The Camphors at Vergelegen signature restaurant takes its name from the ancient giant camphor trees, planted in 1700, situated in front of the historic Homestead. The restaurant overlooks expansive lawns and beautiful trees complementing the overall dining experience and creating an ambiance never to be forgotten.
After only a year of operation, Camphors was awarded eighth place in the Top Ten restaurants in South Africa, in The Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards 2013, as well as being the Regional Winner - Wine Tourism Restaurant - in the 2014 Best of Wine Tourism Awards, Great Wine Capitals. In the Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards 2015, Camphors received a Top 20 nomination and in the 2016 awards, was again placed in the Top 10.
Vergelegen produces classical wine varietals and the ever changing menu reflects a modern take on classical international and local food dishes, specifically designed to complement Vergelegens award-winning wines. The Sommelier and his restaurant team guide diners through the menu and recommended wine selections to ensure a relaxed and memorable food and wine experience. This experience is tailored for both wine and food connoisseurs and everyday visitors alike who want to enjoy an unpressured dining experience. Regrettably, Camphors is not child-friendly. For tables of 8 guests (or more), a reduced option a la carte menu is recommended.
'an authentic expression of place'
Upon entering the estate there is much to catch your eye – more than 300-year-old camphor trees, grazing cows, camellias in winter and roses in summer. The minute you are seated in the cosy dining room or outdoors on the terrace, you’ll see and smell the setting on each plate.
Chef Michael Cooke’s core talent is transforming the ethos and produce of the estate into robust, multi-layered dishes, always incorporating nature. Never one-dimensional, he concentrates on making one or two ingredients shine. Equal to his cuisine is the wine. Expect the unexpected. You may have interesting pairings, starting with the flagship wine, but know that together, each pair will sing. A lot happens in a little dish, like the free-range beef with shiitake mushrooms and sherry – the beef broth custard calls loudly for companionship of a young, red wine.
In winter monotone ingredients up their game with bright hues of citrus. Dishes like the braaied Karoo lamb with sunchoke is served with a bright romesco sauce. Fruits and vegetables play together, like a baked celeriac with apple, chestnut and pine – wiped at table with pine oil and a pine-needle brush. The seared yellowtail with rhubarb, coconut and cucumber is equally impressive. Provenance is constantly demonstrated as is ethical sourcing – the East and West Coast seafood dish with cabbage and butternut is a mix of hake and mussels, delicately balanced in flavour.
Execution seems effortless with front of house and behind the scenes linked by devotion to ensuring that the entire experience is seamless yet unhurried. “A chef is limited by their weakest link – the growth of service and food is down to the growth of individuals. If you see staff are passionate then you invest in them. They must believe in the restaurant, the wine and food with emotional buy-in,” says Michael.
Coffee and tea-flavoured chocolates will tempt you as it’s time to leave.
"We use features and props to support the act and connect the guest with the ingredient." Chef Michael Cooke