conjoining of wines and food, with a focus on sustainability and locally sourced ingredients.
While the seven-course tasting menu is the highlight of Gåte (though I’d say it’s more of a ten-course menu considering the pre-starters and post-desserts you’ll get to enjoy; more on this later on), they also aim to cater to more than the tasting menu folk.
The tasting menu is reinvented every couple of months, and well-loved dishes from the previous tasting menu are moved over to the two-course and three-course menus, which aim to be a more “standard” lunch option.
There are a few choices available when dining at Gåte:
- Two-course lunch menu: R450 pp
- Three-course lunch menu: R600 pp
- Five-course lunch tasting menu: R650 pp | R1000 pp with wine pairing
- Five-course vegan lunch tasting menu: R550 pp | R900 pp with wine pairing
- Seven-course menu: R950 pp | R1450 pp with wine pairing
- Seven-course vegan menu: R750 pp | R1250 pp with wine pairing
Catering to dietary requirements is difficult when it comes to the tasting menus and I always believe that they should be enjoyed as is, but Gåte also provides a vegan option (which apparently is phenomenal).
They also have a tea pairing available for those not drinking.
The seven-course tasting menu is available for lunch on request, which is what we had.
The experience shouldn’t be rushed, though, and the restaurant recommends allowing yourself at least four hours to venture through the culinary journey.
Gåte Seven-Course Tasting Menu
The highlight of Gåte Restaurant is their seven-course tasting menu, which demonstrates a range of Quoin Rock wines with the culinary delights of Head Chef Jacques Coetzee and his team.
The menu changes regularly and while it may be slightly different when you visit, you can certainly expect the same level of passion and “omg-wow” moments when trying the dishes.
I’ve also alluded to the fact that I wouldn’t really call this a seven-course tasting menu but more of a ten-course or even 11-course tasting menu as the restaurant surprises you with pre-starters and post-desserts.
Regardless, I’ll walk you through the dishes as we had experienced them.
Before I dive into it though, a quick note on service. The staff at Quoin Rock and Gåte Restaurant were phenomenal. Our waiter, João, explained every course in intricate detail.
If you’re doing the wine tasting, the sommelier will also walk you through each wine and the pairing.
Pre-Starter One: MCC With Snacks
To whet your appetite for what’s to come, Gåte gently nudges you into the world of the culinary arts with an MCC-based festive cocktail, served in a glass with gold dust sugar syrup coating.
With this, you’ll get to enjoy a “snack platter” Quoin-Rock-style, consisting of:
- Rosette filled with smoked snook mousse, line fish caviar, and nori salt.
- Choux filled with beef & pork ragout, topped with an apple compressed rum disc, savoury cream, and rice crispy.
- 70% dark chocolate truffle with Wagyu fat with puffed pumpkin seeds and toasted millet.
You may think this selection rather odd; I certainly did.
But the flavours work. The cocktail isn’t sweet at all but almost savoury to match the bizarre complexity of flavours on the snack platter.
The flavours are jarring and perplexing but delightful at the same time, and will certainly give you a wham-bam introduction to what’s ahead.
Pre-Starter Two: The Bread Course
No dining experience can begin without a bread course, something I’ve actually always found particularly odd because bread seems to fill you up quite quickly.
This is actually one of the historical reasons for serving bread before a meal: Back when tavern owners served one meal at a set time and for a set price, they filled diners up on bread before the main course of meat and fish to help keep expenses down.
There are certainly many other reasons for the bread course, and you can read up on why restaurants give you bread here.
There is nothing boring about the bread course at Quoin Rock, and you’ll be served with a smokey bread with a pine-needle stick, smoked honey in a tube sourced from the farm, Dalewood cream, Baleni salt from Limpopo, and kumquat marmalade.
Course One: Springbok Carpaccio
The Springbok Carpaccio includes flavours of watercress pesto, squash puree, and horseradish, and is served with the Namysto Rosé (2020).
This dish truly is a work of art, with the design aimed to represent the Quoin Rock estate itself.
The carpaccio is thickly cut, cured with salt, coffee, and cardamon, and served marbled with pumpkin powder.
With this, you’ll have a basil oil with squash puree, surrounded by a trio of rainbow horseradish gel, watercress pesto, and fermented pumpkin puree, topped with miso shoots, red radish shoots, and pumpkin seeds.
The dish is great on its own, but the pairing is exceptional, and each sip of the wine will enhance the flavours of the carpaccio to a whole new level.
Course Two: Quoin Rock Salad
The Quoin Rock Salad includes romaine lettuce, cucumber compressed apples, mustard, and parmesan. It is paired with the Knoerhoek Chenin Blanc 2019.
Salads may be boring, but I doubt you will have had a salad quite like this one before.
Of all the dishes at Gåte Restaurant, this Quoin Rock Salad is probably the one that impressed me the most.
First of all, it doesn’t even look like a salad. On your plate, you’ll find a parmesan custard ring, filled with lettuce espuma and topped with grated cured egg yolk. The salad element is served on a long sliver of cracker, with your mustard, cucumber compressed apples, and romaine lettuce.
The cucumber compressed apples blew my mind. In a nutshell, these are apples infused with cucumber liquid. But while rationally you may understand this, your tastebuds will not.
I could clearly identify each flavour, and I could also clearly identify each texture. And yet they were conjoined, and the absolute complexity of the two together left my tastebuds terribly confused and unimaginably excited.
