Gwynne Conlyn
Gwynne Conlyn

Well, what a surprise! Rents being as they are these days, I envisaged a hole-in-the-wall eatery. Not quite: I found a large, open, sophisticated restaurant

The powerhouse chef Amori Burger is the indisputable genius behind the stove. She arrived at our table, all full-frontal energy and charisma. Of course: she’s one of the country’s top female chefs today – and, as the raves go, creating a stir at Van Der Linde restaurant.

Powerhouse chef Amori Burger personifies sensuality – she radiates what life around food should be about: taste and flavour, sight, sound; and of course passion

She’s a sprite – only 32 years of age – but don’t underestimate her. Her energy is part of her constant planning: she has ideas, intentions, strategies. “Our aim at van der Linde is to make people feel part of the whole process here; that’s why we have open cooking spaces and prep areas.” Of course it helps that she’s part of the palette of the good-looking restaurant.

The menu she’s designed is simple, yet well executed. “We have some daring and interesting flavours and then we have classics with a twist,” she says.

I swooned when I went there: I had a perfectly-pink-in-the-middle rack of lamb with tonnato sauce. Then again, when the gal next to me tucked into the home-made ravioli with black truffle butter, sautéed mushrooms and Grana Padano, I almost fainted with envy.

Perfectly-pink-in-the-middle rack of lamb with tonnato sauce.

I am also overcome (in a good way) when I have garlic, so when next I visit, I’m having Burrata – that Italian cow’s milk cheese made from mozzarella and cream –  with confit garlic and charred grapes. Perhaps as afters, as one should have this. Or perhaps as a starter – and just because it might melt in my mouth.

Of course they have all sorts of meatery and fishery dishes and, and as is Burger’s side-passion, also vegetariany.

So there’s a vegan menu that she pays as much attention to as she does to the regular one: harissa paneer with roasted pumpkin breyani and fried curry leaves; she also prepares a dish of delicious roasted cauliflower (my favourite) with savoury green pesto and citrus.

The interior of the Van der Linde restaurant in Linden is light and airy

Okay, so here’s yet another thing about Amori I adore: she loves cabbage. “You can pickle it, grill it, braise it and bake it. It is often overlooked as a cheap and not very tasty vegetable – but it is what you do to it that makes it incredible. And so many countries have cabbage staples – sauerkraut, coleslaw, kimchi… The list is long.”

I love her memories as a child: “My gran was a brilliant cook and so are all my aunts now. Our passion for cooking just got passed along and we started helping in the kitchen with Christmas dinner. These days it’s the children who cook, as we all have a passion for food – and two of us are qualified chefs.”

Oh, did I say? Amori Burger personifies sensuality – she radiates what life around food should be about: taste and flavour, sight, sound; and of course passion.

  • VDL at 50, 4th Avenue, in Linden is open daily. To book: (010) 594 5443.