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Marthinus Ferreira dishes on his new Cape Winelands adv...



Marthinus Ferreira dishes on his new Cape Winelands adventure

Marthinus Ferreira. (Photo: Supplied)

DW eleven-13’s Marthinus Ferreira is known for his restaurant in Dunkeld and his name will soon be on a restaurant board in the Cape Winelands.

Things are happening for one of Jozi’s top restaurants and one of Mzansi’s top chefs. We get the full story about what the plan is at DW eleven-13 in Dunkeld West (11-13 is the address at the DW centre in Jan Smuts Avenue), now that its owner-chef Marthinus Ferreira also has his name on a restaurant board in the Winelands.

Gary Jordan is renaming his Stellenbosch winelands restaurant: Jordan Restaurant with Marthinus Ferreira. It started off as one of the very first signature-chef places in the Winelands.

Chef George Jardine is leaving the estate to run his own restaurant in Stellenbosch itself. There was an unforgettable night 12 years ago that all three friends remember with happiness. It was Gary Jordan’s birthday party up here in Jozi and both Marthinus Ferreira and George Jardine cooked for it as “two of my favourite chefs in the world”. Jardine has run Jordan’s restaurant and won awards for it in the intervening 12 years. Now it’s Ferreira’s turn.

An onion and thyme marshmallow, smoked aubergine puree and minty pesto on an olive oil sablé, a kale trimmings muffin with fish mousse and a coral tuile. (Photo: Marthinus Ferreira)

Ferreira’s not short of national chef status or annual awards himself. One local award has, as predicted then, not been made to him within its top 10 since he, rather infamously now, slurred some unsavoury words on mic, during an acceptance speech rather late one night, eight years ago. 

We don’t exactly break off for snacks but three of them do arrive, all mine. I’m keen to hear their descriptions as I devour one after another. So Marthinus briefly interrupts our restaurant chat to tell me that they are actually zero-waste triumphs. I’ve got a fabulously textured onion and thyme marshmallow, a savoury olive oil sablé carrying smoked aubergine puree and tomatoey-minty pesto, plus a gorgeous little muffin of kale trimmings, creamy fish mousse with a coral tuile awave on top.

He picks up again while I wipe the crumbs, “I’m not leaving the country or anything. I’ll be up here every month.” Marthinus pauses and nods slowly. “Remember that DW eleven-13 is my baby. Boy, I’ve worked hard for it and I’m not chucking it up now that it’s at its peak of success again.”

Part of that proof is that he’s just signed the DW eleven-13 lease for another five years. Marthinus started this Jozi-itinerary-must restaurant just over 12 years ago. 

Chef Marthinus Ferreira is a relentless work demon, one of those chefs who lives for food, dreams up ideas, gets up at five and is working in the kitchen at seven. Marthinus and his team got the restaurant, themselves and less fortunates though the lockdowns admirably, through incessant hard work, making takeaways, hamburgers, everything and anything, all day and into the nights. They swung back into full DW eleven-13 action as soon as conditions allowed. It is one the super-impressive feats in the restaurant industry.

Something of a surprise happened in pre-Covid days, when Marthinus took restaurant time off as a judge for The Ultimate Braai Master Season One and Two. No, I never did think that was a great idea. But he says he felt like a completely different experience, “and it was fun”, with Justin Bonello. While his eye was on glorious sunsets and searing steaks, it was just not on DW eleven-13 enough. Both he and his restaurant were temporarily out of shape. There was more hard work in store for the perfectionist chef. But, of course, he’s not afraid of that and pulled it all off.

Marthinus points out that, in comparison, he can today run two restaurants just as well as the other top chefs he knows that are doing it. “But I’m making damn sure of everything and everyone. Leaving nothing to chance.”

I picture his and Luke Dale-Roberts’ criss-crossing planes, our chefs keeping the skies busy.

“Are we having a glass of wine? I’ve got a nice surprise. You know Richard?”

Who doesn’t remember Richard Chitukutuku after meeting him once? (Photo: Amnellsia Photography)

Of course. Richard Chitukutuku is the personable and fun manager, front-of-house, the personality of DW eleven-13 and has been for years. 

“I knew you were going to choose that one!” crows Marthinus to him when he proffers a bottle of Tesselaarsdal. It’s the 2020 chardonnay.

“Marie-Lais would like the story,” says Richard. I would. “And I know what you’re going to eat.”

“So Richard is now our sommelier.” He’s still the manager of course. I love it. Richard’s been away from DW eleven-13 for a while, doing his wine courses in the Cape and going through the estates. “Mario is now working for Paul Wallace wines.” We all knew Mario, the previous wine director too. It seems to have worked out well for everyone. Richard beams as he pours.

Our table is populated by four plates just then, too. I try not to be too distracted by these visuals just yet, listening to Richard.

