For Marius Uys and Johnny Hamman of Hamm & Uys, running a restaurant was not on the menu – at least, not in the foreseeable future. They were quite content to continue managing their Slippery Spoon catering company as they had for the past six years, wowing guests at weddings and other events with their unique food experiences since they had bowed out as the top two chefs in the KykNet programme Kokkedoor 2. But destiny had other plans …
When Blaauwklippen’s event management team approached them to extend their services from preferred wedding caterers in the estate’s glass cathedral to restaurant owners, there was no reason not to grab the opportunity. Just four weeks later – on Sunday, 8 September 2019 – the Hamm & Uys eatery opened its doors to reveal a long table heavily laden with traditional South African Sunday roast favourites. Henceforth this will become a Sunday institution aimed particularly at locals and will be a never-ending source of childhood memories coming to life.
“With the age of the farm and its history, it simply doesn’t make sense to do smoke and mirrors,” says Marius about the culinary approach of the eatery. “Johnny and I always look for restaurants that prepare food we grew up with. Honest food. We do nostalgic food, food we remember, food our grandmothers made,” he explains.
“I’m not a trained chef, I’m a nostalgic chef. Johnny, who is a trained chef, is an offbeat chef. I will make traditional pumpkin fritters and Johnny will sprinkle orange peel curls and gold dust over them. Together we’ve developed a style of food that works, food we like to eat ourselves. We’re giving our take on our own family recipes in the eatery. Something you could call ‘casual heritage, nostalgic South African food’, but reinvented for the modern palate.”
South African it truly is, a mix of delicacies from our diverse cultures merged into new and delicious inventions, opening the memory banks of childhood family holidays, your mom’s Sunday lunch specialities and Grandma’s comfort food.
Think chicken wings glazed with Wilson cola toffee (when last did you have one of those?) and served with fire-roasted corn on the cob and plenty of farm butter (they make the butter themselves, with just the right degree of saltiness). What about smoked Sunday leg of lamb, served with maize meal tacos filled with fresh mint, sliced guava, fermented tomatoes and a touch of green chilli, finished off with a bread-and-butter pickle and rosemary mayonnaise?
The West Coast mussel pot, cooked to perfection in Blaauwklippen White Zinfandel, exudes other lovely flavours, too, its generous portion served with traditional roosterkoek. And for the Cape’s curry fish feast that was an Easter staple, Marius and Johnny have their own particular take: a hot cross bao bun with fried pickled fish, in a mosbolletjie nogal, served with red onion, Cape gooseberries, a turmeric aioli and fresh coriander.
Yes, there’s burger, steak and game on the menu and it’s nothing like you expected and everything you ever wanted – and remember from way back – all at the same time. “Our menus will change every season, as we use only ingredients that are locally available. We source all our fresh ingredients from farmers and producers in the area, and the highest quality is a non-negotiable,” says Marius, adding that the eatery caters for vegans.
For something on the side, choose your hand-cut fries ‘normal’ or fried in ox fat – yes, ox fat. There’s the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ seasonal organic farm salad, which takes me back to the boere abundance and hospitality I grew up with. Some may think it a bit low brow but let’s face it, the idea of a condensed milk potato salad with gherkins and road-trip hard-boiled eggs gets the padkos memories flowing freely.
The list of desserts also brings a smile to the face and a warm feeling to the gut. Bo-Kaap koesisters are served with amasi ice cream; who would have thought of that, right? Or the ‘blushing bride’, a plate chock-a-block with memories: sous vide peaches (like the yellow-cling peaches Grandma preserved in big glass metal-cap bottles every year) with Ideal milk foam and a custard cookie crust, served with boerenmeisjes (apricots preserved in brandy). And, of course, malva pudding with homemade custard and clotted-cream ice cream.
If, after all those traditional-sized portions, you still have space, you can order a cheese board to round off your meal. You’ll get sourdough bread, vetkoek and slaphakskeentjies (onion salad) served with fire-roasted grapes, grape jam, nastergal jam, makataan preserve, Namibian game biltong and droëwors, as well as an array of fancy cheeses that includes Dalewood Huguenot, Kleinrivier Gruyère and Fairview Blue Rock.
