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Restaurant of the week: Eleven pairs bold flavours with elegant wines

It’s been a while since we ran this series, but we’re back with a Franschhoek gem, Eleven, serving up contemporary food and bold flavours

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By Yashna Balwanth | December 8, 2023 | Travel Leisure

Eleven – the twin of perfect balance and a new sensory experience. Eleven is the newest culinary exploration at the heart of Franschhoek, South Africa. Taking its name from the address on the historic town’s main road of Huguenot Street, Eleven offers global contemporary cuisine inspired by big themes and bold flavours, while being perfectly paired with an array of wines from the local vineyards.

For some, eleven is the mystical character of spiritual awakening. Indeed, this is the underscoring of a dream now made reality by globe-trotting chef-proprietor Ryan Shell and the team at Oku and Yama restaurants. “Eleven is the culmination of a dream,” says Ryan. “It embodies something completely new for Franschhoek - a town I’ve really come to love. When the prominent location at the address became available, I knew we had to jump and make the dream a reality.”

Herbs are freshly picked to add a bigger flavour boost to the dishes, Image supplied

The restaurant is a concept inspired by the sum of Ryan’s experience gathered at premier eateries in the UK and several of Southern Africa’s five-star properties including top restaurants of the Cape. Here, in a chic, relaxed setting, industrial design employing wood, raw brick and burnt copper melds with elements of artistic finesse. The furniture made by Cape artisans talks of heritage infusing the contemporary, a perfect balance between past and present ensuring a comfortable setting.

Beetroot and goats cheese make an amazing pairing, Image supplied

Beyond his latest enterprises, Ryan is no stranger in these parts of South Africa. He counts his work under celebrated colleague Margot Janse at Le Quartier Français as among his most formative years, and he headed the restaurant at Haute Cabrière for a time. And it is at Eleven that his personal experience now blends – as twin - with that of the team to present a concise selection of curated dishes with a hyper-seasonal approach to ingredients.

The dining area of Eleven, Image Mia van Heerden

“I believe our chosen format creates a most interesting and diverse dining experience that will really showcase locally foraged ingredients in an environmentally sustainable way,” says Ryan. A delectable menu is one in constant lockstep with the seasons. The first line-up will include such delights as truffled goats’ cheese served with pickled beets, citrus gel and walnut soil; and, a personal favourite, the cured swordfish with red onion, radish, cucumber foam and coriander. A dish of parmesan gnocchi is elevated in partnership with aubergine, pine nuts, rocket and tomato aioli while a prawn tortellini just radiates flavour in a velouté with peas and basil. Dessert was just as perfect as the dishes before it, a valrhona Cremeux delighted the palette with loads of textures and harmonious flavour.

Eleven’s wine list receives the same curated treatment, further threading the needle of diversity that runs throughout the experience. Its cornerstones are Franschhoek wineries and lesser-known and interesting South African expressions, alongside other Cape favourites. These dishes were only elevated even more with the wine pairing, featuring hidden gems like the Lynx Viognier 2021 and classics like the Boschendal Cap Classique to start off the experience. Every wine was carefully selected to match each plate perfectly, enhancing the flavours and allowing the food to shine through.

Simple, contemporary plating to allow the flavours of these dishes to sing, Image supplied

In all, Eleven promises to be that very awakening of senses, and its own herald of new enlightenment to come. With such a strong start to the restaurant industry, watch this space for big things to come.