A master of distilled simplicity, Hemelhuijs owner Jacques Erasmus has brought his creative flair to Jo’burg in a collaboration with Ernst Fischer’s restaurant So Yum. Hemelhuijs x So Yum celebrates a cross-pollination of culinary and aesthetic influences.
At Hemelhuijs, the sophisticated approach to traditional Cape farm cuisine has been drawing a cult-like following to its Waterkant Street café for almost a decade.
Customers return repeatedly to satisfy deep cravings for deliciously nostalgic dishes like toasted mosbolletjie loaf with cultured cream and handmade apricot jam, all presented with Jacques Erasmus’s signature style reminiscent of a pared-back Rembrandt still-life.
It was serendipity that Hemelhuijs x So Yum came into being. A dim sum and noodle bar that had occupied a smaller space downstairs at Jo’burg’s Hyde Park Corner Shopping Centre for many years, So Yum was moving to larger premises upstairs, but one of the requirements of the lease was a breakfast offering. ‘So Yum had never had breakfast on the menu before,’ says Ernst Fischer, who’s behind a string of acclaimed Asian restaurants in SA including Wangthai, Chaiyo and Saigon (the first Vietnamese restaurant in the country). ‘Initially, I was looking at what other breakfast spots were doing, but I wanted to present it differently. We needed to make sense of why an Asian dim sum teahouse noodle bar would do breakfast. So I called Jacques, whom I’ve known since his Manna Epicure days, and he flew up the next day.’
Fischer and Erasmus, who comes from a chef background and is also a food consultant, met for breakfast and shook on their new venture that morning. While it was prompted by a pedestrian prerequisite, Hemelhuijs x So Yum was elevated by the desire to create something new and unique, yet resolved. The core breakfast offering is from Hemelhuijs, but the menu features a few Asian-inspired dishes, including shredded duck omelettes with exotic mushrooms, bean shoots and chilli, as well as morning dim sum. Lunchtime sees the menu tip back towards an emphasis on So Yum, with a selection of Hemelhuijs x So Yum salads that can be assembled on a variety of bases such as raw shaved vegetables and pear or beetroot with a flavoursome Japanese dressing.
At Hemelhuijs in Cape Town, Erasmus is known for adapting the decor to suit the seasonal mood, repainting interiors, creating feature walls or even covering the ceiling with dried hydrangeas. ‘We’ve subtly introduced the Hemelhuijs identity to So Yum with small details,’ says Erasmus. From the design and imagery on the menu to the Gold Collection ceramic spoons on the tables, its aesthetic DNA is present and will shift as the seasons change.
The Hemelhuijs Homeware Collection, which includes handmade ceramic tableware and oversized tobacco jars featuring limited-edition Ella Lou O’Meara designs, occupies a retail nook at the restaurant, so customers can purchase their favourite pieces.
Erasmus describes the cross-pollination between Hemelhuijs and So Yum as ‘an evolution’ that will gradually blossom. ‘We’re still in that space of trying to cross over and it’s going to happen more and more,’ adds Fischer. ‘If you look at Jacques’s plating, it’s constructed and then deconstructed. It’s different, whereas Asian plating is very precise and ordered. I’d like to mix that up and move more towards a modern style.’ ‘It’s exploratory,’ says Erasmus, ‘and we’re slowly feeling our way.’
It’s this experimental spirit and innovative approach that invariably produce memorable meals and have both devoted patrons and new guests coming back for more.
Text and Production: Fiona Davern Photographs: Annalize Nel
Hemelhuijs x So Yum breakfast is served Monday-Sunday from 8am-12pm. Shop 24, Middle Mall, Hyde Park Corner, cnr Jan Smuts Ave & William Nicol Drive.