Swallows in flight at Indochine

Delaire Graff in Stellenbosch

As you meander along the path leading to the top of the Delaire Graff Estate where Indochine presides, take a moment to look at the mountain, stained in sunset crimson and framing the vines, naked in their winter bareness. Gaze at statues of muscular leopards and a man lifting his arms in careless abandon in a salute to the sun. Creep past gentle herons and wind through pathways fringed in hedgerows. And then you’ll drive through a gate with all the grandeur you’d expect, and Indochine will be before you – a restaurant with a view.

Asian-inspired, with a balcony overlooking mountains steeped in orange, the restaurant is known for two things: Chef Kahn’s sensational, bold flavours and  Andre Stead and Lionel Smit’s exquisite Swallows in Flight installation. Neither disappoint. The perspex swallows are impossible to miss as they swarm above diners’ heads, while the food is some of the best Eastern-fusion cuisine I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

Tom and I arrived early to experience the Winter Table special – we came straight from the Winelands Chocolate Festival just in time to catch the sunset. Despite the kitchen still being closed, the wonderful staff went out of their way to accommodate us, and we were soon seated on the balcony, sipping champagne and sampling a sublime entree made up of bite-size morsels of pork, aubergine and other delicious things.

Indochine at Delaire Graff

I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember all the intricacies of all the phenomenal dishes we tasted. Following the aubergine and pork, we were offered prawn crackers (Tom’s favourite), accompanied by pickled carrots and an umami dipping sauce. This led to an amuse bouche of a delicate Asian broth with the most beautiful lemon grass flavour, poured over a micro salad.

From there we were treated to a delectable starter each – Tom had the Thai mushroom salad, while I opted for the fish. Tom’s mushrooms were moreish and earthy with a wonderful depth of flavour, while my sashimi fish came with a superb sweet chili sauce and crispy fish skins. We swapped and I decided I preferred the mushrooms, while Tom loved the fish. Each course came with a different wine, carefully selected by the knowledgeable sommelier, and perfectly complementing its intended dish.

A palate cleanser of sorbet served in a coconut arrived, followed by the mains – I went for the very intriguing sounding jungle quail curry and Tom had the springbok, cooked three ways. Tom’s dish looked like an artwork on a plate with the pinkness of the springbok, and the pretty touch of the Madagascan green pepper on the vine, while my quail was tender, perfectly cooked and absolutely mouth-watering. It was my first time eating quail, and I have a feeling it won’t be my last.

Indochine at Delaire Graff

We were so full by this stage, I wasn’t quite sure how dessert was going to happen, but we found a way to make room. Tom’s fresh, citrus cheesecake and sorbet arrived, followed by my chocolate and beetroot delight – think deep fried doughnuts filled with a beetroot centre, with a chocolate mousse and sweet beet jelly. We ended up swapping again, because I love sour, very fresh things and Tom obligingly let me steal his cheesecake (no, he didn’t have that much choice in the matter).

We thought the meal was over, but then our lovely waiter arrived with another treat from the chef – granadilla jelly cubes and macaroons. We had a quiet swoon over the presentation and taste, and then Tom ordered coffee and I sat in a food coma of happiness looking up at the birds above me.

Indochine at Delaire GraffIndochine at Delaire Graff

We simply had one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had, and were thoroughly spoilt by the chef and front of house staff. The food was everything I could ask for and more, and the wines were fantastic, and optimally paired with each course. If you’re after a romantic date night with a difference, don’t hesitate – book a spot at Indochine’s Winter Table and prepare for a magical night.

Indochine at Delaire Graff

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