A grand prix meal with a fairy tale view
Claim to fame: Just voted best restaurant in South Africa
Reason to go: Tuna ‘La Colombe’ – we’ll keep you guessing…
To look out for: House-crafted gin made with herbs foraged from nearby mountain slopes.
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 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 home is bright and beautiful, having recently undergone a complete interior overhaul thanks to super talented Hayley Turner and Nicola Orpen at Bone Design. The views are 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 executive 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. Franchhoek recently became home to La Petite Colombe which allowed Kirton to step sideways and bring chef genius James Gaag into place as head chef, allowing Kirton time to flit between the Mother City and the country’s culinary capital Franschhoek.
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. Barely through the front door and your tastebud wake with a blood orange cocoa-butter sphere filled with camomile gel and orange zest. Chipotle glazed sweetbreads follow, accompanied by seared wagyu and whole roasted baby sweetcorn with a popcorn crust. A show-stopper palate cleanser arrives with great aplomb in the fragrant form of a frozen calamansi (kumquat) fruit filled with a cocktail of passion fruit and lime with a margarita foam. Karoo lamb, Jerusalem artichoke, barbecued tongue, smoked tomato, pine nut crumble and garlic velouté is a main event paired with a 2012 Pinot Noir noble late harvest from Shannon Vineyards in the cool-climate Elgin Valley. The oak-smoked Stanford cheddar cheese dessert with rhubarb, pecan nut ice cream and sherry pickled baby onions will win over any self-professed, chocolate-only dessert diva. Sensational food aside, a highlight is simply experiencing some of the best service in the land. Although award-winning service guru and Restaurant Manager, Jennifer Hugé, has just left after 17 years in the house, she leaves in place a team that works its way masterfully around the room with razor-sharp, unobtrusive exactitude. Fine wine aside, a meal here is incomplete without their hand crafted La Colombe gin made with herbs foraged on the slopes of these mountains where this restaurant is now comfortably settling into its new home.