Eating in South Africa – La Colombe
We are now back in London, after a truly wonderful 2 weeks in South Africa. I must admit this is one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on, simply because we totally chilled out and stuffed ourselves silly with good food. I had the best intentions to write about some of our meals whilst in SA but was having such a fantastic time, I just had to leave most of the writing until our return to London.
Food in all the regions we visited, namely Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kruger National Park leaned heavily towards meat with menus mostly featuring a choice of at least a dish each of beef, lamb and springbok. Seafood is also very popular in the Cape Peninsula, probably due to its fortunate location between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
One of the restaurants we really wanted to dine at was La Colombe. Tucked away in the Constantia Uitsig wine estate just 20 minutes drive away from Cape Town, this little gem has been in the St. Pellegrino World’s Top 100 Restaurants for the last couple of years, its highest ranking place, I believe to be 12th in 2010.
Luke Dale-Roberts was appointed as Executive Chef of La Colombe in November 2006 and has since made his mark at this award-winning restaurant by adding new Asian influences to the mix of classic and contemporary French Cuisine. As from September 2010, Luke has embarked on his new role at La Colombe as Culinary Consultant with protégé, Scot Kirton leading as Head Chef and Manager.
Our visit was not actually planned as such. We drove to Constantia for a morning of wine tasting and hadn’t made any reservations at La Colombe. However, by a stroke of good fortune, they managed to fit us in for lunch! The restaurant looks like someone’s home on a wine estate, surrounded by acres of little grape trees. It was such an idyllic location, quiet and far away from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town. We were seated by a warm fireplace in a room which looked to be an extension of the main dining area. Sunlight streamed in from the French windows which would have opened out into a lovely little garden in warmer weather. What a perfectly relaxing setting!
Our waiter was impeccably courteous and the ‘menu’ was presented to us on a blackboard. I did wonder if it was heavy as he had to move it from one side of the room to present to each table he served throughout lunch service. He was very knowledgeable about the food and spent some time giving a detailed description of each dish.
We started with a trio of amuse bouche of beef carpaccio with pickled enoki mushrooms and parmesan cheese with orange and rosemary cream; celeriac veloute with a crunchy buttery brioche; and a beetroot tart with goat’s cheese fondant. Our sole criticism was that the beef carpaccio tasted only of beef with none of the other elements coming through.
Next, K had a mussel and corn chowder which came with an oyster deep fried in tempura batter. K was left a little perplexed as the dish was described to us as an oyster and corn chowder, came with a deep fried oyster, yet was noted as a mussel and corn chowder dish on the menu. Where was the mussel?
I loved my starter of pan seared scallops and pork belly with its crispy, light pork crackling and perfectly cooked scallops. The slightly sweet celeriac cream was a perfect accompaniment to the flavours of both the scallops and pork belly.
For mains, K had a dish of springbok and fois gras. The medallions of springbok were cooked very well with the fois gras soft and creamy, served on braised red cabbage with poached fig, potato fondant, fig puree and truffle jus. Unfortunately, the dish overall was under-seasoned.
I had a dish of grilled fillet of Chalmar beef, mushroom and onion mini tart, fine beans, potato fondant and a black peppercorn and truffle cafe au lait sauce. The sauce was sweet with slight hint of bitterness of coffee which, I must say went very well with the beef.
I couldn’t resist having a dessert of dark chocolate mousse with earl grey wafer biscuit and strawberry sorbet; before finishing our meal with coffees and petit fours of a mini meringue, Turkish delight, salted caramel truffles, lemon madeleines and cinnamon marshmallows.
Whilst the food was very well prepared and service was courteous I’m not totally gushing about La Colombe because well… there’s not really much to gush about. The tastes were familiar but not taste-bud tingling. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact we’d already tasted over 12 wines prior to the meal…
Price for plates as above including a carafe of red wine and an optional service charge came to R1030 which is about £100.
La Colombe is located within the Constantia Uitsig wine estate, Spaanschemat River Road, Constantia, Cape Town, South Africa.