Dining al fresco has never been done as deliciously as at The Table at De Meye. I was on the receiving end of an invitation to experience the magic that is the cooking of Jess and Luke Grant – a detail that I couldn’t have been happier about as this is the penultimate month of the duo’s tenure at the restaurant. Plus a lengthy languid lunch under the autumnal oaks of De Meye wine farm sounded like the ideal way to spend a Saturday.
Having decided to take a break from what has been a decade-long career in the food and hospitality industry, Jess and Luke are looking forward to taking some time off. A disappointing but undeniably well-deserved fact for those of us who have praised Jess’ relaxed approach to epicure for the last few years. Unfortunately I joined this fan club very late and so only got to sample her cooking this once – unless of course I’m exceptionally lucky and manage to snag myself a last-minute booking before The Table closes at the end of May this year.
Found on the De Meye wine farm in the Muldersvlei region of Stellenbosch, The Table hosts beautifully curated lunches using produce grown and gathered in the farm’s kitchen garden, as well as other locally-sourced ingredients sourced like pasture-raised meat, farm eggs, organic olive oil and goats cheese. Consisting of a three-course set menu, lunches at The Table are generously abundant while being unpretentiously comforting – a sort of hybrid between French country cuisine and Mediterranean fare. Accommodating roughly 50 diners at a seating, tables are set out across the lawn and set with a quirky collection of mismatched vintage crockery and cutlery. During the colder months, patrons are served indoors in the farm’s whitewashed barn – a wood-burning stove keeping things toasty.
Since this was a cheerfully sunny Autumn day, we sat outdoors in the shade of oak trees, picnic rugs at hand for post-lunch sprawling. Starting off with a bottle of De Meye Chenin Blanc, starters consisted of delicately dressed greens, a robust dish of roasted baby beetroot, pears, goat’s cheese and Jess’ own walnut and cumin dukka. Accompanying this feast was fresh sourdough bread, creamy farm butter and fat juicy olives by Chrisna’s Olives – also based in Stellenbosch. For mains there was a spread of juicy beef fillet – still the tenderest pink in the middle – paired with a creamy celeriac purée, grilled fennel and chard, sautéed green beans and red onion and roasted red cabbage in a cauliflower cheese sauce garnished with a crisp shard of Parmesan; all enthusiastically washed down with a bottle of Domaine Jamet Côtes du Rhône 2016 Shiraz (thanks Jenna!).
Dessert was a pleasingly delicate slice of apple cake served on a bed of rich whey caramel and vanilla ice cream made from Gay’s Guernsey Dairy in Prince Albert and topped with a pistachio nut sprinkle. In short – one of the most sublime meals I’ve ever had the good fortune to consume.
In all honestly, what Jess and Luke have created with The Table at De Meye is nothing short of pure magic and the despondency now that they’re coming to an end is palpable. But judging from their admirable Instagram following, the pair won’t stay on sabbatical for too long – especially as there is already a clamour for Jess to bring out a cookbook.
As for me, the thought of being able to recreate the meal enjoyed at The Table would be almost as good as return visit.