The term terroir sometimes has an air of pretentiousness about it, conjuring up images of haughty sommeliers describing the unique combination of soil and sun that gives a wine its sense of place. But Terroir, an award-winning restaurant on the Kleine Zalze wine estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa, stays true to the word's original earthy spirit. From its rustic décor to its locally sourced dishes, it embodies all the goodness of terroir and leaves haughtiness at the door.
The towering old oaks that greet visitors to the restaurant make more of a first impression than the place itself, an unassuming parched-earth yellow farmhouse with a river lilting gently out back. Inside, it's just as down-to-earth: the menu is written on a chalkboard, the floor is terra-cotta tile, and the wait staff are as laid-back as lifeguards who happen to know a lot about food and wine. Even the prices are easy to digest.
When the food arrives, there is no hint of conceit no Fat Duck lab utensils, no Gordon Ramsay food towers. Head chef Michael Broughton says: "We want to undersell and overdeliver. We want to put food on the plate that looks deceptively simple." That means tasty, basic dishes like honey-glazed breast of duck with chicory marmalade; slow-baked belly of pork with apple; and springbok, a young venison from southern Africa, served with white and black truffle risotto.
This no-frills, all-flavor formula earned Terroir the Best Restaurant in South Africa award in last year's Eat Out countrywide restaurant guide. The wine list deserves its own accolade, offering the best reds and whites from the Stellenbosch region including a barrel-fermented 2005 Shiraz from the vines just outside. By letting the land decide what goes on the table, Terroir truly lives up to its name. www.kleinezalze.de/terroir
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