AWARD-WINNING chef Eric Bulpitt is set to open a brand-new restaurant at Avondale Estate in the Paarl Valley on 1 November 2016. In his current position at The Restaurant at Newton-Johnson in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley outside Hermanus, Eric has made a name for himself as a chef who is passionate about provenance, and he clinched number 9 spot in the 2014 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards.
With the move to Avondale, with its spectacular setting against the Klein Drakenstein mountains, Bulpitt has found an equally passionate partner in owner Johnathan Grieve. A pioneer in organic and biodynamic wine cultivation and wine-making practices, Johnathan is a storyteller at heart and, Eric states, “when we met, we connected immediately.”
“With Johnathan’s respect for the land and earth we share a similar philosophy,” Eric says. “If you get the best produce and respect it, it will give you what you need to make memorable food. There is a narrative about the food on your plate, too,” Eric explains. “Where does the food come from: where is the veg grown, how is the animal reared and how is the meat prepared; respect for the food is paramount. Storytelling in food is part of the entire experience: the chef’s ethos, the space and surrounds and ultimately what is on your plate.”
For Johnathan, the connection was also instant. “Meeting Eric as a potential restaurant partner was a perfect match,” he says about their first interactions. “Operating a destination restaurant at Avondale has been on our minds for the last ten years,” he explains, “but the fit was never right. This time, it’s perfect.”
“Our philosophies are similar, Eric is passionate about where food comes from and I love his vision and type of food he makes – he has a refined and delicate touch.”
A symbiotic collaboration has followed, similar to how the entire farm is run. Avondale prides itself in its interwoven dynamic system of life on the farm where the earth, the animals, people and spaces are “interconnected and interdependent”.
“Opening a gourmet restaurant at Avondale fits in with our aim to be a top natural producer,” Johnathan explains. “We’re planning to have the organic vegetable garden eventually provide most of the vegetables for the kitchen,” Eric shares of his plans at Avondale. “We have Angus cattle, eggs, chickens on the farm,” Johnathan adds. The location also could not be better, with easy access from the N1, Avondale boasts a prime placement in an area that begs for a fine-dining restaurant.
Along with his wife, Celeste, who manages the front of house, Eric is excited about the move. “I want to make people happy through a great food and guest experience,” he enthuses.
While the name of the restaurant is still under discussion, what can be revealed is that the current tasting gallery at Avondale is being revamped into a restaurant, that will seat around 80 people, including outside space for those perfect summer days in the Winelands. Celeste says, “It will be a grown-up space and refined, yet still welcoming and friendly – basically somewhere we would like to go!”
And with the opening of the restaurant set for the beginning of summer, Eric Bulpitt and Avondale’s collaboration is sure to become a gourmet destination of note. “I just can’t wait to eat there!” Johnathan adds with a laugh.