Alchemy at Hemelhuijs
There is enchantment in the house; Hemelhuijs has once again been transformed to celebrate winter. The walls have been painted in tones of warm burnt orange and a multitude of gold-labeled brown laboratory bottles create a neatly stacked feature wall.
These unique bottles are filled with flavour compounds that Jacques Erasmus developed and refers to as Flavour Intense, they are the products of his wizardry in the kitchen. That which happens when the alchemist seeks the perfect blend for a Kashmiri chai, or experiments with the exact balance for his black dukkah or when an order of sun-ripened tomatoes are dried and made into a dust flavourant to add to dishes or when a surplus of citrus fruits is transformed into a soft powder to remind you of winter when summer comes.
They are the perfect offerings when gifts are needed or when you wish to take home something to ward off the dull days. When you know that a little bit of culinary magic goes a long way or when you want to savour the memories of having eaten off gold.
In the four years since its opening in October 2010 Hemelhuijs has undergone several transformations. The initial black walls gave way to a particular shade of green, then grey was introduced, the art changed, the displays were reinvented, the floral art styled according to mood, the menu changing according to the season.
It is this constantly evolving creativity that has gathered Jacques Erasmus his loyal following of design- and food-obsessed fans, the restaurant is a showcase of his many talents. His is not a static style. Nor is it the whims of a man unable to make up his mind. His creative expression is a fluid fluctuation of mood and time. At Hemelhuijs there is an unspoken, constant invitation to return again and again and be inspired. This winter is no exception.
The menu is sophisticated and authentic. While beautifully presented on an array of handmade and precious crockery, there is no pretention, only elegant simplicity and a sincere regard and respect for food. This winter saw the launch of Erasmus’s Gold Collection Tableware. Based on the Bone Collection which was inspired by the matt tones of slaked lime and bleached bone, the Gold Collection uses a pure gold compound and undergoes 5 firings in a kiln. It is the most opulent of all Erasmus’s tableware collections. It is decadent but not obscene. Inspired by Jacques’s fascination with the mythical stories of heroes and kings, of fairytales, of the godly beliefs of the Egyptians and ancient Sumerians, these vessels embody our captured imagination, one where anything is possible, even alchemy.
The name Hemelhuijs has come to be synonymous with indulgence. Every visit is a feast some sort. Whether it is the discovery of new flavour combination, the visual delight of the surroundings or simply the luxury of drinking something warm from a beautifully handcrafted cup. In a world that is far too rushed and far too cold, a visit here will remind you that beauty and magic is in fact, all around us. We can be glad that Erasmus is the one to show us how to look, how to taste and perhaps even how to live.
Hemelhuijs, located at 71 Waterkant Street, Cape Town, is open from 9am to 4pm from Monday to Friday and from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.