It’s a simple thing, but this dish left such an impression that I would go back just for this.
Course Three: Tuna Cannelloni
The tuna cannelloni dish is served with tuna biltong, pomegranate ponzu, shiitake mushroom, and spekboom. It is paired with the Quoin Rock Chardonnay 2018.
There is no actual pasta in this dish. Instead, the skin of the tuna serves as the cannelloni, and it is rolled with tuna pieces, cream, and shiitake. The tuna bones are roasted to create the broth, and the whole dish is finished off with fresh shiitake, spekboom, orange zest, and grated tuna biltong.
This was probably my least favourite of all the dishes, simply because the fishy taste can be quite overwhelming & the tuna element was in every aspect of it.
Personally, I think the dish would work better if it were served with one tuna cannelloni – which in itself is quite nice – with a side of something else (more like all of the other dishes). But the three cannelloni together was just too much intense fish for me.
This is very much a matter of personal preference, though, and you’re likely to either love or dislike this dish.
What I did really like about this dish, though, was the effort put into making use of every part of the tuna and not letting anything go to waste.
I severely dislike the Western “waste” culture, and I can only applaud individuals and establishments that make an effort to change this.
The Chardonnay was exceptional, though, and possibly my favourite of all the wines.
Course Four: Quail
The quail dish was served with stuffed leeks, pickled mustard seeds, and sage. It was paired with the Quoin Rock Red Blend 2016.
The leeks are stuffed with walnuts and mushrooms, and the dish is served with a grape gel and a quail reduction.
I really enjoyed this dish. The stuffed leeks were particularly exciting, but the whole dish came together harmoniously.
The Bordeaux-style red blend was dense and juicy, and a great addition.
Course Five: Karoo Lamb
The last of the savoury courses was the Karoo lamb, served with jugo bean hummus, quince, and red amaranth. It was paired with the Quoin Rock Shiraz 2016.
You can see the Shiraz vineyard from the restaurant, which is a nice little touch.
The Karoo lamb is served medium-rare with Wagyu fat, quince puree, a barley taco with salsa, jugo bean hummus, and a lamb reduction.
The dish was quite wonderful, and also one of my favourites of the tasting menu.
Course Six: Baobab Panna Cotta
The first of the dessert courses features lemon verbena and fennel namelaka, cereal milk shard, and yoghurt powder (Namelaka is a Japanese-style cream).
This is the only dish of the entire tasting menu that isn’t served with a wine pairing as it functions more as a palate cleanser for the rest of the experience.
Course Seven: Rhubarb
The dessert course featured a Glühwein & rhubarb mousse, mascarpone and nutmeg tart, and vanilla ice cream. It is paired with the Quoin Rock Vine Dried 2019.
This dessert was delightful and not at all what you’d expect – there’s hardly any sweetness in the dessert itself. Instead, all of the sweetness comes from the Quoin Rock dessert wine.
The pairing is excellent, and it’s the perfect ending to a beautiful meal.
Post-Dessert Course One: Snacks
But, of course, Gåte couldn’t leave you hanging at the end of the dessert course.
As your first post-dessert course, you’ll receive a remake of the very first snack platter. It looks the same, but the ingredients are decidedly different.
This dessert snack platter features:
- Rosette with cinnamon sugar.
- Orange-blossom curd with spice rum, topped with compressed apple and a yoghurt custard namelaka.
- Milk chocolate Wagyu truffle.
If you look at the pictures closely, you’ll see that the rosette is still in the middle but the location of the other two snacks are inverted. The choux that was on the left in the first dish is now on the right; likewise, the Wagyu truffle that was on the right in the first dish is now on the left.
Interestingly, I preferred the dark chocolate in the first dish. I usually like milk chocolate more, but with the Wagyu fat and the delicate flavour, the dark starter snack was definitely my favourite of the two.
Post-Dessert Course Two: Chocolates
To conclude your full Gåte at Quoin Rock experience, you’ll be served with four chocolate truffles:
- Seaweed & grapefruit
- Prickly pear, Camembert & coffee ganache
- Chocolate log
Conveniently, these four truffles are placed in a takeaway box, so you can enjoy them while at the restaurant or take them home for a late-night snack.
Savour The Moment
As you may have guessed, the Gåte at Quoin Rock experience is not a quick-in-quick-out feast. It’s an elongated extravaganza that deserves time, patience, and savouring the moment.
Gåte recommends planning at least four hours to enjoy the tasting menu. Of course, since I was taking photos and videos of every course and doing social media while I was there, it took six.
But it was beautiful. Every moment, every interaction, every taste.
I can highly recommend trying the seven-course tasting menu at Quoin Rock at least once – you may just find a new favourite.
Visit Quoin Rock
Of course, there’s so much more to experience at Quoin Rock.
The estate itself is beautiful with stunning works of art all around, so if you have some time, you can walk around and take Insta-worthy photos (I didn’t because all my focus was on the food).
You can also visit the estate for wine tastings and picnics or enjoy some time off at the Quoin Rock Manor House accommodation.
Gåte Restaurant Contact Details
You’ll find all of the Gåte Restaurant contact details below.
Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock
Address: Quoin Rock Wine Estate, Knorhoek Road, Knorhoek Valley, Stellenbosch, 7600
Opening Times: Wednesday – Sunday (12:00 – 15:00), Thursday – Saturday (18:00 – 22:00)
Call: +27 21 888 4750
Article Date: May 2021
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