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(Cutting) EDGE African at Tapasco

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Left: Wood fire roasted cabbage, poached mussels, zamalek broth, with apple & dill. Right: Chef Vusi Ndlovu

Before dinner I wondered whether Chef Vusi Ndlovu, whose surname means elephant, knew that Franschhoek was first known as Oliphantshoek (Elephants Corner). He did. Anyway, I digress before I’ve properly started… I missed his restaurant’s residency at Pasarene earlier this year, so was happy to finally fit in a visit to EDGE in mid-May.

Vusi attained chef stardom by placed as one of Top 7 in the San Pellegrino Young Chef Grand Finale in 2018 and being awarded best chef in Africa and Middle East. Bucking his mother’s wishes to study for an engineering degree he started his culinary journey at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. Hard work and passion saw him working under the likes of Peter Tempelhoff, David Higgs and Luke Dale Roberts. After a stint in Belgium at the highly-acclaimed ‘In de Wulf’ and heading up kitchens at The Saxon and the trendy The Marabi Club, it was time to be master of his own domain. The result, in collaboration with siblings Absie and Mandla Pantshwa, was EDGE – “a holistic celebration of Africa” and a most welcome addition to the Franschhoek culinary scene.

My experience of African cuisine doesn’t stretch much further than local venison, ‘pap & sous’ and an excruciatingly hot chicken and plantain dish the mother of a Nigerian acquaintance-of-an-acquaintance once served me in London.  Let’s say that what I did not expect to find on my plate was contemporary, minimalist African-inspired dishes with sauces that will have any French-trained chef terminally envious.

The bread course of a dumpling in a traditional Zulu beef broth introduced a problem I encountered throughout the evening: I could not keep my finger out of my plate…

For starters my companion opted for ‘Charred broccoli, West African groundnut stew, lemon, & seaweed’. I chose ‘Wood fire roasted cabbage, poached mussels, zamalek broth, with apple & dill’. Red tide meant no mussels were available, but what was on my plate was so good, I didn’t even miss them. (Zamalek, the ebullient Absie informed me, is slang for Black Label Beer.) If my dish were an aria, the combination of sour apple with the smooth broth was where the diva hit the top C. The broccoli must also have been good, as I got the steely eye from my companion if I as much as glanced at it.

Our main course choices were ‘Pickled fish: Slow roasted white fish, onion purée, ember roasted leeks, & Cape Malay dressing with prawn reduction’ and ‘Chicken Yassa: Roasted chicken, baked carrots, black garlic, with mustard & lemon jus.’ My chicken was good enough to make me want to go to Senegal to further explore the origins of Yassa. As regards the pickled fish… I got the steely eye again.

My companion and I are both fans of white Bordeaux, so we opted for a bottle of Wildeberg Coterie Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc 2020 to accompany our meals. Our choice reaffirmed how versatile a food wine white Bordeaux is and renewed my appreciation of what the folks at Wildeberg are doing in their cellar.

The dessert options of ‘Melon seed panna-cotta, roasted white chocolate, pine oil, & mango jelly’ and ‘Chocolate cake, malt butterscotch, & baobab crème’ didn’t disappoint either.

We left EDGE on a culinary high and with the firm intention of returning ASAP to savour more of Chef Vusi’s African-inspired, fire-touched creations.

info@edgerestaurant.africa | 082 813 9378

EDGE is open for dinner only from Thursday to Monday between 18h00 and 21h00. They’ll be at their current pop-up venue until the end of May 2022. You’ll regret it if you miss them!

Declaration: The editor and his companion were the guests of EDGE Restaurant.