If you’re a local foodie, the name Bertus Basson should definitely ring a few bells. Besides his popular namesake restaurant at Spice Route, Paarl, Bertus is both the owner and head chef of the overtly successful Overture Restaurant at Hidden Valley Wines in Stellenbosch. Alternatively, you may also recognise him as a judge from the popular South African show, Ultimate Braai Master.
You might think that these endeavours keep him busy enough, but I’ll have you know that just over a week ago, Bertus opened the doors of his latest addition: Spek & Bone small plate and wine bar, right in the heart of beautiful Stellenbosch.
At face value, Spek & Bone might be somewhat different from what you might be expecting, considering Bertus’ other two restaurants. But once you hear the heartwarming story behind it, you really can appreciate the value of the quaint little courtyard it pays homage to: because this restaurant in particular has a special place in Bertus’ heart, it very easily crawls into and makes a place in your own!
The Basson family includes two pets, a pig and a boxer. The pig’s name is Spek (meaning bacon) and the boxer is Bone (beans.) The saying, “to work for spek en bone” means to work for your food. Fittingly, it has taken many years of hard work and dedication for Bertus to blossom into the highly acclaimed chef he is today. Just as Spek & Bone the animals are very dear to Bertus, so is this little restaurant.
To add to the tale, the restaurant can be found under what was previously known as the Trumpet Tree: the oldest fruit producing vine in Stellenbosch. It is therefore only appropriate to have a great wine list to accompany the ever excellent food on offer. Bertus shared the wine list to the Spek & Bone Facebook page, and wrote that he “love[s] all the wines on this list.” Unsurprisingly, it boasts an extensive range of interesting blends and varietals, what with Semillion to Riesling, and even a Cinsault to name but a few. It also plays host to wines from near and far: numerous well-known neighbouring farms to Hidden Valley feature, such as Annandale, Ken Forrester and Uva Mira, as well as Waterford, Muratie, Beyerskloof, Vergenoegd, Stark-Conde and Thelma, but it is not at all isolated to the winelands – you can also expect wines from Swartland, Elgin, Hemel en Aarde valley, and Franschhoek. Personally, I think that adding the wine marker’s name below the wine on the list is a really lovely touch.
When my dear friend and I popped in to Spek & Bone, I ordered a bottle of the Hidden Valley Hidden Treasure straight off the bat because it’s one of my favourite rosés to date: beautiful and sweet to the nose but dry and refreshing to the taste, with the typical fruitiness of a Stellenbosch wine. It was really the perfect choice because the courtyard is totally isolated from the rest of the world and we were in our own little bubble of twilight and fairy lights, with not even the slightest hint of the unusual gale force winds that were prevalent that night, just a mere footpath away. Definitely the perfect summer wine to suit the perfect summer venue.
In contrast to the wine list, in a typical Bertus fashion, the menu is definitely quality over quantity. The dishes are simple, but always with an interesting, unusual twist. You can choose between “wine bites” to nibble on, or order a few plates to share – but be sure to save some space for pudding! We decided on the lovely fresh sourdough bread from Schoon De Companje and accompanied it with Dalewood brie, served with green fig puree, fig and almond press, and grissini. We then opted for the braai spiced Chalmar sirloin strips which came with heirloom carrots, caraway, confit garlic and chimichurri. I’m supposed to be doing “no sugar November” but I was (very easily) convinced into having pudding – Brioche doughnuts with apple puree and vanilla ice cream.
The combination of ambiance, really good food and good wine made for an extremely enjoyable evening. Although it is little more pricey than your average restaurant in Stellenbosch, I can definitely recommend going to try it at least once. Special shout out to chefs David and Kyle, congratulations and job well done! Looking forward to my next visit!