In the bible, the Lord stops his people from building a tower that reaches the heavens by dividing them through language and scattering them across the earth. This has little to do with the minimalist beauty of Babel at Babylonstoren, unless you speak the parlance of the palate. Babel’s cuisine is a symphony of flavours – myriad splatters of the freshest produce cunningly crafted to create one cohesive language on the plate. One language of food, one ticket to heaven.
The first thing you notice as you walk into Babel is the big windows – it’s light and airy, with white walls and expansive glass doors overlooking the garden. Then you admire the decor on the table; scientific beakers holding single blueberry bush stems, while the salt, pepper and butter are all in petri dishes, taking ‘experimental design’ literally.
We ordered all three of the ‘robot’ salads as a starter – the green salad with gorgonzola and mascarpone, the yellow salad with smoked trout terrine, and the red salad with baked aubergine terrine. The salads were accompanied by fresh home-made bread, pesto and baked guavas, and each consisted of a colourful array of locally sourced produce; some completely foreign to us. One of Babel’s secrets is its simplicity. For mains, there’s a fish, chicken, beef, lamb or vegetarian option, plus a seasonally-inspired special. An assortment of vegetables are served for the table to share, including deliciously crispy potatoes, and broccoli and cinnamon-sprinkled pumpkin in a cream sauce. I have to confess I think I ate most of the potatoes – they were just so good!Sadly, we were too full to have dessert – I think if we went again we’d have starters and desserts and skip the mains. Following lunch, we went for a walk around the gorgeous gardens, exploring the prickly pear patch and various other nooks and crannies. From the expansive vegetable patch and lavender garden, to the citrus groves and walkways lined with wild olives, the 3.5 hectare garden is an adventure in itself, with over 300 plants each with edible or medicinal value. If you’re planning a trip to Babel note that you’ll probably have to book two to three months in advance, and it is rather pricey although not excessively so (expect R75 per starter and between R180 and R200 per main). You also need to pay R10 per person to enter the garden (the money is donated towards its upkeep), and you need to put aside an afternoon for the meal and a walk afterwards. Bring a camera – it’s a photographer’s haven – and some extra cash for the shop if you’re keen for fresh farm bread and other goodies. There’s a deli as well, which operates on a first come first serve basis.