Review: Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia

The Proposition

Chef Ivor Jones, previously head chef at the much-lauded The Test Kitchen, captains this luxury winelands offshoot of Liam Tomlin’s Chefs Warehouse in Cape Town.

When it opened, Chefs Warehouse in Cape Town quickly became a food-hound’s favourite for the sheer quality of the cuisine and the fact that one could enjoy various flavours in miniature through the “tapas for two” option where two diners submit to the pleasures of the kitchen and enjoy a series of dishes. It’s a less fussy version of a tasting menu – albeit pretty far from “tapas” in a true sense of the word as they’re smaller portions of pretty cheffy food. The distinct advantage of this approach is that the kitchen can react to new or seasonal or a whim pretty quickly, and offer an ever-changing menu for those who return often.

While the original Chefs embodies a “no-fuss” environment – the tiny dining space alongside and indeed within a retail space with ingredients and cooking utensils all around – the Beau Constantia edition is considerably more upmarket in feel and very far from being a warehouse in any sense of the word, and more of a showroom. The new Chefs Warehouse does, however, also anchor its menu on the “tapas for two”.

The Experience

High up in Constantia with splendid views, CWBC is set upon the Beau Constantia wine estate. There’s a contemporary open kitchen as you come in, while the dining spaces are modern and elegant in an essentialist fashion, box shapes with stone, steel and wood textures and plenty of large windows to make the most of the views over the valley. There are a couple of levels outside with delightful decks for those fair weather hours (fair weather days are a great deal to ask for).

Service this lunch-time was energetic and positive, if a little over-enthusiastic, for instance telling us all about the Cape Town original and strongly vouching for it – but then admitting that he had never been there.

The wine list is led by the wines from the farm and the menu is led, once more, by the “tapas” for two at R650. On this day, only some oysters were offered as a starter option, or “local bread”, butter and olives. I did not get around to asking what made the bread local, but one assumes it is made in house or by a specialist baker.

The tapas arrived per the images below. Plates are, as you see, consistently beautiful and the flavours are uniformly satisfying in that intense and rich style that modern international-leaning chefs trade in. The meal passed in a pleasant umami-enriched cloud with hits of spice and acidity here and there, but I did miss a sense of build-up from simple, clear or light flavours and textures towards the fuller and heavier ones. Notwithstanding the ever-richer protein option on the successive plates, flavours and textures began bold and unctuous and stayed in that gear, the only real exception being the the hake plate (but this came quite late in the procession).

Linefish sashimi, lemon atchar, buttermilk dressing, toasted garlic and smoked paprika oil
Seared tuna, saffron and tomato dashi dressing, garlic emulsion, herbs from the garden
Coal seared beef tataki, fermented black bean salsa, slow-dried tomato and onion pickle with sour cream
Cauliflower and parmesan risotto, tempura cauliflower, balsamic raisins, burnt butter dressing
Beetroot “tart” with home-made cottage cheese
Pan-fried hake, Madagascan black pepper dressing, steamed pak choi and tenderstem broccoli
Roast pork belly, spiced sour cabbage and a coconut sambal
Moroccan lamb rib, home-made ricotta with a Hawaii spice

 

The Verdict

A wonderful venue and accomplished cooking makes this a special outing for lovers of bold flavour and modern/global combinations.

 

Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia

Beau Constantia, off M41 at Constantia Nek

021 794 8632

www.beauconstantia.com/eat

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