Meridian launches venue for culinary fun in Walmer

New food and wine centre for Bay


Port Elizabeth has long since shaken off its reputation as a city where not much happens on the culinary and wine front.
Though new restaurants have a way of coming and going, dedicated diners have seen many a fine establishment deservedly go the distance here in recent years.
Eastern Cape visitors who find themselves in the Bay for a day or two will often make a point of stopping over at the likes of Mark Oosthuizen’s Fusion, or Ginger at the beachfront, both of which have worked hard to maintain a reputation of excellence.
Then there’s Muse in Stanley Street, which saw hungry young chefs Alan and Simone Bezuidenhout walk away from secure jobs at the Boardwalk to establish their own eatery which is showing up many a long-established spot.
The Bay also has some fantastic suppliers (and producers) of excellent food and wine products. Foodies in Main Road, Walmer, known for its ethically reared, locally sourced meats, is one example while Kerry-Ann Manton, former Bay chef with an impressive international CV, is back to share her skills and foodie finds though the Eastern Cape Chef Forum and Gourmet Gecko Fine Foods.
All of this brings me to a thrilling new initiative for the Bay and one that is sure to inject even more excitement and energy onto the local culinary scene. It’s called the Meridian Wine and Culinary Centre and it was launched to rave reviews through two events in Main Road, Walmer, on Tuesday February 26.
The delightful, double-level building that once housed the Montage gallery, and later Theresa Hardman’s art and architecture studio, has been owned by Meridian for some years and the “main house” at the back is the nerve centre of its Eastern Cape operations.
The intimate, re-invented new venue in front was the vision of Olga Hafner, Meridian’s beloved regional sales director and a passionate foodie of many years.
It is now an “experiential centre” which businesses as well as private individuals may hire for culinary-themed events.
The centre has an open-plan demonstration kitchen and dining area that can accommodate up to 30 people for wine tastings, food-and-wine pairings and even cooking classes – all with a glass or two of wine from Meridian’s portfolio of wineries in hand, of course!
“Local chefs may use the venue for their events or you may do your own cooking,” Olga said, adding she and her team also intended inviting guest chefs from around the country to host food-and-wine dinners several times a year.
It’s useful that quite a few of Meridian’s portfolio members have restaurants on their farms and some of these chefs will therefore now also be visiting our neck of the woods.
The launch saw two of the Cape’s most exciting young chefs, Pieter de Jager and Christiaan Visser, both of Leopard’s Leap, pull out all the stops for a world-class, four-course lunch attended by hospitality industry leaders and other high-profile guests.
The entire Meridian board was at there, including Meridian shareholder and Leopard’s Leap and La Motte CEO Hein Koegelenberg.
Later another function was held at which fine wines and classy canapes – again with an SA twist and prepared by the lads from Leopard’s Leap – were served.
The fun part of the lunch was that guests could watch as Pieter and Christiaan prepped and plated every course, while also gleaning valuable tricks of the trade in the process. The recipes for all these fabulous dishes were also shared.
First up was “skuinskoek” with biltong pate and grape preserve, which we enjoyed with classic Kir Royale cocktails made from Leopard’s Leap sparkling chardonnay-pinot noir and a dash of Cassis.
The fish course was “kerrievis” which sounded rather homespun but was far more sophisticated and multi-componented a dish than we could have imagined.
This was paired with Leopard’s Leap chenin blanc and La Motte chardonnay.
The main course was a beautifully prepared beef fillet stuffed with feta and served with all manner of carrot themed sides, each more innovative than the next. This was served with a Leopard’s Leap cab and that old classic, La Motte Millennium, which has rescued many a dinner party for me.
Finally, out came the pud: rooibos panna cotta topped with a glistening layer of gelatinised Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Muscat, which was also the wine of choice for the dish. This was topped with fresh berries and honeycomb made on the spot by Pieter. More information about the Meridian Wine and Culinary Centre from Olga Hafner on 082-572-9890.
RECIPE: Rooibos panna cotta
This recipe, prepared to rave reviews by the two chefs from Leopard’s Leap for the launch of the new culinary and wine centre, serves six people.
375ml cream
375ml milk
2 rooibos tea bags
115ml caster sugar
12.5ml gelatine powder (or 6 leaves of gelatine)
20ml cold water
300ml Muscat de Frontignon dessert wine
3 leaves gelatine
Chopped pistachio nuts and honeycomb to garnish
Place cream, milk and tea bags into a small saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.
Place the 12.5ml (or six leaves) of gelatine in a bowl and add 20ml of cold water. Allow gelatine to soak in the water.
Discard the tea bags from the cream mixture. Add sugar and return to a low heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir the soaked gelatine into the cream mixture. Stir until gelatine has melted.
Pour into glasses to set. Once set, dissolve the three leaves of gelatine with the muscat by heating the muscat and adding the soaked leaves. Stir to dissolve.
Leave the mixture to cool, but not set.
Once cool, pour the muscat mixture over the set panna cotta and leave to set again. Garnish with chopped pistachios and honeycomb crumbs.

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