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GLAMOUR Recommends: Chef Matt Manning’s Grub & Vine Norval

Chef Matt Manning: A Culinary Journey

From his early days in England to becoming the proprietor of Grub & Vine, Norval, Grub & Vine, and Culture Wine Bar, Chef Matt Manning's journey is a testament to passion, skill, and vision.

Hailing from England, Chef Manning's career took flight in the illustrious kitchens of London's Michelin-starred restaurants, where he honed his craft under the mentorship of industry luminaries.

Venturing across the globe, Chef Matt Manning made his mark in South Africa, serving as Sous Chef at the esteemed La Colombe. His ambition and talent then led him to carve his own path as a private chef, captivating local and international palates with his exceptional culinary creations.

Image Supplied: Grub & Vine Norval

Not content with traditional culinary boundaries, Chef Manning pioneered the innovative "One Ingredient" interactive pop-up dinners, showcasing his ingenuity and creativity as a master of the culinary arts.

Chef Matt Manning shares with GLAMOUR his inspiring journey, unraveling the motivations and inspirations that ignited his passion for the culinary industry.

GLAMOUR: What motivated you to open the new Grub & Vine restaurant at Norval Foundation, and what can diners expect from this new culinary venture?

Matt Manning: I think we’ve been very considered and strategic in our expansion and new additions this past year – we waited for the perfect opportunity, and it arrived in the form of a conversation I had with Louis Norval, founder of the Norval Foundation. We enjoy a shared love for great food and wine. When I visited the Norval Foundation last year in August, Louis showed me his impressive on-site wine collection. That was my 'penny-drop' moment: we needed to do a Grub & Vine at Norval, bringing everything we do well at our Bree Street establishment to this stunning setting and art haven.

Image Supplied: Chef Matt Manning

I love the synergy between food, wine and art. Art – whether visual, culinary or the artistry of winemaking – evokes emotion. It has the power to make you feel – nostalgic, invigorated, inspired…we wanted to bring the three together.

We see Grub & Vine Norval as the sophisticated older sibling of Grub & Vine on Bree Street. The food and wine offering is similar – refined, bistro-style food and a great wine selection – but the setting and ambience are unique to each.

As we have seen with our establishment on Bree Street, a restaurant alongside a wine bar works well, and we have just opened a Culture Pop-Up wine bar on the mezzanine floor above Grub & Vine Norval, with stunning views of the Sculpture Garden.

Guests can enjoy a glass of bubbles pre-dinner or a nightcap after dining in the bar. It also acts as a more casual offering for diners who want a light bite to eat. We encourage all walk-ins at Culture Pop-Up; guests to the museum, groups looking for a lively, elegant ambience, and those who simply want a good glass of wine after work. The pop-up bar will be open over the summer, until the end April.

Grub & Vine Norval

GLAMOUR: Can you give us a glimpse into the menu at the new restaurant? What are some signature dishes that you're particularly excited about?

Matt Manning: The menu is fantastic – you can view it here. I am especially excited about our new brunch menu, which offers dishes such as Cured Trout and Poached Egg with Avocado Mousse, Potato Rosti and Hollandaise; Banana Bread French Toast with Berry Compote, Candied Bacon and Citrus Crème Fraiche; and Strawberry Flapjacks with Chantilly Cream, Salted Caramel and White Chocolate Ganache!

GLAMOUR: How do you stay innovative and keep up with the changing food and restaurant trends in the industry?

Matt Manning: I try to eat out as much as my schedule allows. I like to see what my peers are doing, both locally and internationally. Like everyone else, I also get loads of visual inspo from the media. It also helps that I get bored easily, so our seasonal menu tends to change very often!

GLAMOUR: What have been some of the most challenging aspects of opening and running your own restaurant, and how have you navigated these challenges?

Matt Manning: The past few years have been a crazy time to be in hospitality. I opened my first restaurant, Grub & Vine on Bree Street in Dec 2018. Since then we have survived Covid-19, rising food costs, loadshedding – you name it. I feel like if you’re a restaurant and have survived the past few years, you will survive most things. The macro-environment has been tough, and I don’t think that will change anytime soon. The important thing is to keep offering guests great value, that personal touch, and staying true to what you do well.

I also always say that managing people – leading, guiding, mentoring, and taking them to task when needed – is the most difficult part of the job. I have uncomfortable conversations every day. I believe that the amount of uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have is directly related to your growth as a business and as an individual. I learn from my team, as I hope they learn from me. As a business owner, when you stop learning and evolving, is when you become irrelevant.

GLAMOUR: Could you share your thoughts on the current trends in the culinary world, such as the rise of plant-based dining, food delivery services, and the growing interest in global flavours?

Matt Manning: I think some trends are worth exploring and dabbling with, but they come and go – only a very few stand the test of time. The current focus on seasonality, sustainability and source is a big and also important one, and I don’t think this will go anywhere anytime soon – it will only become more prevalent. And this is a very good thing.

Growing interest in global flavours is an exciting one – with travel booming, we are exposed to so much diversity; new flavours, cooking techniques, textures, and the cultural significance and story of food. Dining should be an experience.

GLAMOUR: How do you approach creating a balanced and diverse menu that caters to different dietary needs and preferences, including vegan, offering for children, and other dietary restrictions?

Matt Manning: I believe that you cannot be everything to everyone. You have to be true to who you are. We cannot do what we do well if we try to be something we’re not. First and foremost we are a bistro, and our menu reflects that. We serve French bistro-style fare with great wine; that is what we do well. We also have a selection of vegetarian and pescatarian dishes on our menu. Of course, we welcome vegans and those with dietary restrictions at all our establishments, and with notice, our chefs can create something delicious for them.

It also needs to make sense for the space and the business model. At Grub & Vine Norval, we offer a children’s menu, high chairs, and a baby changing room because the space lends itself to family dining. This doesn’t work for Grub & Vine on Bree Street, where it’s more sexy city dining, so we can’t do much for kids there. As a father of two small boys, I know that there are some places where it’s great to bring my kids along, and others that are better for date nights or grown-up dinners. I can’t expect the restaurant to change for me.

GLAMOUR: As a chef and restaurateur, what advice would you give to aspiring culinary professionals who want to make their mark in the industry?

Matt Manning: Do your time in a professional kitchen before going out on your own. Get the necessary experience and mentorship that only a restaurant kitchen can give you. Once you have survived the pass at a reputable restaurant on an insanely busy First Thursday in Cape Town summer, you can cook almost anywhere!

GLAMOUR: Your top 3 favourite wines at the moment?

Matt Manning: I like that you said “at the moment” as it does change all the time! My top 3 right now all happen to be light reds, which I love in summer.

1. Radford Dale Vinum Gamay – light, elegant and great value

2. Domaine Des Marrans Fleurie 2020 – a fantastic example of a Beaujolais and also great value

3. Mother Rock by JH Meyer Pinot Noir 2022 – light and smashable while also having the complexity of a classic Pinot.

All wines also happen to be currently available at Culture Wine Bar by the glass 😉

Bonus - Culture Rouge, our new house Pinot Noir by Spider Pig Wines, is all silky smooth tannins, earthiness and elegance in a glass. Def worth trying!

Connect with Grub & Vine Norval on Instagram @grubandvinenorva

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