It was pure joy to my ears when I heard that Hemelhuijs had come to Johannesburg. Coming from Cape Town, I know this highly regarded café well and have had many a wholesome breakfast under its ever-changing interior space, surrounded by whimsical displays of fresh flowers and object trofée brought from interior designer, chef and artist Jacques Erasmus' world travels.
Erasmus partnered with Ernst Fischer, owner of So Yum to present Hemelhuijs x So Yum after having long joked about collaborating. This was prompted by the Asian restaurant’s recent move to a new, larger and more central position upstairs at Hyde Park Corner.
The new offering is centred on Hemelhuijs’ signature breakfast items of sophisticated traditional Cape farm-style café fare and freshly made jewel-coloured juices and paradisal cocktails. For a cultural experience, So Yum offers a few handpicked Asian-inspired options including lesser-known dishes such as soft Japanese rice porridge, traditional morning dim sum and a fluffy teriyaki salmon omelette. The lunch menu also features a selection of So Yum x Hemelhuijs salads, which can be constructed on papino, orange and shaved fennel with fragrant leaves and honey-lime dressing, or on raw shaved vegetables, pear and beetroot with Japanese dressing.
My breakfast favourites are: the aniseed-flavoured, toasted ‘mosbolletjie’ loaf with cultured cream and apricot jam; the poached farm eggs with roasted artichoke and hollandaise or similarily the potato rosti with herbed crème fraiche and soft poached eggs; for something different, the soft Japanese rice porridge with shredded chicken, soy, fresh ginger and fragrant herbs. I am yet to try the Hemelhuijs Caesar salad with So Yum chicken yakitori for lunch.
Being in a position to compare the Cape Town offering with this colloboration, I was less impressed by the under-roasted pear with double cream yoghurt, blueberry compote and almond praline (which was also a bit too hard for my liking). That said, the temperature and consistency of the yoghurt and the flavour combinations were heavenly.
What excites me especially is that you can take home scented candles in some of their signature flavours, such as 'toast, butter and jam', 'mosbolletjie' and 'Vietnamese coffee'. They are absolutely decadent and form part of Hemelhuijs’ bespoke homeware and Basalt range, more of which is available to shop inside the restaurant. While shopping, ask your waiter to package a slice of the apple and Damascus nougat tart to go.
Here, Erasmus tells us why he and Fischer decided to 'cross-pollinate' local tradition with an Asian-inspired offering…
Briefly explain the Hemelhuijs concept.
Hemelhuijs is a café concept that is ever evolving. The food is simple and the focus is on quality and an underlying current of traditional South African influences.
Ever since it opened back in October 2010, Hemelhuijs has been a restaurant of many faces. Now, as the seasons change, artist and chef Jacques Erasmus has transformed the Cape Town eatery (a finalist for Eat Out's Boschendal Style Award) once again.
We strive to always offer a novel experience to our patrons, be it guests that eat at our table every week or once a year. We strive to inspire our guests and share with them our inspiration and context in which we present our menus and food.
Why did you decide to bring Hemelhuijs to Johannesburg and to collaborate with an Asian restaurant, So Yum in particular?
So Yum offers the same underlying simplicity in their food. For several years, our Johannesburg-based clientele always commented saying they wish there was a Hemelhuijs in Jozi so they could enjoy it there too.
What went into making this happen?
So Yum was moving premises to a larger space in Hyde Park and Ernst Fisher of So Yum and I always talked about collaborating. When the move came about, so did the joining of our two brands and offerings.
What excites you most about this new venture?
I am very excited and think it's a collaboration well worth exploring the fusion of the two brands as each of us focus on our speciality offerings. It's a growing adventure and we do see a good cross-pollination on the two brands.
What has the response been?
The response has been overwhelming and as often with new ventures, it takes time to iron out the finer details and streamline the simultaneous offering of both Asian and Western kitchens.
Describe your breakfast offering and the Hemelhuijs x So Yum salads you’ve added to So Yum’s lunch menu.
We have a very simple offering for breakfast. It really is one of the staple offerings at Hemelhuijs with only our signiature breakfast dishes in combination with a few Asian offerings as well. By adding our salads to the lunch menu, we integrate the two concepts even more.
What dishes are you most proud of and why?
Each and every dish that we do stands on its own. It is about the collaboration and not just a specific dish; about making it all work together in a larger context and mix.
Any plans to add to the current offering?
Yes, we are starting small with serving some of our tarts and macaroons, and will add as we expand on this offering.
Do try a green tea macaroon. It's delightful!
*Jessica Tennant was a guest at Hemelhuijs x So Yum, located at Shop 24, Middle Mall, Hyde Park Corner, Corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and William Nicol Drive. Breakfast is served from Monday to Sunday 8-12pm. For reservations, call 011 325 5360 or email . For more on Hemelhuijs itself, go to www.hemelhuijs.co.za and/or follow on @hemelhuijs on Twitter and Instagram.
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