Keeping in theme with Women’s Month in South Africa, I reviewed Paulina’s Restaurant located at Rickety Bridge in Franschoek. Paulina’s is named after the owner Paulina de Villiers who was the first women farm owner in the winelands. The only daughter among 3 brothers, Paulina de Villiers was granted part of the land in 1757.
A friend of mine and I visited Paulina’s under the recommendation of another friend, who mentioned that it normally gets quite busy. Under this assumption, we phoned ahead and booked a table 20 minutes before we got there. Thinking that the restaurant was quite accommodating, we were excited. However, upon arrival the waiter who assisted us had no idea of the booking. Nonetheless, they managed to accommodate us, giving us a reserved table which we were pretty sure was originally reserved for us.
Having a quick look at the menu and we were ready to order. I ordered the pork belly, served with sweet potato and ginger puree, and my friend had the cajun grilled baby Patagonica calamari. Both of which were full orders (Paulina’s also offers half meals so that you can sample more meals).
The pork belly was delectable. The pork was tender and the pork crackling crunchy. The ginger sauce with sweet chili provided a hint of spiciness without being overpowering. The sweet potato and ginger puree was a bit bland and had a hint of ginger, which I thought it needed more of. The exotic mushrooms accompanying the dish consisted of enoki mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms and were delicious. The mushrooms brought about an earthiness to the dish complimenting the pork belly, while the bok choi was crunchy. The individual elements complimented each other well, pulled together by the ginger that was infused into the various elements of the dish. It was a good thing that the puree wasn’t overpowered with ginger ;-).
The pork belly was paired with the estate’s vintage range, the Foundation Stone Red wine, which is named after the foundation stone upon which the farm was built. On it’s own, the wine was tart with strong dark berry and chocolate flavour coming through. Paired with the pork belly, the wine became less tart. However, the wine overpowered the meal. I feel that the pork belly could have been paired with a better red wine that compliments that dish better.
I tried my friend’s calamari and must admit that the dish was not as mouth-watering as the pork belly. The calamari was grilled and cooked well. But was unseasoned and required the green chili sauce, that came with the dish, to make it palatable. However the chorizo stole the show, supplied by Pierre’s Cured Meat (upcoming blog). The spiciness and smokiness of the chorizo was appetizing, making you wish there was more of it on the plate. The dish also came with a salad but why the cherry tomatoes were slightly cooked was beyond me. It added nothing to the dish, whereas having uncooked salad elements added freshness. Once all elements were tried together, without the tomatoes, the dish was tasty, with all elements falling into place. The calamari and chorizo was paired with the Rickety Bridge Chardonnay and the wine’s fruitiness paired well with the calamari.
Overall, the food at Paulina’s was delicious. Add to this the ambiance of the Franschoek mountains and your experience is magnified. The service was a bit slow but the restaurant was busy. However, the willingness of the waiters to answer all your questions and give you tastes of the wines makes Paulina’s a restaurant that is worth visiting again.
I give Paulina’s 3.5 out of 5 cupcake