We booked our table at the restaurant, Protégé in Franschhoek before we’d even booked our flights.
My Mum’s friend, who lives part-time in Cape Town, insisted that Protégé is currently ‘the’ place to go for fine dining in this trendy wineland town so, we booked our table as quickly as humanly possible.
Located around an hour and a half from Cape Town, Franschhoek is one of the most well-known towns in the wineland region. Showcasing the best of French/Dutch architecture and surrounded by dramatic mountain ranges, Franschhoek is a feast for the senses before you’ve even delved into its forte – food and wine.
Strewn in high-end restaurant, bars, art galleries and most importantly, vineyards, Franschhoek is a foodies – and alcoholics (holaaaaa) – HEAVEN.
Stood proudly on Franschhoek’s immaculate high street you’ll find the town’s most recent gastronomical revelation – Protégé.
Protégé is a casual fine dining restaurant, which is a part of a group of very highly reputable restaurants in South Africa including La Colombe, La Petit Colombe and Foxcroft.
Focusing on high quality food and drink served in comfortable and relaxed surroundings, the restaurant was set up with the intention to recognise, nurture and train young talented chefs with the goal to elevate their talent into something as great as the restaurant’s head chef -Stephen Raaff.
Stephen has been a part of the La Colombe Group since 2013 and has crafted a seamless menu to showcase this fantastic new restaurant.
The décor of Protégé is simple, sleek yet, charismatic. The pastel colours running through the walls and furnishings of the restaurant give it a fresh and open feel.
Whilst the ceiling to floor window leading onto the outdoor terrace ensures no diner is restricted from viewing the open kitchen in the centre. Little quirks such as, bunny statues and a fireplace, give the restaurant a more personal and homely feel.
The menu focuses on fresh, local produce inspired by cuisine from around the world and each dish is designed to be shared. The dishes are similar to a starter size and it’s recommended to order between 3-4 dishes plus a dessert per person.
The wine list and drinks menu boast local wines (as to be expected) and your usual tipples such as, G&Ts.
We began our Protégé experience with a bottle of Black Elephant Sauvignon Blanc whilst we perused the menu. We loved that the menu consisted of a section dedicated to ‘the cast’ aka. the staff showing appreciation to their hard work and keeping it very in-keeping with the Protégé moto…
Our waiter, Talent was true to his name. He was the perfect combination of friendly, welcoming and professional – and always kept my wine glass topped up (what a babe).
He knew his stuff about the menu and was a delight to be served by – there was already a tip added to the bill but we ended up tipping him more on top of this as we felt he was so deserving.
Talent gave us a few recommendations and before we knew it, we were ready to order our feast.
Between the three of us we ordered nine dishes and three desserts and demolished THE LOT. Whatever you order is bought out staggered, allowing you to really savour each ‘course’.
We began with the lamb rib roti with caponata, artichoke and mint, tuna tataki and tartare with avocado, chipotle, ponzu and crackling and mussels in a lemongrass and ginger tom yum soup.
The tuna was my favourite dish of this course – unique, tender and punchy and something I wouldn’t usually jump to order in a restaurant.
Next up was spiced squid with chorizo, guacamole and lime, braaied (barbecued) cauliflower served up with za’atar, kimchi, parmesan and wild garlic and my stand out dish of the night – Keralan fried fish with labneh, cucumber and curried sultana.
Every bite of the Keralan fish had bursts of signature Indian spices and transported me right back to eating fish curry on the beach in Kerala – exactly what all good food should do – evoke heart-warming memories.
The final course saw us indulging in the garden pea risotto drizzled in rocket pesto, mascarpone and quail egg, onion tart with goat’s cheese, tomato, olive and capers and BBQ pork and prawn, kimchi, sweetcorn, aubergine and hoisin.
The burst of truffle running through the pea risotto made for a wonderful surprise and the sweetcorn puree on the pork and prawn dish was a revelation.
Finally, it was pudding o’clock.
We ordered all the puds on the menu other than the truffles – pannacotta with strawberry, basil and verbena, chocolate terrine with peanut and rhubarb and local cheeses with bread, preserves and candied peanuts.
Despite knowing the main ingredients in each dish, the menu keeps the details ambiguous allowing little surprises to wow you in each mouthful. Every puree, gel and emulsion had a purpose of being on the plate and packed an insane amount of flavour.
I think I would go as far to say that my meal at Protégé was the best dining experience I’ve ever had – and I’ve eaten out a lot. The combination of buzzing ambience, fabulous food, exceptional service and a bill as cheap as £135 for three people including two bottles of wine and service (you’d pay that for a standard meal at the pub in the UK), I feel very confident in urging anyone to book a flight to South Africa and a table at Protégé right this second!
Make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Please note: this is not a sponsored post and, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.