In December 2021, my parents and I boarded a plane to South Africa. Part of our journey was spent in the Kalahari Desert at Tswalu The Motse, a property that provides unparalleled access to one of South Africa’s most unique landscapes. Included in a 3-night stay is a dining experience at the newly award-winning restaurant Klein JAN (pronounced Kline-Yawn). To maintain an elegant and private ambiance, the restaurant only takes reservations up to 20 guests each mealtime, and is available for lunch and dinner. The meal itself consists of an incredible seven-course tasting menu and wine paring, an offer one must absolutely plan for when visiting the Kalahari!
Owner, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, was born and raised in South Africa. The son of a farmer, his interests gravitated toward the kitchen where his mother and grandmother helped cultivate his love of food. As his life progressed and his passion grew, Jan Hendrik moved on to study in France, hoping to cultivate the skills and knowledge needed to be awarded a Michelin star, one of the highest awards in the culinary world. His restaurant, Klein JAN opened in April of 2021 and has since evolved into an exceptional gourmet food experience in a very remote part of Africa.
The menu reflects South Africa’s heritage through the use of local ingredients unique to the areas in which Jan Hendrik is most familiar, including the Kalahari Desert. Throughout the meal, you are continuously hit with different flavors, each of which sparks conversation as to where they originated. Every dish has a story, including where the ingredients were sourced, their importance to the region, how the dish was made, how long it takes to prepare, etc. It becomes not only a meal, but an interactive culinary experience, one in which you are fully immersed.
Klein JAN is located in a refurbished 100-year-old farmhouse named Boscia House. The project’s architects worked to capture the history of the farm and the Kalahari through the use of specific furniture and original décor. You begin the meal with drinks and canapes on the porch, watching the sun go down and appreciating your vast surroundings.
You then move to the cellar. Passing through a doorway and down a spiral staircase, you arrive in a subterranean world in which your senses come to life. You walk through the chilled pantry full of preservatives of all kinds, from olives, to cheeses, to experimental cured meats. In this part of the building, you start to appreciate the newer construction and unique underground architecture.
On the other side of this pantry passageway, you find yourself in a refurbished old-century kitchen in which Jan Hendrik’s grandmother’s stove is the focal point. On top of the stove sits a soup that has been simmering for three days. You will enjoy bread made from grains harvested in the Kalahari and a multitude of jams and spreads, each of which melts in your mouth.
From the kitchen, you finally arrive in the open dining room. The space sticks out from a hillside, allowing you to feel underground while also viewing the sunset across the desert. Here you enjoy several more courses, all of which prove unforgettable.
A meal at Klein JAN is the ideal way to eat and drink the night away.