Whilst I have the pleasure of conducting the final review at restaurants being included in the 2018 JHP Gourmet Guide™, interviewing the chefs and then writing about it, our Brand Manager Natalie has the arduous task of co-ordinating these dates and then extracting recipes from the chefs. Chefs are talented and engaging and we consider it a privilege to work with them, but not all of them are masters of converting their creations to a written version! It was therefore my pleasure to take her as my ‘plus one’ to a review at La Colombe last week. Our treat was kindly and seamlessly organized by PR professional Annette Cowley-Nel, who is also a dream to work with.
With the current menu chef Scot Kirton has elevated the level of food theatre, exposing his sense of play and belief that fine dining should be fun and more relaxed. Puritans may raise their eyebrows, but those who love progress will applaud.
Many of the courses, from the amuse bouche on welcome at reception, through the layered flavours with a bread roll, are interactive, ending with a frivolous taste test, as before, that sees diners devouring the petit fours. Inspiration and innovation are evident, yet some ‘surprises’ like the famous La Colombe tin of tuna, remain for those who may wait a season or two to make a trip to Cape Town for this holiday highlight. We gently debated our favourite dishes. Natalie had the Springbok with chipotle, miso orange, cucumber, chestnut and foie gras. I chose the chawanmushi, barbeque quail, aubergine, gem squash and coconut. Oh my word…this was a meal that memories are made of. The culinary adventure is worth reliving moment by moment, but I would hate to spoil the surprises.
We left on a high, but only after chatting to Scot, and congratulating him on his babies – newborn Chloe, and the restaurant in Franschhoek opening in August. Great to note that the La Colombe winter special has been extended to 31 August – make your reservation now for some fun ‘behind the green door!’
I caught up with surf-loving chef Dylan Laity on a quiet day just before his annual holiday. I took a moment to enjoy the winter view while he tested a new dish on me, a very receptive audience. Without giving the game away, he has created a beef dish that is sublime, flavoured by Rooikrantz coals, with burnt apple puree, lemon and capers, with mustard mayo and local sorrel, served on a plate made from the same wood. His presentation previously classical, now more evolved to become more colourful. It was great to swop stories of how winter is the time for fermentation, pickling, and making his own amazi (cheese).
Summer will see it evolve into a new explosion of flavours, still focusing on local produce. Look out for his bunny koek – a lamb curry set hard wrapped in vetkoek dough and fried. Good to see him making more use of the mountain on which the Roundhouse is poised – the likes of lemon buchu, wood sorrel, nasturtium, chickweed and natural fynbos like wild rosemary, Cape May and lavender are evident in his cooking – really taking advantage of nature. I applaud the fact that he, like many chefs, is celebrating hake instead of kingklip. We ended our chat on a good note, with Dylan stating that one of the blessings of becoming more established in one’s kitchen, means that you have discovered that no chef is ever better than the ingredients.” Enjoy your break Dylan, as the season for you and your team is sure to be one full house after another.