Review: Upper Bloem Restaurant

The Proposition

The name of the restaurant is Upper Bloem, which is slightly confusing to any Capetonian since Upper Bloem is a street address in the Bo-Kaap, but the restaurant is located on Main Road in Greenpoint. What the name references are the roots of the menu here – Cape Malay and the Cape in general – as does the interior of the unprepossessing but comfortable space in its “curry” colours. As they explain, the menu speaks of chef Andre Hill’s childhood spent in the Bo-Kaap and they “invite you to (sic) a journey of flavours, spices, tastes, textures and nostalgia”.

The Experience

The caveat to this account is that lunch currently is an “opening special” set menu that is pared-down from the dinner offering, and I am unsure how often they plan to change the menus, so it may differ when you get there. Costs can be very well managed by means of set menus (and certainly are here at R195 per person), but the plates necessarily default to “simpler” and less luxurious ingredients to achieve this value. Not all diners will like the choices either, but I enjoy the exercise of a “pared down” menu, as it forces kitchens to be more creative and less reliant on the obvious “big hit” flavours or hero ingredients.

The team on the floor were both warm and attentive (enquiring over any objections to the offerings) and the waiter explained our series of plates confidently. We did take the optional bread board at R35 – rotis and steamed mielie (corn) bread with condiments of pumpkin chutney, seaweed butter and a walnut and popcorn crumb. All were spot on.

Boerenkaas (a local style of cheese) croquettes with apple purée, teriyaki glaze and shaved radish were the next round; along with Cape Malay-style onions which were accompanied by pickled aubergine. The croquettes were lovely bites, but the onions were the stand-outs in their flavour punch and delightful textures. As you can see from the second picture below, the presentation was also fun, alluding to the East and lending the humble onion an enhanced frame.

 

A sous vide “65 degree” hen egg came next, with Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot leaf and chicken jus – all textbook in flavour and technique.

The eggs were served alongside a roasted butternut plate, with flavours of coconut, seed and herbs – and you can’t really get more local than our love for this squash, here presented in a novel and pretty du jour form with the very fashionable coconut and seeds.

The main plates were a lamb neck biryani with grains, pistachio, pomegranate and dried herbs – the last a touch I really enjoyed as the particular flavour of dried rather than fresh herbs is very typical of the local cooking idiom. The plate was good, notwithstanding the somewhat dry lamb.

It was served with a bowl of triple-cooked potato with Muizenberg sour fig (a sand dune plant’s tart fruit), curry sauce, burnt chard and bhaji powder – a superb dish with true home-grown flavours and great textures.

Optional is the dessert board at R95 for two people: “milk tart” doughnuts; mango and jasmine pate de fruit, and an “after school fruit tin” (preserved fruit with evaporated milk and meringue). The highlight here was the dense and flavour-packed pate de fruit and the “tin” was fun too, but I missed classic “melktert” flavour in the doughnuts.

The Verdict

The chef is quoted on the menu:  “I hope that what we’re doing will make other young chefs from Cape Town proud of their food and their abilities. So often we’re looking beyond our shores for culinary inspiration, but we have everything we need right here”.

I whole-heartedly concur, and look forward to returning to see how the chef elaborates and continues his culinary interpretation of Cape cookery. Andre Hill is off to a great start and this is a very welcome (and even vital) addition to the city’s food scene.

Upper Bloem

Lunch and dinner Wednesday to Saturday; also dinner Tuesday

65 Main Road, Green Point

021 433 1442