The fact that there’s a menu for youngsters as well says a lot about the relaxed vibe Hamm & Uys personifies. Children can feast on favourites from our youth like Pa Piet’s mac & cheese, pink Vienna hotdogs and a bazaar mince jaffle. Do you still remember those?
Sundays will never be the same again
The Sunday roasts are something the duo would like to be remembered for and, judging by attendance and bookings so far, that box has already been ticked. “It’s really much more than a meal or a mere outing,” says Marius, “but rather a whole Sunday experience. Our setting sets us apart; from the moment you’ve parked your car, your experience on this gorgeous farm begins and it will end only after your visit to the over-the-top dessert display.”
Every Tom, Dick and Mary, plus their friends and families, will make their way to beautiful Blaauwklippen to sample the Sunday roasts. If you’re one of them, you’ll be greeted by a huge mussel pot already cooking away on a fire as you enter the restaurant. You can sit inside or out, enjoying a red or white Blaauwklippen Zinfandel – its label embossed with every historical and modern-day feature of the estate – or sipping on the recently released Zin Gin, a glowing Zinfandel-infused gin. You can also sample any of the many other quality Blaauwklippen wines. You can even cleanse your palate with a lovely scoop of decadent homemade ice cream before sitting down – why not? The ice cream stall will make you feel like a child again and boasts flavours like milk tart, peppermint crisp tart, moerkoffie and banana bread.
Sunday meals are buffet-style and although they vary slightly from one week to the next, some much-loved favourites remain: denningvleis-bobotie, pumpkin fritters (of course), snoek paté and Crimplene pudding (“There’s always a tin of Ideal milk in there and the pudding looks like Crimplene.”). Marius says you will walk in on a typical bazaar table loaded with all the traditional favourites you know, but with a different take.
What could be more nostalgic than the smell of freshly baked bread, still steaming, with melting butter and homemade fig jam from Grandma’s kitchen? In the bread basket on Sundays you’ll find traditional mosbolletjies, vetkoek, roosterkoek and much more, again served with delicious homemade farm butter and preserves.
It’s for us
Although the atmosphere of Hamm & Uys can be described as country casual, the interior is spacious and ever so elegant, with modern yet classic decor complementing the historical building. Outside, few farms can compete with the sheer beauty and tranquillity of the historic Blaauwklippen werf, with its huge trees and lovely garden.
It’s clear the doors of Hamm & Uys are unashamedly open to locals first and foremost and secondly to tourists who want to experience real South African cuisine. Prices are deliciously good value for money and every portion is carefully considered, prepared with love and truly one of a kind. And, believe me, you will never leave hungry or without feeling proudly South African – and with all the chambers of childhood nostalgia ripped wide open.
For bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not new to the world of distilling outstanding gins, Blaauwklippen has recently introduced its unique Zin Gin, a first in South Africa.
The farm is one of only three in the country that grows Zinfandel – a variety popularly associated with California – and it is producing the widest range of Zinfandel products. “We use Zinfandel to make wine with depth: Zinfandel red, white, Noble Late Harvest and MCC. We’re the only estate making an MCC from Zinfandel,” says Johan van Dyk, Blaauwklippen’s marketing manager.
The estate has now taken its love of this variety one step further. The Zinfandel-infused gin is produced by means of a special process in which the alcohol is first removed from the Zinfandel wine and then all the remaining flavour goes into the clear, deep crimson red gin, giving it a unique spicy profile.
Not aged in barrels, Zin Gin has an initial taste of sweet red berries with cranberry juice, dry piny juniper and tea-like tannins that evolves into black pepper and angelica root woodiness. The warming berry with lemon citrus aftertaste then develops into a lingering cinnamon spice finish.
You can buy Zin Gin at the Blaauwklippen estate and in boutique wine shops.
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