The country's best restaurant rated by Eat Out is located on a wine farm. When coupled with the prominence of local wines, the achievement again re-affirms the excellence inherent in South Africa's culinary landscape. In fact, wineland venues in the final Top 10 dominated in the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards this year.
The top restaurant this year was The Restaurant at Waterkloof, followed in third place by La Colombe at Silvermist Wine Estate in Constantia, while Die Werf Restaurant at Boschendal won the Woolworths Sustainability Award.
When The Restaurant at Waterkloof was confirmed as Restaurant of the Year at GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World in Cape Town, it was the first time since 2012 a new number one was chosen.
The eatery moved two places up from number three in the Top 10 last year.
“We cook for pleasure and we cook to fulfill our passion and to get recognised for it is an amazing feeling. I am truly proud of the team and what they were able to achieve. It’s just incredible.”
The restaurant's journey to Number One over the years started with nomination to the Top 20 in 2014 and placed 6th the following year. In 2016, Czarnecki was named Chef of the Year and the restaurant placed 3rd, for 2017 as well.
The rise of La Colombe at EatOut looks similar. The enterprise owned by Scot Kirton came second in both 2015 and 2016, 7th last year and was ranked 73rd in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants by William Reed Business Media.
Heading the kitchen is Silwood Kitchen-trained executive chef James Gaag. He joined La Colombe in 2010 as a 3rd year student and rose through the ranks to sous chef. He left La Colombe in 2013 for England where he worked at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford and returned a year later to become La Colombe's head chef.
Christiaan Campbell – executive chef at The Werf – has also enjoyed widespread acclaim, now adding with his team EatOut's sustainability award to the venue's roll of honour.
The award was judged by a separate panel including magazine editor Abigail Donnelly, Pavitray Pillay of sustainable seafood organisation WWF-SASSI, Sonia Mountford of online food information blog Eategrity and Karen Welter of sustainable food in restaurants initiative Longtable Project. Campbell was elated with the win that relates to issues he has reportedly long cared about: farming and cooking with integrity.
“One could say I am a farming activist before being a chef – if we are to eat meat and grow healthy produce, animals should live dignified lives and we should make every effort to improve soil health following each harvest."
Eat Out is produced by New Media Publishing, a content marketing agency and division of Naspers's Media24. According to the publisher, the guide's restaurant reviews are written "by professional Eat Out reviewers, who dine anonymously and pay for their meals; and, by members of the public".
The Top 10 restaurants are selected "by a core panel of anonymous judges", with Margot Janse – former long-time chef at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek - as the judging convener.