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Cremello, a white blend wine from the Cavalli Estate

between Stellenbosch and Helderberg, but even from first impressions it stands apart from the other estates. Its architecture is the first clue to the ethos that inspires every aspect of the venture, from the cuisine in its restaurant to the techniques used to manage the land. “We are custodians of the land,” says Lauren Smith, owner and managing director of the Cavalli estate. “Since we bought this land five years ago we’ve learned a lot about the wine industry and we found it had affected the biodiversity of the region. I am keen on conservation so I wanted to create a sanctuary and establish a benchmark for sustainability.” An architect whose passion for horses is reflected in the name of the estate, the sculpture in its grounds and the labels for its wines – i cavalli is Italian for horses – Smith decided to create a business that would work in harmony with the land, while also providing the highest quality in everything, from its produce to its aptly named Equus restaurant. “We want to show what can be done in a sustainable manner. This is a great platform for us to start a conversation about these core ideas. In South Africa there are proscriptive ideas about what a wine farm looks like. We wanted to create a modern brand with its own language. We offer something new, about my passion for design and for nature,” she explains. All the architecture and design at the Cavalli estate is informed by a drive to be sustainable and to establish a benchmark for environmental and energy efficiency. Solar panels provide much of the power and wastewater is treated for reuse. While retaining an agricultural component, the estate endeavours to rehabilitate the biodiversity of the land. This philosophy of sustainability permeates everything, including the Equus restaurant, which has become the first Green Star-rated restaurant in South Africa.

“I lived in Italy for a while and the culture there is connected to local suppliers.


People buy their produce from the local market. In South Africa it is more like the US, where people are disconnected from their suppliers. Here, I wanted to get some of the ingredients for the menu from our own land. For the bistro, many ingredients come from our garden. Local produce has a better flavour,” says Smith. High quality local ingredients are a key part of the story. The other key factor is the presence of one of South Africa’s top chefs, Henrico Grobbelaar.

The ethos of Equus

Having traded his career as an engineer in 2001 Grobbelaar quickly became known as one of South Africa’s most creative young chefs. He was Sunday Times Chef of the Year 2009, San Pellegrino International Young Chef of the World 2009, executive chef to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland 2010 and to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in his home country. His cuisine is based on full, simple flavours that derive from the balance of high quality of ingredients. That philosophy has enabled him to create a menu that has something for everyone. Equus offers an affordable bistro menu for lunch and fine dining in the evenings. “The idea for the restaurant is to be very close to nature,” says Grobbelaar. “We use the harvest from the garden, we recycle a lot, we compost and we recycle all the water we use. In the kitchen there is no deep fat fryer. We have a very energy-efficient operation in the kitchen. In terms of the food, we want people to have options. There is always a vegetarian option and at the moment that uses beetroot and basil from our herb garden.” “We respect our produce and try to source everything from as close as possible. For instance, all of our pork

comes from the pig farm next door, and our trout comes from the farm opposite. Our cuisine is local, basic stuff, but presented in a way never seen before in South Africa. Stellenbosch has four of the top 10 restaurants in the country, so we have to aim high. I draw a lot of inspiration from the huge art gallery we have here. I like that people can see art downstairs and eat it upstairs.” Grobbelaar was closely involved in the design of the kitchen, both in terms of its layout and the choice of equipment, helping to source the most energy-efficient technology and equipment.

“The kitchen is big and open like a

theatre. Everyone can see into it and people can come to talk to us about the food. In fact, there are three kitchens – the production kitchen downstairs, the show kitchen upstairs and a satellite service kitchen – so that we can easily change the menu between lunch and dinner. “I had some specific requirements for the main kitchen, the first being a Charvet oven, which is sturdy, looks good, is very efficient and includes many time-saving elements. The second was

Adande fridges, which are very low-noise and low-energy,” he explains. The concept of Adande refrigeration (see p79) fits neatly with the ethos of sustainability that defines everything on the Cavalli estate. They are easy to use, versatile, efficient and, above all, safer as they enable food to be preserved without any risk of breaking the cold chain.

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