Tokara: Contemporary South African Flair Paired with a Panoramic Vista Across the Winelands
April 25, 2018
I have very fond memories of Tokara Wine Estate having visited for a wedding last Spring. However, this time I wasn’t here to watch friends take their vows on the helipad overlooking the tumbling vineyards, or to watch the first dance unravel on the glistening sundeck, I was here to experience the Tokara tasting menu, and this too proved to be an unforgettable experience.
With my partner in tow, who is an ex Chef and now works in the wine industry, I knew we would be a tough crowd to please. However, having enjoyed the wedding meal here before I was hopeful in my choice to come back for more memorable times.
On the outskirts of Stellenbosch, and neighbouring world famous Delaire Graff Wine Estate, Tokara resides in one of the most desired hilltop locations. Set in an iconic building made of glass, steel and stone, and 400 metres above sea level, the restaurant offers spectacularly dramatic views over Stellenbosch and the False Bay mountains, come night or day. Top tip – if like me, you like to see where your food is prepared, arrive early and grab a seat at the bar to witness the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, whilst sipping on South Africa’s version of Champagne – Tokara Cap Classique.
People don’t just visit Tokara for the setting and views though, they visit to sample the award-winning wine list curated by Head Sommelier Jaap-Henk Koelewijn, and utterly delicious cuisine courtesy of Richard Carstens and his super talented team.
As you would expect, the restaurant changes its A La Carte menu seasonally (always offering a contemporary take on South African cuisine) and serves daily specials, but we decided to tackle the seven course Cape Senses tasting menu which was paired with South African wines.
Cape Senses Tasting Menu
Seasonal tomatoes with buffalo milk mozzarella, gruberg crisp, ulva, plum & salted plum dressing
B’Vintners Haarlem to Hope 2015
Tamarind glazed line fish with smoked snoek amasi, vinegared rice & turmeric ginger sauce
Kaap de Goede Hoop “Laing” Groendruif 2015
Pepper spiced springbok with heerenboon puree & Simonsberg fynbos botanical extracts
Tokara Reserve Pinotage 2015
Almond parfait with Leipoldt “melktert” ice cream & gooseberry
Miles Mossop Kika Noble Late Harvest 16
The selection of wines placed below our noses from Jaap had a real sense of place. South Africa is very good at promoting its own produce, and interestingly the only non-South African offering on the wine list was Champagne. All the white, red and sweet wines were 100% South African.
This approach was taken with the pairing, starting with the aforementioned alternative to Champagne, Cap Classique. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made in line of the French méthode champenoise gave a refreshing and rich sparkle to the start; it was a fitting scene setter for the first of Tokara’s own estate wines.
Wines were paired alongside dish consistency, seasonally picked tomatoes of all colours, shapes and sizes were served with fittingly fresh Chenin and Semillion blends (with a touch of muscat to spice it up) which sat well with some herbaceous and floral tones next to the mixed bag of tomatoes – sweetness and acidity.
The second plate was one of the highlights. A perfectly cooked piece of fish on top of an African ‘amasi’ (fermented milk that resembles cottage cheese) and ginger tamarind sauce. The amasi’s consistency and texture was akin to tartare sauce, almost acting as a fitting South African take on our British Fish and chips, just a lot posher. The Somm put this alongside an old-vine Semillon, something we see much more from the Barossa than Stellenbosch. The 62-year old vines provided a depth and richness to balance the tangy and creamy elements to the dish – alongside a peach stone flavour in the wine; a superstar combo.
More national delicacies were served up with what put the country on the wine map, their own flagship grape – Pinotage. Tokara’s single vineyard version was everything you would hope for. Dark berries, sour cherries and spice paired with one of their flagship meats, Springbok. Rich, intense and delicious, this was a fitting main course to show off not just Tokara but two of the country’s best.
It’s hard to find restaurants that feel that little bit special. Tokara managed this feat through its limited number of tables, an intimate but grand space, incredible views and setting and a service that did not falter. The meal showed everything that is great about the food and wine scene of South Africa, and why so many tourists flock here every year.
The Food Senses menu costs R600 (approx. £36) and the Wine Senses menu costs R400 (approx. £24). Available for lunch until 13:30 and dinner until 20:30.
Written by Luxuria Lifestyle UK’s Lara Buckle