THE prestigious Eat Out Awards 2019 took place on Sunday, November 17 at GrandWest in Cape Town. This year 30 nominees were counted down from 20 to 11, before the top 10 restaurants in the country are announced.
Among this 30 are all four of the La Colombe group’s restaurant: La Colombe itself (Constantia) and voted number one in South Africa by Eat Out, La Petite Colombe in Franschhoek, Protégé (Franschhoek) and Foxcroft in Constantia. This is an impressive achievement; the fifth restaurant, Epice in Franschhoek, isn’t nominated as it opens at the end of November. Fun fact: Foxcroft won the 2016 Eat Out Retail Capital Best New Restaurant Award soon after it opened.
I’m delighted to have collected the full set of meals at all the current restaurants in the past year, and I must confess it’s a thrill to be warmly welcomed back at each one of these exceptional establishments, and even the same table. The most recent is Foxcroft where the beautiful Ms Biondi joined me last Friday afternoon to partake of the spring lunch special, which runs daily until December 15.
More casual than the others, Foxcroft is busy and buzzy. The weather was splendid so we sat at an outside table in the dappled shade of the trees which periodically spat bits of themselves into our hair. No drinks or food were harmed during this time. Head chef Glen Williams “believes in a carefully structured farm to table approach, utilising the freshest seasonal ingredients and showcasing them on the plate to deliver a finessed flavourful experience.”
At the end of the meal, I sent a message to Glen saying it had been the best so far, and the food just keeps getting better. “Our menu has become a lot more streamlined in terms of choice, and varied in inspiration, with a greater focus on sustainability than we have ever put forward,” he says.
“It reflects global inspiration and a commitment to sustainable, local produce.” The restaurant imports as little as possible and uses small-scale, sustainable, ethical and traceable suppliers wherever possible. “We feel that we’re cooking the best food we ever have, and are glad to still be on a path of growth and evolution that we feel will stand the test of time,” Glen adds.
There are three choices for each of the four courses – five if you count the bread – with carefully considered wine pairings. Each was presented by general manager Daine Owens, with their poetic descriptions. Because the menu and wine availability are fluid and can change, we had some that were printed on the menu and some that will be making their appearance in the future. Hence the line up in the featured image at the top of this page.
All the La Colombe restaurants are highly diligent when it comes to food allergies, and these will be checked at least three times. Apparently there are some people who either can’t manage their own dietaries, or they’re so picky they can’t order anything without a list of Ts&Cs. Ms Biondi and I are not those people; the options suited us just fine.
For the first tapas course, we ordered the yellowfin tuna (with Silvervis Smiley Chenin) and the chicken ballotine (Arendsig single vineyard Chenin); Glen sent out dish number three anyway, a spicy carrot hummus with roasted feta, shaved carrot, Baharat and lavash. All three are pictured above. The tuna was attractive (I’m a sucker for pink anything) with salsa macha (matcha), whipped avocado, jalapeño and tostada. My chicken included liver parfait (which was perfectly silky), delicate paper thin slices of mushroom, brioche bits, and nuggets of crunchy chicken skin which, if I’d know about them, I would have actually been that person and asked for more of that and less of the brioche.
Course two choices included mussels with pickled squid, succotash, mayu oil and chowder. Ms Biondi ordered the tandoori turnips with lemon pickle, curry leaf, labneh and chickpea crisp, with City On A Hill Muscat (which will also be coming out with the carrot hummus). Mine was beef shin. The photo does it no justice but it was flipping amazing. The rosemary velouté blankets it all, but tucking in with the spoon I discovered morsels of deliciously fatty meat on a bed of creamy polenta. This was my favourite of the meal. My wine was Mullineaux Kloof Street Rouge.
Right. Main courses. There is Karoo lamb with shimeji mushrooms, spiced apricot, burnt onion and buckwheat. I had the crispy-skinned sustainable line fish (yellowtail, which I love) with charred sweet potato (the orange kind), fennel, slivers of salami, and a puddle of smoked tomato purée. The Luddite Saboteur came with it, so that was a bonus.
Ms Biondi chose the Oak Valley pork belly with kimchi glaze, charred cabbage and spicy peanuts to add texture. She relished the Thorne & Daughters Copper Pot Pinot Noir, and apparently the pork too because she never offered me a taste (even though I offered her mine, just saying).
My dessert was the Boerenkaas and goat’s cheese with mushroom chutney, quince butter and oat biscuits, paired with Catherine Marshall Myriad 2009 – a Merlot and Grenache Noir blend which wasn’t as sweet as the bottle or glass it was in, indicated. I’m besotted with circles so I appreciated the precise and orderly plating and the shapes it presented. The cheese isn’t really blue, that’s the lighting.
Ms Biondi went with the yoghurt with green apple, elderflowers and geranium, which she admitted she’d only ordered because it was the best one of the three for her (the other being malt cake with caramel bananas and malted milk). Served with The Freshman Sauvignon Blanc, it turned out to be her favourite dish of the meal. “Look at the tiny flowers!” she said. “Make sure you get them in the photo!”
And here they are:
The spring lunch special is available daily until November 30, 2019. It’s R345 for four courses, or R595 with wine pairing. The full tasting menu is available at lunchtimes till December 15 at the reduced price of R595 or R920 with wine pairing. For more information, click here.
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©
The Eat Out nominees for 2019 are, in alphabetical order:
Camphors at Vergelegen
Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia
Chefs Warehouse at Maison
Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort
Janse & Co
La Petite Colombe
Le Coin Français
LivingRoom at Summerhill Estate
Pierneef à La Motte
Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient
Rust en Vrede
The Restaurant at Waterkloof
The Shortmarket Club
The Test Kitchen
Tjing Tjing Momiji
The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal