The extravagant gardens of the historical Cellars-Hohenort hotel are an enchanting natural backdrop to the magic that unfolds within this elegant, glass-fronted restaurant, open for dinner only. Bare wooden tables, avant-garde floral arrangements and bold artworks set the scene for the increasingly dramatic creations delivered to the table. This is eating as a progressive, convention-defying experience. But above all, the chefs here at Greenhouse, Peter Templehoff and Ashley Moss, want diners to have fun and be entertained by their modern take on South African cuisine. The offering is deceptively simple: diners are given a choice between two nine-course tasting menus, the African Hunter (a meat eater’s delight, or a seafood-only version) and the African Gatherer (which is suitable for vegetarians). Each exquisitely plated, technically precise course – sometimes a series of individual mouthfuls make up one course – combines multiple flavours and contrasting textures. Even the breads on offer – a mini bacon (or onion) brioche served with banana cream, and a mielie muffin accompanied by popcorn butter – delight all the senses.
Cape history and nature are frequently referenced on the plate; while ingredients foraged from the fields, mountains and oceans tell stories about both the city and the African continent. Expect to taste the likes of sweet potato, seaweed, sultanas, snoek, springbok and sweetbreads in new and unexpected ways. Rather than weird, it’s all simply wonderful. greenhouserestaurant.co.za
By global standards, La Colombe enjoys iconic status – a table here is a bucket-list item to secure well in advance of arrival in Cape Town, especially in summer. In 2014, the restaurant relocated from Constantia Uitsig to Silvermist Wine Estate high above Constantia Nek without skipping a beat. Chef-patron Scot Kirton, his right-hand man in the kitchen, Head Chef James Gaag, and a stellar front-of-house team have kept right on collecting significant awards since elevating their kitchen from the valley to the mountaintop, including second spot on the 2016 Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list (runner-up to The Test Kitchen), top awards for service excellence and a coveted spot in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. By the time you read this, La Colombe will hopefully have made yet another appearance on this prestigious annual fine-dining list. The dining room is rustic, thanks to exposed wooden beams, yet ultra-chic
in white and soft grey tones. It is tucked between the trees so that, along with plate after plate of French-Asian inspiration – each one more effortlessly balanced and downright delicious than the next – there are glimpses to be had of the vegetable garden, vertiginous vineyards and forested mountain slopes.
Service is faultless, yet still warm and personal. Vegetarians and seafood-lovers will receive envious stares from carnivores in the room, as every plate shows the same phenomenal attention to detail, regardless of whether the star ingredient is miso-seared scallops or wild mushrooms. And everyone gets to experience La Colombe’s signature amuse-bouche line-up, which includes the Garden, a miniature flower box planted with baby leaves and topped with wispy phyllo cigars filled with onion gel, tartare and edible flowers; and Tuna La Colombe, a whimsical tin can filled with tuna tataki. lacolombe.co.za
Giles Edwards heads this buzzing, sociable restaurant with its modest, monochrome interiors in a 1930s Art Deco building on the Foreshore end of hipster Bree Street. Edwards clocked up 10 valuable years in the kitchens of London, including five years working with nose-to-tail legend Fergus Henderson at St John. While there, he tapped into Henderson’s reverence for provenance, the importance of cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients, and the eat-the-whole-animal trend that helped kick-start the British food renaissance, along with heirloom fruit and vegetables.
The name La Tête, meaning ‘the head’, is a nod to the French and their mastery of offal. Nose-to-tail cooking – utilising every last inch of a carcass – goes hand in hand with the farm-to-table philosophy of using ethically grown, seasonal produce, and throwing nothing away – not even the vegetable peelings. It’s the true way to cook, believes Edwards, requiring creativity and style that goes a fair bit beyond just the use of intricate plating. Sweetbreads are served with peas and mint, ox heart comes with horseradish and chips. But it’s not all body parts. The daily menu includes fresh seafood and plenty of Mediterranean-style small plates (many of them vegetarian) to share, such as grilled radicchio topped with anchovies; or ripe tomatoes from the Oranjezicht City Farm, roasted then served on sourdough toast with home-made ricotta. The desserts are comfort-food staples, from rich chocolate pots to poached guavas with brioche and ice cream. Latete.co.za
Chef David Higgs harnesses the primitive element of fire and the time-honoured, African method of cooking over an open flame in this sophisticated restaurant and bar in the heart of Rosebank’s new Keyes Art Mile. The bar spills on to a veranda with views that stretch all the way to the Magaliesberg. The ambience is rooftop New York, complete with cosmopolitan accents, edgy fashion and snappy waiters delivering expertly made cocktails. Marble provides theatre and excitement, echoed in dramatic, playful interiors that showcase local art. It’s a million miles from fine dining, but Higgs says he’s never been happier. Fire has brought a new dimension to his cooking – from the nuances of flavour that flame and smoke give food, to the intensity of coal-roasted vegetables left to caramelise and char overnight. He’s the first to admit that it is a challenge to work with fire, to keep the temperature constant and evenly spread during a long, busy service, while also coping with the physical intensity of the heat. Almost everything is given the live-fire treatment. Wood-fired beetroot comes with fennel bulb, burrata, garlicky lemony aubergine, and rosemary-paprika pecan nuts; crisp-skinned pork belly is served with smoked peppers, Asian slaw and cherries; while lamb cutlets come alive with chimichurri. The smoky barbecue flavours led to a wide-ranging wine list with regional specialities drawn from all over South Africa – the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley to the Swartland. A sommelier can help diners to navigate through the extensive options, or leave them to discover the perfect fit on their own – an equally smoky Shiraz, or perhaps a glass of palate-cleansing bubbly? marble.restaurant
LDR X The Saxon
Having cooked for everyone from Heston Blumenthal to Sir Richard Branson, Chef Candice Philip personifies grace under pressure. Heading up the kitchen at Luke Dale-Roberts’s highly acclaimed Joburg outpost (which opened as a permanent fixture at The Saxon hotel in May 2016), she knows expectations are enormous when patrons enter the sophisticated dining room designed by Dale-Roberts’s wife, Sandalene. Rather than emulating the edginess of The Test Kitchen in Cape Town, the inspiration for the interiors was ‘Orient Express opulence’, rich with the textures and tones of a bygone era. There’s plush blue velvet, the warmth of wood panelling and brass, a series of botanical oil and pen drawings on the walls (a nod to the hotel’s jungly gardens), and ornate lights casting a soft glow over everything.
It’s got to be the ultimate date-night restaurant in the country. Yet it’s a far cry from old-school fine dining, thanks to the energetic, well-informed staff on the floor and the intimacy created by being so close to the slickly orchestrated goings-on in the open kitchen. Dale-Roberts is on site every few weeks to teach and experiment with the staff, and to tweak new dishes with Philip. Their combined out-the-box, adventurous style is made evident in courses such as tuna tartare with pickled kombu seaweed and yuzu; or crayfish ‘braai’ served with curried carrots, compressed apple, lime and honeycomb. Keeping in step with Cape Town’s top restaurants, the vegetarian and pescatarian menus are both sensational. And note that the international wine pairings – at only R200 more than the local line-up – are well worth the splurge. saxon.co.za
Photography: courtesy images