Jessica’s, Montagu

Posted By Kerri

Montagu was a strange place, like stepping back in time. We stayed at the Country House Hotel which has retained many of it’s original art-deco furnishings, they offered us sherry when we arrived to refresh us after our journey (locally produced and something the town is very proud of but it was 40 degrees outside, we were sweating hideously and very much in need of water) and had a pianist in the bar in the evenings. The water coming out of the taps was brown (the council were working on the pipes so not really the fault of the hotel) and the curtains fell down. While the place was charming in parts, it was also slightly shabby and could really do with some new carpets and bed linens.

Along with the sherry (they also make a lot of port and brandy, it’s too hot here to grow grapes needed for “normal” wine) the town is also known for it’s fruit and nuts. Montagu brand fruit and nuts are sold all over SA and the town has an enormous factory outlet selling every kind of dried fruit and nut you can think of, all of which are incredibly fresh and, mostly, very tasty.

We didn’t have a dinner reservation for the evening. We had a recommendation but that place turned out only to be open for lunch. Stephen was keen to eat traditional food in the hotel restaurant but the shabbiness put me off so we drove around (we could have walked, it’s not a big place but it was 40 degrees so we spent a lot of time in the car with the AC switched to MAX) until we found something we liked the look of. It wasn’t easy since most places didn’t have menus outside and we didn’t have a guide book but Jessica’s looked nice from the outside and had a garden.

The cooking was in stark contrast to what was going on in the rest of the town and when I looked at the menu was surprised to see they offered a tasting menu and included a number of options that were cooked sous-vide. It wasn’t Heston Blummenthal but it seemed much more forward-thinking and modern than what was going on outside of their front door.

The food was good, not mind-blowing but good quality ingredients cooked simply with just a few interesting touches. I had the scallops and risotto to begin with and Stephen opted for the potato and leek soup which was poured at the table. I think that’s considered rather passe in trendy London but again, I was surpised to find it being done here in this sleepy little town.

I moved on to Karoo lamb and Stephen had a trio of the same lamb, springbok and ostrich. None of it was cooked medium as they told us it would be but the accompanying sauces showed there was definitely skill in the kitchen and the potato accompaniments were superb. The side dish of vegetables weren’t up to much. Green beans were stringy and the carrots were incredibly al-dente. Those on the plate had received much more love and attention though and were well cooked and tasted like only vegetables that have been grown in hot sun can do.

If you happen to find yourself in Montagu then I’d definitely recommend Jessica’s. The Country House Hotel not so much (although I feel bad saying that because the staff were lovely and I’m sure brown water is really common in the country) but it is worth a visit if you’re interested in the art-deco movement.

Jan 6th, 2011

One Comment to 'Jessica’s, Montagu'

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  1. Stephen said,

    Each of the three different types of meat that I had came with a different sauce, which I think was the same sauce that they came with if you ordered them separately from the menu: ostrich with spicy mango sauce, springbok with espresso sauce and lamb with the rosemary jus. Delicious.

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