Franschhoek’s first-ever authentic Indian restaurant, Marigold, opened late last year, bringing something different to a town that’s known more for its fine dining. Marigold Restaurant is a warm and inviting space, colourful and vibrant on the inside, with a relaxed courtyard area for hot summer nights. The restaurant is part of the Leeu Collection and headed up by Chef Vanie Padayachee, who many will know from her days at Le Quartier Français and African Relish cooking school in Prince Albert. We chatted to the chef about the journey to develop Marigold Restaurant’s menu.

The beginning

“Mr Singh [Analjit Singh, the owner of Leeu Collection] wanted an Authentic North Indian restaurant as there are none here in the Western Cape, or South Africa for that matter,” says Chef Vanie. Spices and curry come naturally to the chef. “It’s what I grew up with. At Le Quartier Français I cooked a few Indian dishes and hosted Indian evenings, and now I get to cook, play and create in my own Indian kitchen.”

Researching

Creating the menu required a literal journey. “As my family is South and Sri Lankan-based I only knew that, and Durban Indian cuisine,” says Chef Vanie. So, armed with 192 authentic North Indian dishes she wanted to learn, cook and eat, she travelled to Delhi. “I had a fabulous tutor who was very knowledgeable about North Indian cuisine, and he taught me to cook it with real enthusiasm. I came back and cooked until I was confident that I had the flavour profile correct.” Using this knowledge, she designed the menu with Mr Singh’s help, even using recipes from his family.

Fine-tuning

In balancing the menu so that it was an authentic representation of North Indian cuisine, but that it would also appeal to South Africans, Chef Vanie says that “It was tricky in that every curry is based with oil, ghee or cream, and I use very little of these ingredient in our dishes. Our dishes are light and full of the flavour of freshly ground spices.” Over the year in the run-up to the opening of Marigold, she learnt the most popular North Indian dishes and spoke to many people to find out their opinions, before creating the final menu.

The menu

Some of the notable dishes on the menu include Butter chicken curry, made with ground cashew nuts to bring a creamy, nutty flavour to the curry; Lamb Rogan Josh, packed with flavour from lamb knuckles and the mixture of fresh blended spices; Aloo Tikki Chole Chaat, which is a popular Indian street food of potato croquette with a chickpea sauce and chutney; and Dum Biryani filled with the aromatic flavours of nutmeg, mace, green cardamom and cinnamon. Everything on the menu is made from scratch, including the chutneys and atchars which grace the table for patrons to snack on with poppadoms while choosing what they’re going to eat. Should they be unable to decide, they can always select the Vegetarian or Non-Vegetarian Thali, which contains tasting portions of snacks, starters, mains and sides, with a dessert to round-off the evening.

In the kitchen

“It’s all in the marinating for some of our dishes,” says Chef Vanie on the process and techniques involved. “For tandoor items, we marinate hours in advance, and then marinate a second time with hung yoghurt and spices, cooking in the tandoor to order.” The butter chicken is marinated 24 hours before being placed in the hung yoghurt with spices, and spices are again used on the coals to impart flavour before the chicken is cooked gently in the tomato and cashew nut gravy. The lamb knuckles for the Lamb Rogan Josh are marinated in dry spices, before being cooked in the thick, spicy tomato gravy.

The restaurant is a fantastic addition to an already-stellar line-up of dining options in Franschhoek, with warm and friendly service, an excellent location on Franschhoek’s main street, and a menu that’s packed full of tempting choices. For more information, visit the Marigold website

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