Jan Hendrick van der Westhuizen is a South African living in Nice. He has a charming fine-dining restaurant; simply called JAN.

I have known about it for a couple of years and decided that it would be the perfect way to celebrate my 40th in style; and that it would be a lovely ending to our time in France.

We booked months ago, knowing that it would be a pricey but worthy experience. Ironically, two nights before, my mom back in South Africa had seen that a television news program, Carte Blanche, was featuring his restaurant and videoed it for me. She sent the clip to me as a little taster of what was in store:

On the evening of the event, Mr B and I donned our finest outfits and walked the 10 minutes from our apartment at the “Vieux Port” to sample JAN’s delights. There was a four course menu called Menu Klein Jan as well as a seven course menu. I’m really glad we made the decision to go with the smaller menu because they gave us so many additional treats in between that we were completely satiated by the end of the meal.

The crockery reminded me of my Afrikaans ouma’s silver dinner service set.

As we arrived, a waitron brought out a bowl of rose-scented water and some hand towels for us to wash our hands.

To start with, we were served a few “aperos” (appetisers) that weren’t on the menu: a braaibroedjie biscuit with melted cheese; a chickpea crepe and a biltong lamington. They were really tasty and whet our appetites for the first course.

Pap and Sheba never tasted this good! The mielie pap (corn porridge) was more like a smooth savoury custard and underneath, the tomato and onion relish was fleshy and tangy – the contrasting textures and flavours really complimented each other!

Mosbolletjies, vetkoek & tuisbrood were the breads served on the side.

Along with an Amarula butter.

Next up was a cream of haddock, chorizo and spring vegetable soup with fresh apple and cheese on top. It didn’t really remind me particularly of South African flavours but it was delicious!

The “plat principal” (main course) was lamb with mint jelly, morel mushrooms, spinach and asparagus. It was juicy, succulent and zesty. We were also served a lamb and lentil bobotie to share. We weren’t used to the lentils being cooked al dente so we found the dish slightly course but otherwise it was really tasty.

“Comme dessert” (for dessert) we had a take on a meringue, pineapple and cherry pudding that my aunt used to make when we visited. It was a poached meringue, topped with crunchy meringue chips. The fresh and dehydrated pineapple and cherry bits were hidden underneath. It was the first time I’d ever had poached meringue and it was so good! I was expecting the dish to be really sweet but it was really well balanced. The addition of an orange infused “crème Anglaise” (custard) that we could pour on ourselves gave the dish a lovely citrusy flavour.

Buchu milkshakes are absolutely my new favourite thing! I’ve never tasted anything so interesting and delectable. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop putting my nose near to pungent, distinctive scent of the dried buchu leaves underneath.

A biscuit, called Ouma’s doily, reminiscent of the little crocheted coverings our grannies used to make, topped the milkshakes. What an intricate work of art! And it tasted nice too!

A plate of “petits fours” accompanied by a birthday message was a tantalising treat! These consisted of a peanut butter and banana filled tuile, topped with an edible gold JH seal; a berry fruit pastille; a little koeksister and a mini malva pudding.

We wrote a note in the special guest book reserved for South African diners.

As a party favour, we received a packet of homemade rusks…

and a copy of the menu to take away with us.

The memories of that special meal will live with me forever; and especially how it helped me to transition, in preparation for our return to South Africa, after such a fantastic time in France.

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