As I stood in a sunbeam earlier, admiring the morning light filtering through the vineyards whilst dipping an exploratory toe into our private plunge pool, it occurred to me that I was happy…very happy in fact, and I could probably stay in that same spot for a long time. Tom came and stood next to me and we lazed outside for a little while, not saying very much but enjoying each other’s company and the beauty of the sprawling lawns and vines surrounding us. It was the epitome of a perfect morning, which only got better as we meandered our way to the breakfast table and indulged in a French press full of pungent coffee along with fresh farm bread and a cheese platter. Yes, I thought again. It would be very easy to stay here forever.
We had come to L’Avenir the night before at the invitation of British chef and legend Matt Manning, known best in the Mother City perhaps for his One Ingredient interactive dinners. He was hosting a special three-course meal in the tasting room of the estate, which Tom and I were kindly asked to attend. We jumped at the chance and braved Friday traffic to get to the farm on time for the first course. Having checked in, we sped our way to the cosy confines of the tasting room, warmed by a roaring fire, which did beautiful things to the dark walls and twinkling glasses on the long wooden table.
We were greeted by bubbles and pea and ham risotto balls, and the sound of eighteen other happy guests chatting and laughing. Having taken our seats, Dirk the winemaker explained the first wine, the name of which I don’t the remember, the taste of which I do! I think it’s a testament to the number of excellent wines I deftly drank last night that conversations have become ever so slightly fuzzy.
Dirk’s first wine was paired with Matt’s exceptional starter of pan-fried angel fish, baked potato gnocchi, wild mushrooms, white bean purée and coriander oil emulsion. It was served with the most amazing cauliflower sauce, which I begged Matt for the recipe for but he was not at all keen to share – I suppose it’s like asking a magician for the secret to his trick! We all duly took our phones/cameras out and Instagrammed the plate from every angle, while my Tom smugly laughed at us and tucked in with gusto.
A few glasses of wine and another chat with Dirk later and we moved onto the mains: slow-cooked lamb rump, Parmesan olive oil infused soft polenta, dried rosa tomato petals, cumin roasted aubergine puree, caramelised shallots, olive oil and saffron lamb jus. It was rich, salty, more-ish and quite simply some of the tenderest lamb I’ve ever eaten. Hats off to Matt and his assistant Gorgeous George – you nailed it.
We had a break before dessert and tripped our way down the garden path to the wine cellar – an intimate and softly lit den, with a sparkling chandelier and heavy wooden table made by the multi-talented Dirk. There’s also a Pinotage museum of sorts showcasing the farm’s loving dedication to this often under-appreciated varietal. Dirk spoiled us by cracking open a 2004 bottle of the good stuff that we sipped and shared with glee before heading back to the tasting room for dessert.
Blood orange olive oil cake, apricot caramel, honeycomb and burnt honey custard awaited us – I couldn’t eat much more so Tom happily took custody of my custard, while I munched on a bit of honeycomb and sipped my final glass of Brut Rose. With my back nicely toasted by the fire and my head satisfyingly sozzled by the Chenin Blanc, Single Block Pinotage and others, I was feeling very content with the world, but also rather sleepy. We cheered for Matt, Gorgeous George and the lovely Leigh-Ann, and then somehow made our way back to the lodge to sleep, excited to explore the story-book grounds the next day.
Thank you for spoiling us Matt and L’Avenir – we had the most magical time and will definitely be back. It’s amazing how restorative a night away in a lovely place can be – one doesn’t have to venture far to find great beauty and some space to breathe.