Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, well-known as the South African chef behind the Michelin-starred restaurant JAN in Nice, has opened the doors to Restaurant Klein JAN – his first restaurant on South African soil.
Based in the Northern Cape, in the private Tswalu Kalahari reserve, the restaurant has been three years in the making. That time has been spent researching the culinary traditions and ingredients of the cultures and communities that call the Kalahari home. Jan felt an instant connection to the vastness of the Kalahari and wanted to elevate the unsung heroes of the Northern Cape and their superior produce and products.
To do so, he traveled across the semi-arid Kalahari and explored ingredients and local cuisines from independent producers, fourth-generation farmers and artisan specialists. The area’s food speaks specifically to that region – farms are remote and the weather can be harsh, so resourcefulness and creativity is key. The region’s under-explored ingredients, including boutique, family-owned wineries and distilleries, provided endless inspiration for the menus at Klein JAN.
Jan and his team of chefs, overseen by Executive Chef for Tswalu, Marnus Scholly, prepare their modern Kalahari cuisine in a sleek, open-plan kitchen. Every aspect of Klein JAN has been carefully designed and curated, including the chairs made from repurposed French oak wine barrels. A glass wall opens up in fine weather, creating a fully immersive dining experience. Other features include the subterranean root cellar, located 13 feet below the ochre sands of the Kalahari.
To access the cellar, guests step back in time at the 100-year-old Boscia House before opening a door in the side of an original plaasdam (farm dam) and descending a helical staircase infused with the unmistakable scent of petrichor. The 65-foot, temperature and humidity-controlled root cellar stores all the ingredients and produce used at Klein JAN, not dissimilar to storage solutions prior to modern-day refrigeration.
Guests staying at Tswalu can enjoy a meal at Klein JAN as part of their stay, and the restaurant is open to day visitors for lunch on select dates each month.