Judy Sendzul and Greg Stubbs are co-owners of The Salmon Bar, a chic new restaurant in Franschhoek featuring fresh trout produced on Gregâ€™s farm and superb imported salmon. JULIA ROWAND learns more about the journey that led them here
Three Streams Farm in Franschhoek is a leading supplier of smoked salmon and trout products in South Africa. Top quality salmon is flown in fresh from Scotland and Norway twice a week, while trout is raised on the farm in mountain spring water. Once the trout reaches fingerling stage, when it’s a little larger than an index finger, it is transported to Lesotho to live in the Katsi Dam until harvesting takes place. Back at the farm in Franschhoek, nestled against a dramatic mountain backdrop, is an impressive fish factory and a production plant.
What started out as a small business venture involving just six staff members is now a thriving enterprise comprising 200 workers producing 15 to 20 tonnes of trout per week. So how did this all happen? “Well, it’s simple really,” says Greg Stubbs, one of three brothers who own Three Streams Farm. “I just always dreamed of farming fish.” Greg was aware of the concept of aquaculture early on, recognising its potential to ease the problem of overfishing.
While at Stellenbosch University, Greg raised trout in three small porta-pools he kept at the family farm. “Before long I was supplying fresh fish to a local Stellenbosch bistro. I went to study in Scotland in the 1990s, where I was introduced to the workings of salmon smokehouses and to the lucrative smoked salmon trade. When I returned I expanded my farming capabilities and built a hatchery. Emulating my experience in Scotland, I established Three Streams Smokehouse at the farm in Franschhoek, carefully managing the process from egg to adult trout to ready-for-consumption.”
Fish farming has its share of criticism for supplementing fish species’ natural numbers, for example, but Greg is adamant that his business is run in a responsible fashion, always adhering to the principles of conservation. “We’ve created as natural a life cycle as possible,” he explains, “doing everything that can be done for the welfare of the fish and to preserve the environment. The salmon flown in from overseas also comes from farms that pride themselves on sound methods. The Loch Duart salmon is of the highest standard, with each fish individually tagged for traceability.” Greg adds that he would love to explore farming his own salmon. “This means studying a suitable site for about a year and a half before we’ve even started, but you never know.”
While some of the fish leaves Three Streams as fresh portions or in whole or fillet form, most of it is smoked. Using traditional methods and beech for a superior flavour, the smoked fish is delivered to food services and retail houses nationwide, and now also to The Salmon Bar. The restaurant-cum-barcum- deli is co-owned by Greg and his business partner Judy Sendzul and is situated in a charming courtyard tucked behind Franschhoek’s main street. This upmarket spot serves a wide variety of salmon and trout dishes, packed with essential fatty acids and all the right vitamins and minerals – a delicious and healthy dining experience.
Greg and Judy met while she was studying at the Silwood Culinary School in Cape Town. “I came to Greg to buy a trout for my practical exams,” Judy explains. “An upshot of our meeting was to join forces to make smoked trout pâté, which we began selling to various farm stalls around the Cape.” Prior to her move to Franschhoek three years ago Judy was living in London, gaining experience in the restaurant industry as well as working in marketing and product development. “Travelling in and out of airports, I came to know Caviar House & Prunier, the seafood bar in Heathrow,” she says. “The idea of a restaurant, bar and deli in one; the simple, professional look of the place; and the delicious salmon appealed to me.
A seed was planted, reinforcing and intensifying the vision Greg and I shared: to take South Africans on a ‘salmon journey’.” The Salmon Bar’s menu features fresh salmon and trout dishes matched with home-made sauces, fresh bread and seasonal greens, tossed in Judy’s salad dressing. Start the day with a good cup of coffee and a plate of poached eggs and hot smoked, peppered Norwegian salmon, Melba toast and a dollop of hollandaise. For lunch, enjoy a few sips of chilled dry white wine with a light salmon salad, or the cold smoked salmon bagel, with cream cheese, lime and cracked black pepper. “After five we like to serve canapé platters with tasty salmon and trout bites,” says Judy. “They’re enjoyed at the bar with cocktails like a classic martini, the Tomato Blush, which is a Bloody Mary with a hint of dry sherry, or imported Portuguese beer that particularly complements the cold smoked salmon.”
Dinner includes grilled fish dishes; try them served with fresh noodles, ginger and teriyaki sauce. The seared Norwegian and Franschhoek trout croquettes dipped in plum sauce are also sublime. The Loch Duart Scottish salmon is highly regarded on this all-day menu. Having won numerous food awards it’s more expensive, but you can taste the quality.
At The Salmon Bar, it’s served in a variety of ways: sashimi with miso-soy sauce; gravadlax with sweet mustard dressing; as carpaccio; or as traditionally smoked salmon served with a light celery mayonnaise. If you fancy trying a bit of everything go for “The Salmon Journey”, a taster platter featuring a selection of cold and hot smoked salmon, sashimi and sauces to go with each dish – it’s an ideal meal to share. Enjoy it with a few glasses of bubbly, followed by a cheeky slice of white chocolate cheesecake. You can also buy a variety of salmon and trout products, including terrines and pâtés from the deli. All the dressings and sauces used at the restaurant as well as freshly baked bread and pastries, a selection of cheeses and delectable chocolate mousse and lemon meringue cupcake treats are also available.
Three Streams Farm, 021-876-2485. The Salmon Bar, 021-876-4591. Open daily in winter from 9am to 6pm Monday and Tuesday and from 9am to 9pm Wednesday to Sunday. Prices range from R40 to R200. Speak to Leona or Marina at the restaurant to order any products that may not be stocked daily; they’ll be ready for collection within 24 hours. Private functions, picnics, packed breakfasts, lunches and dinners at home can also all be catered for.