Sometimes, I forget why it is that I run I Love Foodies. I’ve been doing this for almost six years, and it involves virtually endless working hours and commitment, and that can be tiring. But then I review a restaurant like Tryn at Steenberg, and suddenly I remember why I love this all so much.
Tasting food that elevates you to the next level is an almost heavenly experience. Now, I know that if you’re not a foodie, you might not understand this. Not everyone loves food as much as I do, and that’s ok. But everyone can appreciate good food and the tremendous skill it takes to create culinary masterpieces.
And, for some reason, I’ve always had the luck of starting my year with a visit to one exceptional restaurant that undoubtedly sets the tone for the rest of the year. Last year, that restaurant was Haute Cabriere. In 2019, it was Greenhouse. And before that, it included the likes of Myoga and Reverie Social Table.
And, this year, it was Tryn at Steenberg.
Welcome to Steenberg Wine Estate
I’ve heard about Steenberg a dozen times before. In my mind, it’s always been this elusive place that people like me just can’t quite get to.
I look at images or videos of the proverbial upper class, and I’m so attracted to their grace and presence and quietness. And everyone who knows me will probably say that I fit right in. But I’m also loud and jolly, and I like playing in the sand and getting my hair wet.
And what I’ve discovered by visiting Tryn is that people like me do fit in, that places like Steenberg aren’t unattainable, and that Cape Town is one of the most magical places in the world because a nice restaurant won’t kick you out if you show up in flip flops.
We’re all accepted here. We all fit in. We all belong.
And, luckily, we can all enjoy spectacular restaurants like Tryn.
The Steenberg Story
Before I deep-dive into detailing my delicious feast at Tryn, let me offer you some more information on Steenberg.
If you only want to read about the food, skip ahead. But for those of you staying with me for this, let’s start at the very beginning.
Steenberg is the first farm to be established in the Cape, all the way back in 1682. That’s 339 years ago. I hope I age as well.
I imagine it looked quite different back in the day, devoid of the luxury characterising the estate today.
But what undoubtedly hasn’t changed is the epitomic beauty of the Constantia valley and the surrounding mountains.
Rich in history, Steenberg was founded by the legendary Catharina Ras, nicknamed Tryn. Known as a fierce, independent German woman who came to the Cape in 1662 and lost four husbands over the years, she asked Simon van der Stel for some land at the foot of the Ou Kaapse Weg in 1682.
Originally, the farm was called’ Swaaneweide’ – the feeding place of the swans. Swans did not, in fact, roam the farm, but spur-winged geese did – and still do to this day.
The next 300 years saw the farm pass through various hands until it was purchased by Johannesburg Consolidated Investments in 1990, who re-developed it into a vineyard and hotel.
Graham Beck took over in 2005, and Steenberg has since become a luxury destination that boasts a vineyard, 5-star hotel and spa, golf course, and two restaurants, Tryn and Bistro Sixteen82.
Arriving at Tryn
As you may have guessed, the Tryn restaurant is named after Catharina. Executive Chef Kerry Kilpin has said that the connection is fitting, as they’ve aimed to connect the dining experience at Tryn to her free and feisty spirit.
The restaurant is certainly a marriage between classic charm and modern confidence, with beautiful vineyard gardens, a sunny terrace, and a bold and vibrant restaurant interior.
The menu itself pays tribute to this union, with leather-bound pages featuring dishes of modern cuisine.
We arrived for lunch on a Saturday. The one side of the restaurant opens up completely, allowing the exterior in and providing a constant flow of fresh air, which is vitally important for coronavirus times.
The restaurant only features a few tables, with much distance between, apart from the beautiful booths along the one side of the wall, which are a little closer together.
We took a seat at the centre of the restaurant (after hopping around a bit trying to find the right lighting) and were attended to by our beautifully kind waitress, Alina.
The Steenberg Wines
Alina recommended that we start the lunch experience with two glasses of the exceptional Steenberg 1682 Chardonnay Cap Classique Brut.
I’m usually a bit of a whirlwind when I arrive at a restaurant, taking photos and videos and trying not to come across like a complete dork, so it was nice not to have to make any decisions immediately and simply rely on Alina’s expert recommendation.
