Frances Geoghegan, Managing Director of Africa Travel, reviews La Colombe in its new location.
I have been going to La Colombe for well over ten years; I went to enjoy the brilliance of Franck Dangereux, and later Luke Dale-Roberts, in the historic surrounds of Constantia Uitsig. Franck has long moved on to his own eatery in Noordhoek, and Luke has two very celebrated spots at Woodstock. Since then the restaurant has changed locations, and the chef du jour is Scot Kirton. La Colombe has always been one of South Africa’s most iconic and internationally-acclaimed fine dining establishments, so I was very keen to see where its sits now amongst South Africa’s greatest gourmet hang-outs. It’s new home is at the picturesque Silvermist Wine Estate at the top of Constantia Nek, with breathtaking views over the Constantia wine valley, False Bay and Hout Bay.
I arrive for dinner, a four course extravaganza for the sum of R495 - £28.50 in English money. I have been told that Scot Kirton sticks to the original La Colombe French principals, with an Asian fusion twist. He insists on the freshest of local seasonal produce, clean flavours and classic tastes. I place my order, my drinks arrive, and then it starts with an amuse-bouche. It appears to be a tin of canned meat, but it’s not, you lift the lid and there is a perfectly seared tuna tataki inside. This is accompanied by freshly-baked spelt and oat bread, and olive–parmesan bread sticks with herbed butter. It’s all perfectly formed, albeit in Lilliputian sizes. I chose the Alaskan snow crab to start off with, which was served with some perfect yellow-tail ceviche, a sour-ish blob of umami jelly, and a sweet miso orange mouse with avocado. The combination of flavours makes this dish sing, and I know this is going to be a dining experience to remember. My dining partners choose oysters lightly poached in champagne and a confit of duck leg served in artichoke soup. Everyone is happy.
If you prefer to sidestep the quail and Foie Gras, (although I don’t know why you would, this perfect little leg of quail was succulently tender, and the Foie Gras melted instantly in your mouth, and that combined with the bitterness of the pineapple and the moorish sweetness of the almond puree made it my perfect dish), you could opt for seared ostrich tartar, with avocado and ginger pancetta or scallops and miso- glazed sweetbreads.
While we wait for our mains, the palate cleansers arrive on a bed of pebbles. They are globes of cocoa butter which burst in your mouth to release a fresh burst of citrus on the tongue. We order a mixture of mains: Chalmar beef fillet with onion puree, Karoo lamb, and linefish with bok choi. The attention to detail on the plate is astonishing, each dish is a work of art, and we are intoxicated with the flavours. Their creativity is clearly visible in their deserts, with a dish of ginger, curd, cashew cake and mango sorbet. I tried it precisely because it sounded very odd, and was rewarded generously. My other companions chose safely with chocolate namelaka with stracciatelle ice-cream and raspberries, which was the prefect ending to an outstanding meal.
Scot’s food has me hooked, you can see the influence of Luke Dale-Roberts, but it has more of a traditional French flair. The new La Colombe remains a shining beacon on the Cape food scene, it’s the sort of restaurant that is not to be rushed - it’s not like Liam Tomlin’s where you can happily eat great food and be out in under 90 minutes. This is for slow-slow dining, where you sit back, and take it all in. Where the accomplished staff take the reins and explain it all. A quick meal at La Colombe simply would never do it justice.
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