Franschhoek attracts thousands of foodies each year who descend into the valley to eat their way through the town that boasts one of the highest concentrations of world-class restaurants in the country. Now, added to this already impressive repertoire, Marigold, Franschhoek’s very first classic Indian-cuisine eatery is taking the culinary capital by storm.
I have always loved Indian cuisine. The sensuous, intensive use of spices, subtle and not-so-subtle flavours, exotic ingredients, unfamiliar dishes and wild aromas. It can be comforting, exciting and intimidating all at once. A complete sensory experience that reveals beautiful intricacies of different regions and religions in a vast country where there is just so much going on. When I heard that Franschhoek, the country’s culinary capital was going to be opening it’s first ever classic Indian-cuisine restaurant, Marigold, I couldn’t wait to see, or rather taste, what exciting things they had up their sleeves.
Located conveniently on Franschhoek’s bustling Main Road, Marigold, is the newest addition to the foodie strip and stands proud amongst the rest of already established eateries. Part of the Leeu Collection which boasts an international collection of boutique hotels and award-wining dining establishments, the team behind the restaurant that is already proving to be a major hit amongst both local and international foodies, has pulled out all the stops, leaving no stone unturned.
The restaurant shares a small, airy square with a chocolatier and art gallery and has large glass windows that allow for natural light to flood the dining room. The décor is simple and the warm red brick walls, wooden chairs and copper elements as well as African inspired aesthetics complete with bold geometric wallpaper add a sensuous contemporary feel to the space. The décor, setting and enticing aromas coming from the fiery tandoor ensure that diners are getting North Indian authenticity at its best.
Heading up the kitchen and culinary team is Durban born Chef Vanie Padayachee who has recently spent time in India experiencing both the culture and cuisine first hand. “My recent visit to India has broadened my knowledge-base and brings an authenticity and tangible reference of its origins to Marigold’s menu,” she explains. Having worked with Le Quartier Francais’ famed chef, Margot Janse, Padayachee is no stranger to creating inspiring dishes and taking the helm in the kitchen at Marigold has revealed her talent like no other. Her food is, quite simply, spectacular. A real taste of India and one that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the Western Cape.
We started our culinary journey with delicious, light popadums and rotis, served with a fresh mango achar as well as a common street snack in India: Golgappa & Tamarind Pani. These are, essentially, small crispy fried balls filled with the most delicious herbs and spices. A cold, sweet sauce is served alongside the trio of balls which is then poured into the top before devouring the whole thing – a burst of zingy, sweet, sour, spicy flavour. Moreish to say the least.
Following the starters, we were served a Palak Chaat- crispy spinach leaves, coated with gram flour batter and deep fried in oil, topped with chutney and yoghurt and a variety of spices. A crunchy, light, balanced and flavourful snack.
Staying true to the North Indian style of partaking in meals together, the mains arrived and, like their counterparts, were placed in the centre of the table for all to share and enjoy together. As if the food wasn’t already the main talking point, this way of eating really does put the emphasis on it and I thoroughly enjoyed going through each dish, sharing my experience with my fellow patrons. The mains turned the table into a kaleidoscope of colours. There was: Palak Paneer, an Indian cottage cheese in spinach gravy; Murg Makhani, or Butter Chicken, which was without a doubt my favourite and quite possibly the best I have ever eaten – smoky, fresh out of the tandoor and covered in a beautiful curry sauce; Lamb Biryana, presented in a small bowl, covered in a crispy puff pastry that, when cut into, reveals the most delicious aroma; and the Nimbu Machli Tikka, or Fish Tikka, which was slightly fiery but just the right amount of fiery to awaken the taste buds. All this was served with sides of naan bread and fresh raita and sambals.
Sharing the food, and the thoughtful portion control meant that there was just the right amount of space to enjoy a dessert. Chef Padayachee really pulled out all the stops: a tandoor-baked pineapple, saffron crumble and coconut and fennel seed kulfi. It was light, flavoursome and perfectly balanced which made it a refreshing end to the feast.
Marigold set out to impress, and impress it has. In a competitive environment where world-class restaurants line the streets, Marigold stands tall and proud. It is a true feast of exotic flavours and aromatic and spicy cuisine that will make you feel as though you have stepped through a portal into the wild and wonderful land of Northern India. Indian food, in my opinion, doesn’t get better than this. Marigold is located in Heritage Square on Huguenot Street and is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Text © Julie Graham | Images © Leeu Collection
For more information, visit www.leeucollection.com.