Simple, earthy goodness and authenticity go hand-in-hand with cool, rustic style in both the interiors and the dishes served at Charles Back’s new eatery in Paarl.
Bringing the farm-to-table dining concept to the charming old main street of Paarl in the Western Cape, the recently-launched Back’s restaurant and deli offer a delicious taste of produce from wine-and-cheese farm Fairview and a beautifully transformed heritage space in which to savour it. Named after the farm’s founder and indefatigable proprietor Charles Back, the restaurant and deli serve as an extension of the ethos of the family business. ‘The inspiration for Back’s came from my long lineage of farming history, with the basis of everything I do being integrity and quality,’ he says.
The venue, a careful update of a historical site, comprises the restaurant as well as an organic market and was overseen by the architecture and design team, Xperiencemakers, with whom Back has worked on previous projects on both Fairview and Spice Route farms. Elements of Cape Dutch architecture and rustic farm detailing meet in a space that’s elegantly classic, replete with a liberal use of natural materials.
Chef Melissa Bird creates simple, undeniably tasty dishes with an emphasis on ethical provenance, seasonality and wholesomeness. Eggs are from the farm’s free-range chickens, for example, with naturally and organically produced meat and other produce forming the foundation of all the fare that’s served, from breakfast to lunch. It’s a case of going back to the basics, in the very best sense.
3 slices ciabatta
100g frozen berries
Mix the egg and milk together. Lay the slices of ciabatta in the mixture and coat both sides.
In a pot, cook the berries and sugar until reduced.
Place the soaked ciabatta in a hot pan and toast on both sides.
Once cooked, place the French toast on a plate. Cover with berry compôte and crumble goat’s cheese over it.
FRESH WEST COAST MUSSELS
1 leek, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
Heat a heavy-based pan until smoking hot. Add oil and place mussels in pan.
Shake pan a little to heat the mussels up. Then pour beer over them.
Place the leeks, celery and garlic in the pan with the mussels and cover with a lid. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened.
Discard any unopened mussels. Add seasoning and serve.
Serve these mussels with a generous side of French fries, and a salad. Recreate the famous Back’s salad with this pumpkin seed brittle and their legendary Chenin Blanc dressing.
PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE
500g white sugar
200g pumpkin seeds
Put the sugar and water in a heavy-based pan and heat over a medium heat. Do not stir.
Toast the pumpkin seeds in the oven until they have a little colour.
Finely chop the chilli.
The sugar and water mixture will start to colour. Once it’s golden brown, add the pumpkin seeds, salt, chopped chilli and butter and swirl the pan to mix all the ingredients into the liquid sugar.
Once everything is well mixed, spray a metal surface or tray with Spray and Cook. Pour the mixture onto the tray and allow to cool. The mixture will harden, like brittle.
Allow the mixture to cool and crack the praline into the desired sizes.
1T Dijon mustard
3 oranges, juiced and zested
30ml white wine Vinegar
1 bottle of Chenin Blanc, reduced by half and chilled
Place the Dijon mustard in a mixing bowl.
Mix the sugar, reduced Chenin Blanc, orange zest and juice together.
Whisk this mixture into the mustard.
Slowly whisk in the vinegar and then the oil, whisking continuously until all the oil has been whisked in.
Combine the brittle with leaves and veggies of your choice and toss the everything together with the dressing.
Back’s, 191 Main Rd, Paarl, 021 872 0697
Photographs: Adel Ferreira. Location: Back’s