AFTER an incredible lunch at La Colombe in Constantia (read about it here) we naturally had high expectations when we followed up with a visit to sister restaurant, La Petite Colombe in Franschhoek.
We were not disappointed.
La Petite Colombe has but two options: the Chef’s Spring Experience (with or without the Franschhoek Wine Experience), and the Chef’s Experience combined with the Fine And Rare Wine Experience. The latter includes more courses, some of which are an either or on the Spring Experience menu which we had. As the seasons are crossing over, some of these dishes might be different when you visit, but here goes.
Head chef John Norris came out with our first course (after the delicious little welcome drink bursting with calamansi citrus zing) presented in a garden. It’s to give it a picnic feeling, he explained. The delicate porcini pops were placed in the table’s centrepiece, as were the little cones with smoked snoek and curried labneh. Chawanmushi – a Japanese egg custard – was served in a ceramic eggshell with a teeny tiny spiced chicken wing hiding inside. We’d opted to include the Franschhoek wines so the pairing was Morena Brut Rosé NV.
For the bread course, sommelier Michelle Moller poured Hey Joe’s Spéciale Belge, the only Belgian-style pale ale made in South Africa. The brewery is just down the road, and you’ll notice it by the sign which says “finally open!”. As at La Colombe, the attention to detail and labour intensity is easily apparent with each course; for this one we were utterly delighted by the miso butter crafted into tiny ears of corn.
For the next course, we had a choice (on the Chef’s Experience menu you get both). I had the tuna with avocado and coriander dressing with Stony Brook The J 2016; my friend got the quail with prawn, muscle and ham paired with Chamonix Feldspar Pinot Noir 2017.
The next course is optional (but included in the Chef’s Experience) and carries a supplementary charge. I highly recommend you take up this offer. The wine is the La Chataigne Semillon 2015, and you get to enjoy it with a miniature ramen-inspired bowl of pork, scallop, wild garlic and katsuobushi served alongside the kitchen and presented by one of the chefs. Katsuobushi might be more recognisable to most people as bonito flakes but here you get to experience the actual petrified tuna which is shaved onto the dish. It’s not easy to pick a favourite with such an incredible menu but I’d go back for a giant bowl of this…if only that were possible. While you’re there, you’ll also get a quick education on how the kitchen works. “Is it always this calm?” my friend wanted to know. During service, yes. Before and after, perhaps not so much.
Back at our table, another trolley arrived, this time spewing smoke until its contents were revealed: the apple sorbet palate cleanser, served in ice bowls decorated with geraniums and doing double duty of looking pretty and melting to water the plants in their presentation platforms.
The meat course was beef fillet with pumpkin, salsa verde and smoked olive with Haut Espoir Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, and then the kitchen surprised us with something from the other menu, which my friend said was her highlight – a buckwheat biscuit wheel studded with creamed boerenkaas (two different ages) and rhubarb – and I almost agree. It’s a toss up between this and the pork. You can see the pic on my Instagram.
The dessert, served with Maison Straw Wine 2016, was a riot of textures and tropical flavours – coconut, passion fruit, pineapple – and even when you think the meal is over, it’s not. Yet another trolley pulled up, bearing campfire treats: macarons, salted caramel “cigars”, and whisky marshmallows toasted at the table.
Like La Colombe, La Petite Colombe not only delivers an incredible meal, impeccably served, but carries the wow factor from beginning to end. For more information, click here.
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©