He has a bit of a cult following – especially in Pretoria – and it’s often because of his passion for the fundamentals. Chef Pellie Grobler is all about serving truly tasteful dishes and the secret lies in getting down to the basics. He always looks at textural elements on the plate. For him, a dish has to include contrast between textures and flavours as he believes that that is what makes a dish special.
His culinary journey in Pretoria kicked off when he started the popular Black Bamboo Restaurant, which was based at Menlyn Boutique Hotel. Tin Roof Café was next on the cards. Now, Chef Pellie finds himself in a new environment – a corner restaurant at The Club in Hazelwood called Capito!
Chef Pellie adds subtle twists to a traditional offering
The space where Capito! is based had always been notorious for its restaurants failing to succeed, yet Capito! has only been going from strength to strength. Chef Pellie – who joined the Capito! team in October 2022 – says he believes the secret in Capito!’s success is the fact that it is owner-run.
Chef Pellie says he thinks about food a little differently than most people and he believes as a chef, he needs to stay ahead; recreate. While the classics need to be cherished, you also need to keep evolving and find new ways to serve even the familiar dishes. How? He believes even the smallest of changes can make all the difference and since he came into an already existing restaurant where things have been done in a certain way for many years, he could not make big menu changes immediately. Small changes to the plating and presentation, some theatrical, interactive serving techniques like pouring sauce at the table – these helped him to gradually incorporate his signature style in Capito!’s already special dining experience.
Chef Pellie also started with new specials immediately – some unique dishes inspired by his passion for the basics. While the main menu stayed the same, he’s now introduced specials that change every two weeks. All of this while keeping to Capito!’s Italian-orientated essence since it’s one of the few restaurants in Pretoria that continues to carry the Italian tradition.
But what about the wine?
“Food is my passion, wine is my work, but I love me work,” says Chef Pellie. He has loved wine from a young age, with its intriguing flavours and ever-evolving notes. That is one of the reasons why he enjoys working with Capito’s sommelier, Frans Visser. They share the vision and passion of offering guests special wine alternatives.
Chef Pellie shares his favourite Capito! pairings
- Capito!’s Lasagne, baked in their famous wood-fired pizza oven. Pair it with his recommendation – Eikendal’s Charisma. He says this wine is an interesting blend, as it includes a bit of the Italian Sangiovese varietal. Eikendal’s Charisma picks up on the lasagne’s tomato base, the bechamel, napolitana and meat, pairing exceptionally well.
- Salt and Pepper Calamari with creamy pea risotto, aioli and roasted tomato pesto. Pair with with a light, unwooded Chenin Blanc, or perhaps even a Muscat d’Alexandrie. City on a Hill produces a lovely Muscat which Chef Pellie highly recommends, or opt for the Paarl-based Joostenberg-Myburgh Bros.’ Muscat d’Alexandrie. You can also opt for a light red wine – perhaps a Carignan or light Cinsault – with this dish.
- Bone Marrow with Snails and Gorgonzola Sauce (baked in the pizza oven). With garlic and Gorgonzola in the mix, this dish is often difficult to pair with a wine. You’ll need to pair it with something that will cut through the richness. Chef Pellie believes a wine like a Gewürztraminer, or a Riesling would work well. Another interesting recommendation from Chef Pellie is a dessert wine. He says a Sauvignon Blanc noble late harvest will pick up on the creamy characteristics of this dish and it should pair surprisingly well.
- Capito!’s Florentine-style T-bone, baked in the pizza oven. Chef Pellie recommends pairing this dish with a red blend. A Syrah-driven wine with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and some Portuguese varietals will go well with the smokiness from the wood-fired pizza oven.
- Tiramisu – This Italian dessert is unique as it consists of espresso, as well as Kahlua coffee liqueur. Chef Pellie suggests pairing it with Capito!’s beautiful and delicious Coffee Martini, saying that the creaminess of the Tiramisu and the coffee flavours of the martini will work well together.
Other special dishes we’ve spotted on the menu of late, included the Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with a classic Napolitana, sprinkled with some grana padano. With figs being in season, they’ve also been serving a Fig and Goat’s Cheese Tart with caramelised pears, rocket, micro greens and a red wine vinaigrette – quite popular entrée for couples keen on sharing.
Mains included Lamb Loin Chops with Polenta, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Fennel and a Pomegranate Salsa, or Baked Kabeljou. They prepared this divine fish dish – covered with coconut cream and parmesan – in the wood-fired pizza oven and served it with Rosmarino pasta and some summer veggies, rocket oil and a baby marrow salad.
Dessert came in the form of a Chocolate Cremoso, which can be roughly translated to a set chocolate custard. This melt-in-your-mouth dessert is a must-try, which comes with honeycomb and a divine chai tea moose. (Hopefully this special will linger so long that it will become part of the main menu!)
What does the future hold?
Chef Pellie says the aim is to focus on Capito!’s already popular food and wine pairings and to make them even more interactive and special. “Pretoria has been there and done that. We want to break it a bit.” Instead of hosting only one wine farm for a wine dinner, he would like to create dishes and pair different dishes with wines from different wine farms. “It keeps me engaged; it keeps things interesting and the creative juices flowing and it’s also something I enjoy doing – to try and figure out those pairings, to say which wine works best with which dish.” He concludes by saying that Capito! has such an impressive wine list, a sommelier on the floor and a good chef. Why would they not then play to their strengths? All that, “while still sticking to the essence of the restaurant.”
If you find yourself in Pretoria, dinner at Capito! is a must for your itinerary. It’s Italian flair with a South Africa flavour – an elegant food and wine affair you do not want to miss out on.
Bookings can be made on www.capito.co.za.