Epice - derived from the French word Épice meaning spice (and is pronounced eh-peace) - is an intimate fine dining restaurant located at Heritage Square, Franschhoek (opposite Leeu House)
“The restaurant menu will revolve around spices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean spicy hot - think of vanilla and saffron, or cinnamon and nutmeg, too” says Scot Kirton, chef proprietor of La Colombe.
Heading up the kitchen, head chef Charné Sampson is no stranger to refined, cutting edge cuisine- until recently she was the sous chef at La Colombe and is another one of Scot’s protégés to spread her wings. A graduate of Silwood, Charné also honed her craft in the kitchen of The Restaurant at Waterkloof and The Test Kitchen.
Le Quartier Français on the main road of Franschhoek beckons. The
interior of Epice is stylish and airy, elevated with ornamentation like
wooden sculptures of spices – eye-catching and clever.
There’s lots of ‘clever’ when it comes to chef Charné Sampson’s
gastronomic journey. Lock into the 12-course medley of her ode to
spices. The reduced and plant-based options will also take you to new
heights of appreciation for her innate instinct of cajoling the best out
of ingredients. Most diners associate spicy with curry, but her dishes
Cooking with her gran and growing up in a family where everyone
brought their signature dish to an event meant that this young
chef developed her palate at a young age. Don’t expect heavy,
loud or pungent levels of flavour – hours of reduction, painstaking
experimentation and sensitivity ensure that not one element of a dish
dominates. The vegan alternative to the oyster course is a Jerusalem
artichoke mousse, with a vindaloo sauce on the side. Zesty but not
overpowering, this condiment can remain on the table to add heat,
should you desire.
The bread course, proudly brandished by Charné, is a caraway bun
with oils and dukkah circled on a large plate, a generous inkling of
what lies ahead. This course alone relies on 25 spices being eloquently
combined. Hop up and watch your duck liver parfait with Szechuan
pepper contrasting the onion marmalade, being finished at the pass in
the course called ‘chef’s table’.
The pork and shellfish dish with corn, ginger and fennel is earmarked
as a stand-out, with good reason. The base of lemongrass and chilli
are almost undetectable. Now time for trolley-side fun – the sorbets,
before you devour a few prodigious main dishes. Fragrant and filling,
they’ll satisfy all your senses. The cheese course of Langbaken with
walnut is highlighted with mustard; the strawberry, almond and litchi
dessert elevated with vanilla.
Wine pairings and friendly service are on a premium par, local and
inspired. Chef Charné has perfected the art of matching seasoning
and ingredients. You too can try to pass the spice test – match the
flavours of chocolates and spices – as this chef did, with aplomb. It’s a
fun climax to an unforgettable journey.