If canteen food conjures up images of shuffling along in a lunch line before a lady in a hairnet dishes up indiscernible slop onto your clattering tray, then think again.

Aside from the customised trays — designed to streamline the delivery of Chefs’ world-class fare — Garden’s hottest lunch (and now early dinner) spot is everything your typical canteen is not.

FINE DINING MADE FAST

There are no printed menus. Instead, Chefs updates their website daily, listing their three meal options and one dessert, complete with pics that will have you drooling over your keyword and watching the clock till lunch or dinner time.

Once there, orders are placed and paid for at the iPad on the counter, after which you’re free to pull up a metal chair at one of their sparse tables and enjoy the live action cooking. Head Chef, Jenny Ward, and her slick team cook in an open-view kitchen and use their blazing wood-fired masonry oven to grill most dishes — a method that not only allows them to work with speed, but also infuses each meal with a wonderful depth of smokey flavour.

THE FOOD

We opted for the smokey herb line fish and wood smoked ostrich carpaccio respectively, and then shared a portion of the veg dish — a tomato tartare with burrata. Each meal was handsomely presented with fresh, crunchy sides like my green basil slaw with roasted fennel, and my partner’s innovative combo of watercress, roasted grapes and shaved parmesan. Perhaps surprisingly, we both agreed that the tomato tartare was the star (a lesson in not neglecting the veggie option). The combo of several different types of spicy smoked tomatoes, topped with the oozing burrata cheese and finished with asparagus, smoked aioli and a mini ciabatta was outstanding — the balance of sweet and tangy just right.

Dessert was a masterpiece — the unusually smoked cream crème brûlée, topped with sour cherries and raspberries, a perfect finish to meals that were bright, full of colour and bursting with flavour.

CHOOSE YOUR BOOZE

No dithering over which wine to pair with what here. Chefs lists three wines (a white, rosé and red from Idiom’s di Stellenbosch range), as well as lager of the day. For those looking for something a little more innocent, they also make and bottle their own cordial — a great option for those visiting during lunch.

THE SERVICE (and free sparkling water)

While there are no waiters, we were not left unattended. Each dish was served to us by Jenny herself, while we were continually brought bottles of complimentary filtered sparkling water — a thoughtful addition for those who guzzle the stuff and end up begrudgingly paying through the teeth for doing so.

While lunch or dinner is all over in a moment, patrons are never made to feel hurried and are welcome to enjoy another glass of vino or coffee until Chefs shuts their doors a little after 9pm.

VISIT CHEFS

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12pm - 8:30pm, no reservation. 
See their daily menu on their website.

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