I was driving, so, unfortunately, I didn’t try any other of the Steenberg wines, but Sabine had the Steenberg Chardonnay later on during our meal, and she loved it.
Setting The Tone
Luckily, Alina kept the recommendations coming, and she suggested we pair the bubbly with the Tryn oysters.
But before we even got there, we were served two gifts from the kitchen.
The amuse bouche of the day was goat’s cheese panna cotta served on a pineapple jam and presented on a ceramic spoon.
The goat’s cheese flavour wasn’t overwhelming, and the creamy panna cotta texture worked superbly well.
Because it’s harvest season, the kitchen also sent out freshly-baked mosbolletjies, made with “mos” (unfermented grape juice) from the estate. I can’t remember having had mosbolletjies before, and I was quite surprised at how much I liked these.
Oysters, Two Ways
And then we got to the oysters.
Tryn serves two types of oysters (both R25):
- Lime, chilli, coriander, and ponzu granite
- Plain with shallot vinaigrette
Sabine doesn’t eat oysters, but I could literally eat a bucket – and I once did on a boat tour off the coast of Walvis Bay in Namibia, which was magical.
I usually like them plain with lemon juice but am not opposed to trying something a little more extravagant.
Of the two, the lime, chilli, coriander, and ponzu granite dressing was probably my favourite. It had a hint of spice but wasn’t overwhelming, and the flavours blended beautifully.
The shallot vinaigrette was also great, but the vinaigrette, which is a little tangier, masks the taste of the lemony oyster.
Of course, this is fantastic if you’re not a fan of that ‘sea taste’ oysters have and generally prefer to eat your oysters with pepper, Tabasco, and the like.
Starters are always my favourite. Maybe coz they’re small plates usually packed with flavour. Perhaps because I can comfortably order a few and call it a day.
Tryn has a largely seafood-based starters menu, aptly termed “The Approach”, and includes items such as oysters, calamari, pickled fish, prawns, and fish tartare, as well as a steak tartare, soup, and a salad.
Caesar Ate A Salad
Sabine made the healthy choice and opted for the Caesar salad (R115; also available as a mains for R185).
In classic Caesar style, the salad comprised baby gem lettuce, crispy pork belly, croutons, poached egg, white anchovies, and shaved parmesan.
Sabine really enjoyed her salad – she described it as fresh, crunchy, and full of flavour, with a generous portion of cheese.
I think the portion in general was quite generous.
I love a good Caesar salad and order it quite often when I’m out and about in my personal capacity. The last time I had it was at a well-known cafe in town, and the salad cost more than the one at Tryn and was about half the size. And only a quarter as nice.
While Sabine enjoyed her salad, I took a trip down foodie heaven lane with my fish tartare.
Tryn only serves ethically-sourced fish, which I can highly commend. They also work together with the Abalobi App to support small, local fishermen (and women).
If you’re not familiar with Abalobi, then I can highly recommend you check it out. In a nutshell, it’s branded as “Fish With A Story” and connects you with the people behind your meal, allowing you to track where it comes from.
Abalobi works exclusively with small-scale fishing communities, connecting consumers directly to the freshest fish available while providing a marketplace to fishermen outside of large-scale fish suppliers.
It is available for chefs, home consumers, and retailers in Cape Town and surrounds, including the wine lands.
I’ve heard of Abalobi quite often, but Tryn is the first restaurant I’ve been to that’s used it. I like the idea of supporting the smaller guys and think it’s a great initiative.
The fish of the day at Tryn was Cape Bream.
I often enjoy a salmon or tuna tartare, a good white fish ceviche, and, of course, I’m madly in love with all types of sushi. But I’ve never had a white fish tartare before.
The fish tartare (R125) is served with prawns, chevon, edamame, pickled ginger, and a citrus vinaigrette.
And it was exceptional.
I don’t think my images can do it any justice – the flavours were spectacular, it was fresh and beautifully delicate, and I loved every bite.
It also offered me something familiar and yet wholly new in flavour and texture. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
The Main Act
Usually, if my starters are extraordinary, I’m a little nervous about the mains as they tend to be a letdown.
But Tryn had no intention of disappointing me, and the main courses we ordered were equally spectacular.
As a quick aside: Sabine had her Chardonnay with her main course. I was driving, so I opted for a Seedlip non-alcoholic gin and tonic garnished with strawberries and blueberries. It was divine.
