Home > Dining In, Dining Out, Food, Travel, Wine > Uncorked wine, liver and onions in the Franschhoek Valley

Uncorked wine, liver and onions in the Franschhoek Valley

Tucked away behind the zhoosh coffee shops and bistros on the Franschhoek main road at the intersection with Reservoir Street you’ll find Café de Arts, a delightful little eatery run by Chris Hoffman and Louise Rambert.

I had the good fortune to eat lunch (and dinner) there on the Saturday of Franschhoek Uncorked a couple of weeks ago, and was I impressed!

Chris Hoffman hard at work in his open plan kitchen at Cafe des Arts, turning out his signature dishes.

Originally the preserve of the legendary and much loved Topsi Venter, the restaurant was taken over by Chris and Louise a couple of years ago when Topsi retired. Chris, who was running Café de Arts in Kalk Bay at the time, actually trained as a chef at Topsi’s some 16 years ago, so in many ways he was coming home.

I love liver so when I saw lambs liver with chilli roast potatoes, balsamic onions and bacon (R78) on the menu my choice was simple, and what a great decision!The menu is eclectic in that it changes literally daily, depending upon what’s available fresh and local Louise tells me, and it’s short but despite its brevity, choosing a dish is tricky.

The lamb was melt in the mouth tender, the creamy sauce just richly right, with a tiny hint of chilli, and the crispy bacon slices the perfect topping.

So impressed was I with the dish, that we returned to Café des Arts for dinner that night, and I ordered it again!

We opened a bottle of Irene Waller’s Winemaker’s Blend, a sumptuous Bordeaux-style blend which we’d bought (12 bottle case!) earlier in the day after a fabulous five year vertical tasting with Irene at La Bri, and it was just perfect.

The charming Irene Waller leading a five year vertical tasting at La Bri during Franschhoek Uncorked

The restaurant was pleasantly busy, and despite the pressure, service was good, with Louise readily in attendance while Chris turned out dish after dish in the open plan kitchen.

Mrs M had the Parma ham, rocket and avo pizza for lunch (R75) and Angelfish with roast veg and garlic butter (R115) for dinner, both of which were sublime.

Felllow diner Guy Kedian had the Teriyaki chicken stir fry (R75) for lunch, which I tasted, and was blown away.

The chalkboard wine list at Cafe des Arts

Booking is essential and the restaurant is open Monday to Saturday for breakfast (8am to 12pm), lunch (12pm to 2pm) and dinner (6.30pm to 9pm).All in all, a lovely little bistro that produces simple yet delicious meals at very reasonable prices. A limited wine list is available, cleverly written on a mini-chalkboard which is delivered to the table, and of course you’re welcome to bring your own.

Call (021)876-2952 for reservations, and leave a message if there is no reply.

I chatted to Chris about the liver recipe and asked his permission to recreate the dish, to which he graciously agreed. I served mine with fondant potatoes and shallots, and included the chilli in the creamy sauce.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes Cooking Time: 60 minutes Yield: 4

Ingredients, Selection and Preparation

500g lambs liver: thinly sliced, 3mm to 5mm thick.

250ml fresh cream

1 large shallot: thinly sliced.

50ml balsamic vinegar

8 slices of streaky bacon

60g butter

1 small red chilli: deseeded and finely sliced.

Canola oil: for frying.

Salt and pepper: for seasoning

4 medium potatoes: peeled and shaped like a small barrel with flattened (see photo).

250ml chicken stock


This is Chris’s original liver dish

Melt 30g of the butter in a medium shallow saucepan and when it stops spluttering, place the potatoes in the butter flat end down. Cook over a medium heat until crispy and browned well on the one end and then turn over. Work carefully when you lift the potato as it may well have stuck.

Cook until browned and crispy on the other end, then pour in the chicken stock. Season well with salt and pepper. Cook covered over a low heat, turning every 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are soft in the centre but firm on the outside, about 45 minutes in total. Remove from the heat, cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan and melt the other 30g of the butter. Sweat the shallots until soft. Add the balsamic vinegar, and the chilli and cook over a low heat until they begin to caramelise. Be sure they do not burn. Set aside.

… and this is my take served with fondant potatoes and Cathy Marshall’s 2010 Pinot Noir

While that’s doing heat another pan and add a splash of canola oil. Fry the bacon until crispy and golden brown. Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C.

Heat a medium ovenproof fry pan piping hot and add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil. Sear the sliced liver of a minute or two, being careful to not overcook it or it will be dry and tough.

Turn the heat down low, and add the caramelised shallots and the cream. Cook for about a minute then place in the oven for five minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside to rest while you plate.

Divide the liver between four warmed plates, top each stack with two rashers of bacon, and serve with a fondant potato.

Wine Match

Cathy Marshall crafts a fine pinot in the Elgin Valley, and a bottle of her 2010 found its way onto the table with this dish.

Bright garnet in colour, the wine sings of fresh red berry fruit with delicate whiffs of damp forest floor after rain.

In the mouth it has a dense core of fresh raspberries and cherries, with a firm acidity balancing well with the finely structured tannins, and the elegant mineral notes, finishing persistently.

  1. September 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I also like liver, and will definitely give the recipe (and restaurant) a go, thanks!

  2. Felicity Allwright
    September 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    250lm fresh cream – There is a bit of dyslexia here!

    • September 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      It’s a thing called “finger dyslexia” whereby the fingers strike the keys in a different sequence than one desires. Makes for some interesting blunders… but I’ve now fixed it!

  3. Felicity Allwright
    September 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Yes, this is very easy to do, I do it as well and you don’t see your own mistakes.

  1. November 6, 2012 at 11:50 am

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