There’s nothing small about this younger sibling
It was easy to persuade my friend Anne (aka Thelma) to take a day’s leave from the slog of work to join me (aka Louise) for the joy of mine – lunch at La Petite Colombe. We had much to celebrate – the end of winter, the start of spring, many years of friendship and the putting to bed of a book (hopefully a bestseller!). She has survived my agonizing from the writing of my first book in 2006, to the fifth in 2017, with patience and understanding.
I can see why local Franschhoek residents are boasting about the new addition to the valley’s culinary row. It lives up to, and exceeds, expectations. One is instantly calmed by the clean palette of the interior of La Petite Colombe. White linen, well-spaced tables on large oak parquet flooring and glass doors that retract to let the aroma of the lemon trees in. With glorious sunshine glinting off the collection of small bronzed bird plates on one wall, there is little to distract from the eye-catching cuisine. We started our celebration with a glass of bubbly, and I was then persuaded by the sommelier, Andrew, to indulge in the gourmand menu with wine pairing. All courses were perfectly paired. Every aspect of the afternoon was a treat, from the first bite of home-churned butter on sour dough bread, to the heavenly chocolates in the treasure chest. In the interests of spring body-baring weather we decided to alternate courses. After both enjoying the Cape Malay pickled fish and then Asian-style salmon, I indulged in the barbeque quail, Thel devouring the Springbok tataki.
The highlight of the afternoon was the ‘meet the chefs’, a clever interaction that will be a delight for every diner. Getting up from your table to witness perfection at work is inspiring, and the tastes during the interaction were sublime. The test of a good chef lies in their consommé, and the celeriac broth that I sipped was perfectly flavoured and balanced. Back to the table, I savoured the citrus-glazed line fish, Thel declared the Wagyu and braised brisket extraordinary. After pulling rank (I was, after all, the designated driver), I ensured that dessert came to my side of the table, a delicious blend of stone fruit, almond, yoghurt, geranium with Valrhona Dulcy and nougat, and then insisted on tasting Thel’s asiago, pear, pecan, Japanese cheesecake with fynbos honey and a beurre noisette.
The staff are as proud of the new baby as the locals, many of whom have come from the mother ship in Constantia. Our waiter Abri was attentive yet discreet, manager Morne equally so. It was a pleasure to chat to the talented, accomplished chef John Norris Rogers, who was born in Pretoria, then grew up in Pietermaritzburg before attending Silwood Kitchen, and to congratulate him and his team on a month of success. It may be early days, but they are here to raise the bar and ready to take on a season, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. The winter special extends to the end of September – great value.
The last time Thel and Louise had a road trip we ran out of petrol and notched up a few speeding fines. This time all we collected were some outstanding memories of a meal that made us feel sated and special. After a little retail therapy, we drove quietly home.