With the arrival of Spring on 1 September, we are also launching a new season of JAN Franschhoek, the exceptional food and wine experience by Michelin-starred Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, presented in La Motte estate’s historic Veepos cottage. There are many unique attributes to this memorable culinary encounter, but one of the standouts has to be that the sensory storytelling takes place around a communal table.
There is something about a table, isn’t there? Regardless of the meal or occasion, whether the setting is informal or all linen and crystal, a table brings people together. The JAN Franschhoek experience combines the nostalgia of a South African family table with Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s unique sense of culinary innovation to captivate and charm guests with regional culinary traditions, familiar flavours and local ingredients, presented like nothing we can do at home. It is quite something! But more than the experience of the food and wine, it was the regular, positive reference to the communal table that caught my attention during Season I. While the idea of a fine dining food and wine experience at a table shared with strangers, might seem daunting and strange to some, the ultimate sense of togetherness and a shared appreciation for the offering shattered any fears there might have been. Perhaps the charm of the quaint, historic cottage, the décor and attentive service and of course generous glasses of wine have something to do with it, but for me, with all respect and recognition to the delicious and beautiful food and wine, the table was the star of the show.
I think tables should be family heirlooms. Imagine if tables could talk. Exciting news is announced at a table – engagements and expectations. Big events are celebrated at a table – birthdays, weddings, degrees and promotions. Fights happen around a table – there’s a reason why our folks had a policy against the topics of politics and religion at the dinner table! Tables are also a place of comfort – coming home after a long absence, a treat after a disappointment, remembering those who are no longer with us. Even when the meal is informal, tables add some ceremony to the occasion. Seating arrangements, table manners, saying grace… As interactive as canapés are and as relaxing as it is to sit around a fire, with a plankie steak doing the rounds, add a table and your meal is more than the food.
It is hard not to be charmed by Jan Hendrik’s table at La Motte. The authenticity, hospitality and sensory inspirations are all highlights, but in gathering around a table, this exceptional experience is also about the people who enjoy it. A table, extravagant or humble, is where we reminisce and make new memories. Remember that next time when you take your place.