Taking its name from the giant trees that were planted around the front of Vergelegen’s historic homestead over 300 years ago, Camphors restaurant established a superb reputation the minute it opened its doors in 2012, winning eighth place in the 2013 Eat Out Restaurant Awards. Formerly headed by celebrated chef PJ Vadas, the restaurant welcomed chef Michael Cooke in 2014, who previously headed the kitchens at La Colombe and The Greenhouse.
Camphors exudes understated sophistication and is elegantly dressed in comfortable, classic furniture with a decidedly contemporary flair.
Michael changes his menu seasonally and, as such, is constantly innovating bold new flavours and dishes. He’s known for his exquisite presentation, something he says he learnt from his mentor Peter Tempelhoff, chef at the award-winning Greenhouse, who also pours his passion onto his plates. And, even though the menu is diverse and ever-changing, all Michael’s dishes have one thing in common: they’re globally inspired, but made using local produce.
From the starters menu, I ordered the braised octopus and marinated squid, with avocado mousse and radish-and-tamarind jelly, which was gorgeous. For mains, I chose Karoo lamb, with sweetbreads, salsa verde, onion-and-dill purée, savoy cabbage and fynbos jus. The sweet-toothed will get their fix with the manjari flourless torte, with milk chocolate crémeux, raspberries and pistachio ice cream.
And then, of course, there are Vergelegen’s award-winning wines… professionally showcased by sommelier Christo Deyzel, and the perfect complement to all of Michael’s dishes.
Good to know If you’re looking for a relaxed, child-friendly restaurant, Vergelegen is also home to Stables – a bistro-style eatery that opens onto a patio and large playground and offers views of the majestic Hottentots Holland mountain range.