CASA LABIA in Muizenberg is a gorgeous building, beautifully furnished, with an interesting history. It also has an elegant restaurant, now under the management of Andrea and Oscar Foulkes of Dish Food & Social, and named Cucina Labia.
Head chef Monché Muller has created some Italian-inspired dishes for her summer menu. Overall, however, it is as eclectic as her food journey which began when she was 12, watching Jamie Oliver on television. A decade of formal education and work in the field, including stints at top restaurants like The Test Kitchen and as columnist for foodie magazine, TASTE, has delivered her to Cucina Labia where she is flexing her creative culinary muscles.
Under starters you’ll find the likes of charred beef carpaccio with carrot purée, hazelnut, rocket, battered provolone, and sourdough; and pistachio-pepper braaied tuna with grapefruit, artichoke caponata, and watercress. For mains, choose stuffed turkey roulade with a chicken lollipop, smoked tomato, polenta pap tart, beurre noisette, baby corn, and paprika popcorn; or for vegetarians, black pasta sheets with confit butternut, smoked feta, tomato, macadamia, and candied pumpkin seeds. Even the humble burger gets the gourmet treatment: Italian meatball with mature cheddar, shakshuka and rocket on brioche, served with parmesan fries and truffle aioli.
For my starter, I had the Tuscan salad (featured image) which has marinated tomatoes, olives, capers, brinjals, chickpea croutons, and dried peach and almond dressing on a bed of rocket. It’s the perfect summer dish to enjoy while overlooking the ocean with a glass of bubbly close at hand. Lunching with me was Mom, who loves the venue. She started with a charcuterie and artisanal cheese board, served with condiments, breads and fruit, which is also available as a main course.
Beef rib, deboned and braised into soft, fatty meatiness and served with bone marrow jus, broccoli, and cherry smoked ox tongue, was my delicious main course, while Mom had the leg of lamb kataifi “wellington” which is served with white anchovy, leek puree, fennel, and bay leaf cream. Middle Eastern in origin, kataifi is usually a dessert pastry, but here its fine strands sit on top of the lamb for a twist on the classic dish.
Chef Muller is famous for her deconstructed tiramisu – elements of amaretti, espresso, chocolate, sabayon – but Mom took one for the team (I delegate dessert duties wherever possible) with litchi lime sorbet served with crumbled spongecake, Turkish delight (one of her favourite things in the world), coconut, cardamom, and rose. With her main course, it was a fitting combination.
Casa Labia was built in the 1920s by Count and Countess Natale Labia – the wealthy daughter of a Randlord and her Italian diplomat husband – who wanted their home to reflect 18th century Venice. The restaurant is spread through the grand rooms of the home and onto the veranda and the little courtyard at the back, while the garden can be booked for functions and events for which Muller can create canapé menus and a choice of set menus. Heck, she’ll even bake the wedding cake.
Cucina Labia serves breakfast (Saturdays and Sundays 9am – 11am), lunch, high tea, and dinner on Friday evenings, or just pop in for a cocktail and the view. Although the gallery is currently closed, you can admire the artworks on the walls of the restaurant, and there is a calendar of events like drawing classes and music concerts.
Cucina Labia is open Tuesdays to Fridays 10am till 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays 9am till 4pm, and Friday nights 6pm till 10pm. For more information or to make a reservation, call 021 788 6062, email [email protected], or click here.
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN