“My wife always said that if I opened a fourth eatery it would have to be called ‘Divorce’ or ‘The Singles Club’,” laughs Chef James Diack. “Instead, I’ve decided to call it Il Contadino, which means ‘the farmer’ in Italian and really embodies the spirit of our season-focused, farm-to-table style.”
Set to open in October 2017, Il Contadino will be nestled in the heart of Parktown North and will serve three farm-inspired meals a day. Its menu will be prepared as an ode to the rural or ‘peasant’ food from the Spanish, French and Italian countryside – some of James’ favourite places. Dishes will be fresh, simple and rustic: roast chicken, slow-cooked pork, charcuterie boards, salads, homemade pasta and pizza from the in-house wood-fired oven – all using seasonal ingredients.
It will also be James’ most sustainable restaurant to date, with the menu designed to be entirely supplied by the Diack’s family farm, Brightside in the Magaliesburg.
“All three of my restaurants offer something different – Coobs is refined dining, The National is a neighbourhood dining room away from home, and The Federal is our take on a NY-style dinner. But they all have one thing in common: seasonality,” says James. “Il Contadino will be the perfect spot for a morning coffee from the espresso bar, a light lunch or after-work drink.”
Over the last two years, James has worked exceptionally hard to become the go-to person for provenance. His restaurants have evolved to such an extent, that now 95% of everything on his menus comes off his family’s farm, Brightside. Il Contadino will be the first time James cracks the 100% mark.
As usual, the wine list will be an extensive catalogue of boutique wine farms and those that share Diack’s passion for bespoke offerings including Garajeest, Blackwater, Beaumont and Alheit. Oh, and Aperol Spritz on tap.
The 133m2 restaurant, located on the corner of 4th Avenue and 7th Avenue in Parktown North, will seat 90 and provide indoor and outdoor seating. The interior design and décor process will once again be spearheaded by Janet Diack, James’ mother and farmer at Brightside Farm, so expect reclaimed and refurbished items that extend the farm-to-table concept from the plates to the walls, floors and furnishings.
Brightside Farm, in the Magaliesburg, is the Diack’s family farm and where James grew up. Janet is passionate about farming and supplying the restaurants – what they can’t grow themselves they source from suppliers who share their passion for provenance. The gardens are as beautiful as they are functional. Flowers abound, and they are all edible. Apart from the large main gardens you will find smaller gardens, situated to provide the right conditions for some of the specialty plants. All the gardens feature benches, stone paths, ponds or sculptures with rambling plants like peas, beans and tomatoes climbing up willow woven structures. The gardens supply all three restaurants with herbs, vegetables and fruit – it even makes its own ricotta. The farm also supplies Diack’s now legendary acorn-fed wild boar, lamb, duck and the occasional pigeon or guinea fowl.
It will also be friendly to the pocket, “I’m trying to build a restaurant that’s going to fit into where our economy’s going, so it’s not going to be expensive. I’m trying to keep prices down and keep things casual in every aspect: simple glassware, enamel plates, dishcloths for napkins. It’s going be fun and rustic, but not kitsch.”