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31 January, 2023

Reinterpreting South African dishes to create contemporary, coastal classics

Birkenhead House

Clive Biggs has been the chef at Birkenhead House since 2021 – and this seaside location is perfect for someone who describes his cooking philosophy as “keep it simple, and fresh”.

Freshness is everywhere in the Hermanus area, from the salt spray in the air to the fynbos blooms amongst the rocks of the rugged coastline.

As for keeping it simple, Clive delights in creating dishes that uses relatively few ingredients, and which involve texture as much as flavour. He describes Sole Almondine as his go-to dish, and living by the ocean, he has easy access to exceptionally fresh fish and seafood.


Chefs get hungry too!

Clive’s journey to Birkenhead House began immediately after he left school. In need of employment, he joined his father in the family butchery and began to acquire the skills required to become a top chef. While Clive loves what he does, there are hazards to being known to be skilled in the kitchen.

Perhaps the worst of these, at least for Clive, is being invited to someone’s house for dinner, and finding that he ends up being asked to cook. The flip side of this is of course the joy that Clive gets from having someone else cook for him – a rare treat indeed!

Local is lekker

As a proud South African, Clive is inspired by the country’s reputation for excellent cuisine. He attributes this to two factors: the abundance of fresh ingredients, and of course the great wine that also comes from South Africa!

He’s a believer in the “local is lekker” philosophy – in other words, local things taste better. This guides his approach to sourcing his ingredients, and is also reflected in the way he adds a contemporary spin to traditional South African dishes to make them his own.

Happy food

Food is necessary, of course, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be ordinary. Clive believes that it should be suffused with joy. You could call it a simple pleasure, but Clive is also determined that each dish he makes should be a reflection of who he is, and that his pride in what he does shows in the food he presents to guests and diners at Birkenhead House.

Clive’s culinary hero is British “bad boy” chef Marco Pierre White, famous for being the first “celebrity chef” and the first British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars.

When it comes to actually working in the kitchen, Clive’s essential tools are the three things that no chef can do without: his knife, a pan, and a source of heat. His favourite ingredients, meanwhile, are paprika and thyme – see if you can spot them, and detect Clive’s love of all things simple, flavourful and South African, when you come dine with us at Birkenhead house.

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