Destination: South Africa: Cape Town
The Cape Colony, in the Mount Nelson hotel, is a grand space that is perfect for a celebratory evening. The menu is a well-executed mix of Cape Malay and traditional British dishes, and there is a live band and dancing, which is a great deal of fun.
I didn’t eat at La Colombe on my most recent trip to Cape Town, but this has been the city’s finest French restaurant for a long time. Its chef, the marvelously named Franck Dangereux, recently left to open his own business in out-of-the-way Noordhoek, so it remains to be seen if his successor can keep up the pristine freshness and delicacy of the food, with its Provençal accents. The wine-estate setting is beautiful, and the tables overlook a swimming pool; go there for a special lunch.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On my recent trip to Cape Town, in April 2009, I had an incredible lunch at La Colombe, a special place for a meal on one of the area’s oldest wine estates, Constantia Uitsig. There are three restaurants on the estate, as well as a working farm, a hotel and a spa, but the one to book is La Colombe.
Chef Dale Roberts, who took over from Franck Dangereux in 2006, has established himself as one of the region’s finest culinary craftsmen. Menus change often and are written on a chalkboard that is brought over to the tables (during the summer, ask to be seated on the romantic outdoor terrace). Highlights during my meal included warm beetroot tartare, Asian-style kudu tartare and a decadent entree of local springbok, a lean meat that was served with a topping of foie gras. As in most Cape Town restaurants, the options for vegetarians are limited, but one fellow diner had rave reviews of her vegetable-topped summer risotto.
After lunch, take a walk down to the large rugby field, with sweeping views of Table Mountain. Reservations are a must. Open daily for lunch and dinner. S.G.
Le Quartier Français
Dutch-born chef Margot Janse has won awards all over the world for her spectacular food, which is worth driving to the winelands to experience. A tasting menu paired with select wines at this restaurant in a charming guesthouse is the way to fully experience her creativity; the food can be a little over-the-top, but the ideas, and tastes, are consistently interesting.
Indagare Insider Tip: Cari Gray raves of a fall 2009 visit, “The gracious and charming Quartier Français is the creation of hotelier Susan Huxter and features the cuisine of award-winning chef Margot Janse in both the formal Tasting Room and perfectly casual Ici bistro.” Read her culinary tips on visiting Cape Town.
Having a female chef run a fine dining kitchen is a rarity in Cape Town, but so is Malika van Reenen, who runs the kitchen at the Cape Grace herself. Soft-spoken, modest and talented, she was pushed center stage when chef Christophe Chabanel left unexpectedly and she was promoted overnight. A native Capetonian, she has taken to the role of chef-de-cuisine with aplomb, as a recent meal at Signal showcased with dishes that were playful and full of Cape Malay flavors.
Spiced kingklip (a local fish) was served with a velvety butternut bobotie (a typical Cape Malay mash), and a date and tamarind chutney; springbuk, a gamey meat, came cumin-encrusted and with spicy potatoes, baby spinach and a beetroot chutney; a starter of ostrich included a smoky carpaccio served with a fig brûlée; and the lemongrass-scented panna cotta was served with homemade coconut sorbet. I found the dining room at the Cape Grace, recently redone with sumptuous fabrics, large white-linen-clad tables, and chandeliers, a touch too formal for chef Malika’s big flavors (you’re seriously tempted to mop up the leftover sauces and chutneys with bread pieces).
For travelers looking to try Cape Malay cuisine but who still want the option of European dishes on the menu, Signal is great choice. For Cape Town standards, the five-course tasting menu is pricey (Rand550 with wine parings, which is about $55), though with the arrival of Nobu and Maze across the harbor, Signal may soon be a V&A Waterfront bargain. Be sure to have a drink at Bascule, the Cape Grace’s lovely harbor-side bar, before or after dinner.
UPDATE: Much to the disappointment of local foodies, The Showroom closed in April 2009. There are no reports whether Robertson plans on opening another restaurant in Cape Town soon.
A venture by Cape Town’s most-talked-about chef, Bruce Robertson, is in an unlikely location, next to a luxury and exotic car showroom. (A tongue-in-cheek menu item: Lamborghini, R2.8 million.) Robertson belongs to the Ferran Adrià school of concentrates and foams, and the food is playful as well as delicious, with an emphasis on South African influences. (We ate, among other things, an abalone, watercress and lily salad.) One word of warning: the restaurant—all done in white and Perspex, with an open kitchen—can get very noisy as the evening wears on. Ask for a table on the second floor, which is slightly quieter and has a view of the chefs at work.
The Test Kitchen
Foodie alert! This is the must have dinner reservation for anyone in the market for a serious culinary experience. Award winning chef Luke Dale-Roberts (formerly of La Colombe in Constantia) creates gorgeous and fanciful dishes that dazzle. The Test Kitchen is booked out months in advance, so make a reservation as early as possible. Closed Sunday and Monday.
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