Tryn has a nice selection of mains, including pulled beef, risotto, tagliatelle, fish, pork belly, lamb neck, salad, sirloin, and beef fillet.
Sabine had the beef sirloin (R195), served with pumpkin puree, roast pumpkin and thyme arancini, fine beans, and a brandy and pepper jus.
I had a quick bite but was too engrossed in my own meal to ascertain the flavours of hers, but she thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it.
Sabine likes her steak well done. This often proves quite problematic in lesser-quality restaurants as either the waiters try to argue with her about her steak preference or the kitchen is too inept at producing a well-done steak that’s not burnt or dry.
All the quality kitchens manage this superbly well, though, and Tryn is no exception.
I decided on the pork belly (R185), served with mash potato, red cabbage, mangetout and sunflower seed salsa, and a rooibos and sultana jus.
And it was fantastic – a generous portion, beautifully presented, full of flavour.
I didn’t think much about the rooibos and sultana jus when I first read the menu (I’m a firm believer that raisins belong in dessert and not hot dishes), but this was surprisingly tasty, and the gentler, sweeter flavour worked remarkably well with the rest of the dish.
Truffle & Parmesan
Alina also suggested we try the truffle and parmesan fries (R55).
I actually don’t like fries (yes, I’m aware that you’re giving me that look that everyone gives me when I say this out loud), but I’m mildly obsessed with anything truffle, so I will, on occasion, devour truffle fries.
These were good – the perfect balance of truffle and parmesan, not too oily, and a nice mix of crunchy and fat fries.
I wouldn’t blame you if you skip dessert – I often do – but how could I possibly skip dessert at a restaurant as spectacular as Tryn? Impossible.
Sabine opted for a single homemade chocolate truffle (R25), stamped with Steenberg’s signature goose, along with a cappuccino.
What Dreams Are Made Of
I indulged a little more and opted for the whipped yoghurt panna cotta (R85), served with berry compote, spiced blackberry and apple sorbet, and honeycomb.
What a feast. The panna cotta was absolutely gorgeous. I’d say “too pretty to eat,” but we both know that’s a lie because I did eat it. And quite happily so.
The panna cotta itself was beautiful – not even remotely sweet, which is perfect if you don’t have a sweet tooth or prefer a lighter dessert.
But the real star for me was that spiced blackberry and apple sorbet.
I may just even go as far as saying that it’s the most delightful sorbet I have ever tasted.
Of course, for me, I’ll tell you that it tastes like winter evenings with my family in Hungary or early-morning breakfasts in Vienna, and that won’t mean a thing to you.
The associations we build with tastes and flavours are priceless, and tasting that sorbet was priceless. It brought me back to people I’ve lost and memories I’ll cherish forever.
And isn’t it magical that food can do that? That it can evoke an emotion and change time and place? But only if you let it. And only if it’s exceptional.
For you, that sorbet may just taste like hot Glühwein on an ice-cold day or the smell of Christmas morning.
Or maybe it’ll taste like the start of a (hopefully) never-ending love affair with Tryn.
I’ve sat here on my couch writing this article for the past two hours, going through every note, every taste, every flavour, and I’m still as impressed with Tryn as I was a few hours ago when I left the restaurant (though I’m aware that I’ll only be publishing this a few days after).
I’m so grateful to have experienced this, and I’m so glad that I can share my experience with all of you.
Tryn – and Steenberg as a whole – may be a luxurious destination, but it invites all of us.
Judging from my own experience and studying the other diners when I was there, no one was excluded – from high-class ladies in beautiful dresses to the casual Granadilla-pants-wearing guy in flip flops, wealthy foreigners to locals with good tastes, we were all equal, we were all delighted, and we could all share in the experience of great food.
I hope you will have the chance to do so too.
Visit Tryn At Steenberg
You’ll find all the information on Tryn at Steenberg below.
Tryn Restaurant At Steenberg Estate
Address: Steenberg Estate, Steenberg Road, Constantia Valley, 7945, Cape Town
Call: +27 21 713 7178
Article Date: February 2021
All information correct at time of publication. We do not accept any liability caused by errors, including, but not limited to, changes in price, menu, opening times, address, or other contact details.
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