Simple, contemporary flavours and quintessential Stellenbosch street views.
When you open a new restaurant as a couple, your everything goes into it – you can taste that passion at Rykaart’s in Stellenbosch. Alex and Ella Rykaart’s welcoming everyday eatery is a culmination of their journeys so far. This is Alex’s first venture as chef-patron (after four years as head chef at The Vine Bistro at Glenelly); Ella’s extensive front-of-house experience, having studied winemaking at Stellenbosch University before moving into the hospitality industry, with a year’s foray into the kitchens as a chef at Jardine.
Together they’ve devised a menu that is approachable and flexible, unfussy and eminently satisfying, paying homage to all the friends,family and suppliers that have supported them along their way.
In the heart of Stellenbosch
On the corner of Bird and Dorp Streets, with six outside tables along its street frontage, Rykaart’s epitomises the Stellenbosch pavement dining scene. Couples wander between neighbouring wine bars, gin bars and restaurants checking displayed menus; a babble of conversation from the tables filling the pavement. It’s almost European in feel, but then the view over Dorp Street’s historic houses, the oak trees with a slice of mountain rising above them restores your sense of place.
Inside, the restaurant is warm and colourful, with air-conditioning for Stellenbosch summer days, presided over by an open kitchen, and decorated with luminous abstract artworks by artist Arabella Caccia, Ella’s mother and the supportive force behind the couple’s decision to realise their dream of opening their own restaurant.
Alex started out at Neil Jewell’s erstwhile Bread and Wine (at Môreson) learning about charcuterie, gained fine-dining experience at Le Quartier Français under Margot Janse, transitioned to pizzas at Burrata with Neil Grant before becoming head chef at Open Door on Constantia Uitsig, which is where he and Ella met. A stint in California at Michelin three-starred restaurant, Manresa, gave him insight into contemporary global and Japanese flavours, before he returned home to run the kitchen at Vine Bistro, gaining a strong French background under Christophe Dehosse, who he says is a valued mentor to them both.
A menu for all seasons
The flexible seasonal menu is designed to suit any occasion and has elements of all those influences. The lunch crowd might go for a beef-cheek roll with Vietnamese pickles and a Caesar salad from the small plates section, or share all six small plates over two courses. Snacks of light-as-air cheese gougères, earthy Mediterranean pan con tomate, or homemade biltong and nori nuts can be pre-meal appetisers, serve as starters, or a quick snack lunch. But you can just as easily line up three, four or five courses for a celebratory dinner.
Among the four mains, there’s always a substantial steak and triple-cooked chips, the grass-fed meat sourced from a small farm in the Eastern Cape, and a vegetarian dish, such as a sumptuous home-made lemon-scented ricotta agnolotti in a deeply savoury caponata sauce, chocolate its secret ingredient.
“Something creamy, something fresh, and something chocolate,” is how Alex describes the dessert menu and his decadent chocolate marquise in cardamom crème anglaise with sesame nougatine really is to die for, the crème brulée with raspberry and orange a close second.
Stellenbosch residents are already making Rykaart’s their go-to local eatery since it opened in November 2021 and, judging by the various languages spoken when we visited on a balmy Friday summer evening, it’s also on the Stellenbosch map for our foreign visitors.
Good to know There’s a well-chosen wine list, but you can also bring one bottle of your own wine per table with no corkage fee charged.
Opening times Wednesday – Sunday, 12pm – 3pm; 6pm – 9pm
Tuesday, 6pm – 9pm
Contact 061 545 1465 email@example.com
Where to find it Corner of Bird and Dorp Streets, Stellenbosch
Book through DinePlan
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