A grand prix meal with a fairy tale view
Claim to fame: Iconic South African haute cuisine
Reason to go: Tuna ‘La Colombe’ – we’ll keep you guessing…
To look out for: The most outstanding service in the land
La Colombe has been home to this country’s best chefs for more than 15 years. The likes of Franck Dangereux and Luke Dale-Roberts, to name but two, have gone on to great success, leaving this space to be ably filled by the young Scot Kirton. When the restaurant closed for a year to relocate, the country held its breath in anticipation. The move wasn’t far from its original world-renowned Constantia Uitsig farm, just a short drive over the hill and up a mountain. Its new whitewashed, tree-house-feel space is bright and beautiful with views through gum tree forests, looking deep into the Hout Bay valley and the back of Table Mountain.
Extraordinarily, Scot Kirton, Chef Proprietor of La Colombe, started his career with no training whatsoever, that was back in 2001, in the Franschhoek Valley, the heart of gastronomy in South Africa. He cruised quickly through top-end kitchens, hopped abroad, did due diligence at the acclaimed Savoy Grill in London, spent some time in one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant kitchens where he learned the art of blasphemy before returning home in 2007 to stand by the side of Luke Dale-Roberts as sous chef at La Colombe. Dale-Roberts left and Kirton rode seamlessly into the role of head chef. With the relocation of the restaurant Kirton is definitely in his element; high -octane views and luxe surroundings have a way of doing that to people. Culinary passion-wagons sprinkled with pixie dust are now rolling out of his kitchen, feeding swooning diners, both local regulars and globetrotting visitors. These Bugatti-like wonders accelerate in a carefully considered line-up of pinpoint precision-plated dishes. Start with the tiniest unrecognisable bite: phyllo pastry with chicken liver parfait, porcini mousse and sherry gel, nestled among homegrown organic leaves and vegetables. Switch gears and move on to cured Norwegian salmon, king crab, blood orange, melon and wood sorrel, paired beautifully with a Stellenbosch Riesling 2009 by Thelema Wine Estate. West Coast oysters, enrobed in kalamansi, apple, soy and caviar, are found deep in a handcrafted porcelain oyster shell, perfectly shaped to cradle in the palm of your hand, and supported by a rare Ghost Corner ‘Wild Ferment’ Sauvignon Blanc from Elim, a pin-prick town on the east coast. The understated, often neglected, bavette steak is revved up to fine dining standards and blended boldly with chipotle, anchovy, bone marrow and chimichurri, leaving your favorite filet mignon in the dust. The dish Three ages of boerenkaas (farmer’s cheese) to end is a celebration of a classic, deep and silky cheese, brought into a new age taste sensation with onion, rhubarb, walnut and cumin.
Sensational food aside, a highlight is simply experiencing Restaurant Manager Jennifer Hugé working her way masterfully around the rooms as she leads her service team with polished, unobtrusive exactitude. Her wine knowledge knows no bounds, she remembers every guest and her smile is unforgettable, which is why she has recently clinched the award of ‘most outstanding contribution to service’ in South Africa.