Our verdict on Babel: ‘Quite possibly the most colourful food you’ll ever eat’
So I decided to continue with sharing my experiences of Babylonstoren today. And in keeping with the hotel theme which I’ve decided to adopt this week, I’m going to continue with some more beautiful stays in the days to come. So stay tuned.
But for now, let’s talk about Babel, the signature restaurant, led by head chef Cornelle Minie.
I can’t compare the food and drink at Babel to anywhere I’ve ever stayed or eaten, which is rare. It’s so, well, unique.
In a similar way to the guest suites, Babylonstoren’s Babel restaurant is housed in a Cape Dutch farm building, but it has their cool, contemporary stamp on it.
Farm tables are spread around the room and single, freshly-plucked, botanicals peer out of glass vases and cans of home-produced olive oil are brought to each table. There’s white brick, there are white tiles that make up an ‘illustration’ of a cow’s head. And there are names of dishes scrawled across the same tiles.
Floor-to-ceiling glass creates a minimal barrier between the dining table and the nature outside – which is beautiful during the daytime as light floods in from the central courtyard where you have the option of an al fresco breakfast.
The open kitchen also creates a buzzy, nothing-to-hide sort of vibe.
The Butterfly Room
Guests staying in the hotel can have a cheeky aperitif before dinner, in The Butterfly Room, which is five steps away from Babel, next to reception in the Farmhouse.
In contrast to Babel, this little area is very quirky and filled with curios, boardgames and colourful artwork. As the name suggests, you’ll also find a rare collection of birdwing butterflies here.
There’s also a bar of Babylonstoren wines and a selection of spirits which guests can help themselves to at no extra charge. Amazing, right?
Back to the food….
Dining at Babel
After we’d ordered a glass of wine each (based on what we liked in the wine tasting earlier that day), we got comfy and picked from a selection of raw root vegetable crudités.
It doesn’t get much fresher than this.
The menu at Babel is divided into starters, mains and desserts as you’d expect. However the starters (here they’re called ‘stirrings’) are divided into one ‘green’, one ‘yellow’ and one ‘red (gluten free)’ dish.
They’re pretty big so we shared the red starter – a gazpacho with deep-fried salt and pepper squid, crispy chorizo, and fresh sweet melons.
As you can see the plates are piled high with raw and colourful vegetables and fruit from the Babylonstoren gardens. And it was tasty, fresh and ever so stylish.
Maranda Engelbrecht is behind the wonderful food design and styling here. And their ‘pick, clean and serve’ approach (ie minimal fussing) is very refreshing.
The mains at Babel are divided into fish, beef, lamb, chicken and vegetarian – which is probably a good idea as the descriptions are very detailed, so just saying ‘chicken’ makes it easier to order!
BC had the lamb, which was chargilled Bahãrãt (Arabic) spiced lamb cutlets with preserved lemon and honey sauce. It was perfectly pink in the middle. And it was served with chargrilled courgettes, with a small raw salad, sprinkled with tiny flower petals. Pretty good.
My main dish – the sticky miso-marinated baby chicken with spicy apple kimchi – was a winner. It played on both sweet and umami flavours and the kimchi was delicious. The slightly sour and crunchy salad of peppers, beans and blood red orange offered a great contrast and a squeeze of lime on top brought everything together.
We skipped dessert at Babel, slightly regrettably. But we were on a foodie tour of the winelands and had already indulged quite a bit, so we refrained. It was very close though. The ‘Sweet, Sour and Bitter for 2’ on the table next to us looked incredible. There are just two desserts on the menu at Babel – this one and a cheese platter.
And some serious work goes into making it. Just look at the description:
Rosewater meringue shreds topped with lavender and coconut ice cream, fennel sorbet, berry frozen yoghurt, kapokbos and peach jelly, summer fruit, fennel sherbet and rose water candyfloss.
The Breakfast at Babel
The breakfast at Babel is similarly bright and colourful and comprises inventive takes on your usual full-English and egg dishes, but with the vibrant, Babylonstoren garden twist.
The help-yourself buffet table reflects all colours of the rainbow with fruits, meats, cheeses, yoghurts, freshly squeezed juices and various types of bread.
And you could spend a very lazy morning trying out some more unusual breakfast options, from home-grown olives and various herbs, pulses and vegetables. Breakfast has no rules here!
You may not love it here if you’re not keen on your five a day. But if you like food that’s fresh, colourful, and served in its freshest form, you’ll be in your element.
We left Babylonstoren feeling mightily impressed with Babel. The staff here are warm and efficient. The setting is cosy yet stylish. And the food? The food is quite possibly the most honest and colourful you’ll ever eat.
This is the last post on Babylonstoren (at least for a few days – I have to tell you about my garden tour soon!) Stay tuned for more hotel reviews in my hotel themed week over the coming days…
Babel at Babylonstoren, R45, Simondium, 7670, South Africa