We recently had the privilege of visiting the Norval Foundation and the tasteful, The Skotnes Restaurant and Bar.
While we add the final touches to the memoir of our visit to the Norval Foundation, take a look at this short Q&A with the man at the helm of The Skotnes Restaurant & Bar, Chef Phil de Villiers.
The focus of your menu at The Skotnes Restaurant & Bar is a fresh take on familiar South African flavours. Tell us about the inspiration behind the menu and a little more about your style of cooking?
I have always been a big fan of Italian food with its diverse culture of ingredients and flavours that vary from region to region. Our very own South African cuisine similarly boasts abundant influences from different cultures and provinces. I firmly believe that presenting guests with a version of flavours they grew up with evokes memories that make dishes taste even better. So, for my menu at The Skotnes Restaurant & Bar, I set out to create dishes interpreted in a new way to enhance the core flavour of each fresh, locally sourced ingredient.
You’ve worked with great chefs throughout your career. Who were your mentors, and what achievement are you most proud of?
I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some truly amazing chefs throughout my career, training under Stefano Strafella and later working under Gerard Vingerling. These flamboyant chefs motivated me to strive for excellence, be meticulous in the sourcing of ingredients and create nourishing dishes with simple, bold flavours. I’m very proud of my achievement at Primal Eatery, named Eat Out’s Best Steakhouse of 2017.
How have your culinary experiences influenced your style of cooking, which ingredients are you particularly interested in and how does this translate into your menu at The Skotnes Restaurant & Bar?
My experience has taught me to love local. As South Africans we always tend to look abroad for inspiration while we have such rich culinary inspiration right here on our doorstep. I have started delving into South Africa’s culinary heritage and discovered that my passion lies in exploring the ‘forgotten’ vegetables our forefathers used to cook with and reimagining their preparation in new ways.
Essentially, I’m most interested in merging modern cooking techniques with old-school recipes and shedding new light on ingredients and flavours of the past. My style of cooking is straightforward, simple, honest and using only the very best ingredients. What we source is what you get, just a far more delicious version!
You source most of your ingredients from local, small-batch suppliers. What are the advantages of sourcing produce in this way?
The essence of our ethos at the Skotnes Restaurant & Bar is to support the small producer and play a big part in growing their businesses. Working closely with small farmers means that we have direct access to beautiful fresh produce, can plan what to plant for future menus and serve ingredients in their prime. We also work with boutique wine farms to produce tailor-made wines, unique to Norval Foundation and The Skotnes Restaurant & Bar. We support small micro-brewers whose passion for their craft is infectious and inspiring. It’s this very spirit of collaboration that we seek to nurture at Norval Foundation.
Could you describe the Skotnes Restaurant & Bar menu in 5 enticing words?
Local, seasonal, familiar, flavoursome and evolving
Please tell us about your favourite dish on The Skotnes Restaurant & Bar menu?
Our main course dish of duck and umngqusho, it symbolizes what the restaurant stands for. We marry classic French cooking of confit duck and a quince terrine with a Xhosa dish of umngqusho which we modernise by adding some smoked duck breasts, crème fraiche, enriched with duck fat. Guests can round-off their dining experience at The Skotnes Restaurant & Bar by selecting from a trolley of our Pastry Chef Isca Stoltz’s playful mini versions of iconic South African desserts.
What kind of culinary experiences can visitors to Norval Foundation expect aside from the Skotnes Restaurant & Bar offering?
Our family-friendly picnics are one of the elements at Norval Foundation I am most excited about. Expect to discover and savour Cape Malay spiced smoked snoek pâté, home smoked ocean trout salad and delicious cheesecake in your picnic hamper.
The setting for the picnics is the scenic Sculpture Garden where kids can play on the Angus Taylor sculpted jungle gym. The Skotnes Bar on the first floor boasts awesome sunset views of the Steenberg Mountains and offers hand-crafted cocktails, as well as a selection of grazing boards.