The woman that makes this wine was once, at 19, an au pair to the Hamilton Russells of Hemel-en-Aarde. Her story is really that of wanting to know, from a background of no wine experience or wine drinking whatsoever, what made wine so precious. What was in it that made it cost so much more than, say, a beer? She had been helping at the wine farm with the marketing, since she was obviously more avid than the average au pair.

During her explorations of discovery about why particular wine grapes themselves were so pricy and precious, thanks to a very young vintner friend and then a helluva lot of studying, she was even able to make a little wine at the suggestion of Anthony Hamilton Russel. Right then she knew she wanted a cellar of her own. Fat chance, “But people often get what they wish for,” as Richard says. I catch his eye.

Her cellar is being built. Tesselaarskloof was once a place where slaves were actually bred for profit by the owners but who eventually left the land to their remaining slaves when Tesselaar died. 

The woman, this winemaker, Berene Sauls, comes from the small hamlet of goatherds and chicken keepers, beer makers and consumers that occupied that land. “They’re here on the wine label.” That way she wanted to honour the place where she grew up. Berene Sauls has been making and marketing her brightly nuanced wine for a while already. “It’s going to be the ideal drink with everything on this table.”

With the wine, Marthinus and I are having something that he and the new DW eleven-13 chef have conceived. DW eleven-13 is chiefly a tasting menu restaurant but now there’s a brand new and quite quick-to-eat lunch concept as well. There are four plates for two lunchers to share. I see each dish is cunningly cut, to divide, ready to share. I grin crazily when I hear the price of R300 for all this food, for two.

The Klimt-look plate of escabeche, with tuna, onion rings, olives inter alia. (Photo: Amnellsia Photography)

The dishes will change weekly so that repeat lunchers won’t be bored. The plate I can’t keep my eyes off is an escabeche. It looks like a beautiful Klimt arrangement of cured tuna, onion rings, olives and tastes Spanish, probably because of the smoky paprika. My half is gone while we’re still talking.

I think about the Klimt look and wonder if the plating had to do with the restaurant’s new chef’s having worked with Chantel Dartnall at Mosaic. It doesn’t. Marthinus says they just liked the look in the kitchen and I get on and eat my half of warm mixed mushrooms, including porcini, on buttery toasted bruschetta, dusted with Parmesan.

Warm mixed mushrooms, buttery toast and Parmesan. (Photo: Amnellsia Photography)

There’s still an aspect of Marthinus about this lunch. I know he just loves cheeses, often travelling to taste foreign ones and supporting small farmers here. He surprises me when he says the new head chef and he are: “Pretty, pretty similar in lots of ways.”

I still don’t know who it is but it’s time to meet. Chef Michelle Biondi joins us. I recall her name from the fabulous Black Bamboo in Pretoria that had us all so impressed at the time, adding another restaurant great to the Gauteng bests then. 

“We think so much alike; we’re driven equally hard. It’s phenomenal,” says Marthinus. The idea is also that Chef Michelle and, indeed, the other chefs might do location swops from time to time between the Jordan estate restaurant and here.

DW eleven-13’s new head chef, Michelle Biondi. Says Marthinus: ‘We’re pretty, pretty similar.’ (Photo: Amnellsia Photography)

Chef Marthinus has always been famous for his Layers of Flavour talent, that uncanny ability and palate training to know how tastes work most exquisitely in succession, how each improves the next or the last. I think it’s part of the secret of his magic as a chef and many of his dishes are designed that way. Chef Michelle laughs knowingly and says her personal palate often veers to the more unusual middle-east, maybe because of the addition of layers of texture that work with taste.

Gnocchi dimpled, with folds of differently textured chicken. (Photo: Amnellsia Photography)

I’m enjoying eating our gnocchi dish on the table for exactly that reason, I think admiringly. It’s dimpled gnocchi with folds of differently textured chicken layers. 

Anyway, she has to get back to the kitchen before we can chat much more but is very keen to know and hawk-eyed to see what we think of our Express lunch.

Even the house salad is substantial and special but I know I always say that here. I don’t think I’d manage more than I’ve already cleaned my four half-dishes but lunchers can add on, surprisingly inexpensively, things like breads, great snacks, a dessert, a glass of wine chosen by Richard.

A ‘dessert’ of aged Gouda, espresso, hazelnut, onion in layers of flavour. (Photo: Amnellsia Photography)

I know there’s a “dessert” option that features aged Gouda, espresso, hazelnut and onion. It might at first thought seem adventurous but remember that, at DW eleven-13, they’re adept at that layers-of-flavour thing. Head chef Michelle Biondi’s tapping into that magic as well. DM/TGIFood

DW Eleven-13, 11-13 Dunkeld West Shopping Centre. 011 341 0663

Follow Marie-Lais Emond on Instagram Marie-Lais Emond.

The writer supports Nosh Food Rescue, an NGO that helps Jozi feeding schemes with food ‘rescued’ from the food chain. Please support them here. 


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