On the menu: Rabbit terrine, fig leaf baked ricotta, wild honey, lemon and porcini velouté.
Jean-Pierre recently enjoyed this starter dish as one highlight of an overall excellent meal at The Shortmarket Club. We chat to chef Wesley Randles about what may seem like an unusual combination to local diners in Cape Town.
Welsey Randles: It might seem unusual, but if you break down the flavours, it’s actually the perfect northern Italian plate, incorporating everything important to that palate. For example if you start with gnocchi, and then add rabbit and truffle, that would be completely normal in that region. This is exactly that, just broken down into slightly different components.
On the menu: Octopus casserole, chorizo, bean, kale, garlic
We chat to chef David Higgs at Saint, the new “twisted” Italian restaurant he opened a few months ago with business partner Gary Kyriacou in Sandton, where Jean-Pierre recently enjoyed the bean casserole with wood-fired octopus.
David Higgs: I think the Italian inspiration behind the dish is mostly the bean casserole, which is such a typical Mediterranean dish, almost Spanish and Portuguese as well. So that’s why we call ourselves crazy or “twisted” Italian rather than just Italian, because these are basically flavours that I’ve been inspired by on my travels. Octopus on the fire has always been one of my favourites. And bean stews are so flavoursome, with lots of cumin, and coriander – almost Moroccan, so it really represents that whole Mediterranean region, whether on the European or African continent. Sometimes you just get something in your head, and you want to go with it…. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Octopus Casserole at Saint”
We visited La Colombe after their recent refurbishments, and particularly enjoyed this spectacular finale to a very fine lunch. We asked Executive Chef James Gaag to tell us the story behind this unique sweet ending.
Chef James Gaag: The way we do the menu at La Colombe is more of an evolution than changing everything in one go. So this idea actually started a few seasons ago, when we had stumbled across a cork log, which we filled with chocolate soil and plated our petit fours on.
On the menu: Saldanha Bay mussels – spekboom / samphire / parsley oil / sea essence
We asked chef Andre Hill to talk us through his favourite dish on the menu at the newly opened Upper Bloem Restaurant.
Chef Andre Hill: The dish that I enjoy the most – because it reminds me very much of growing up – is the mussels. The dish itself is fairly simple; nothing very complicated in terms of either ingredients or techniques – we make a broth from smoked snoek, which we cook the mussels in, and use again to make the emulsion that goes with them. We then take some leeks, cook them for about seven minutes in a bit of oil, and then char them. So the plate consists of a mussel emulsion, the actual mussels, charred leeks, a bit of parsley oil, and then we finish it off with spekboom. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Saldanha Bay Mussels at Upper Bloem Restaurant”
On the menu: Green sunflower, sunchoke, butternut, quince
One of the highlights of a recent visit was an intriguing play on risotto that used sunflower seeds instead of rice. How did you come up with that, and were you intending for it to be “risotto-like”?
Chef Michael Cooke: Yes, we were, and it took roughly nine months of development to create this dish. To give a bit of background, we keep a diary of everything that’s available on the Vergelegen property; we document the season, the exact time of the year each ingredient is available, and the timeline that it’s available for. We do this to keep ahead of the seasons, and to be on track for when something becomes available, so when it is, we’re ready to use it immediately when it’s at its peak, and not waste any valuable time as the timeline of that ingredient slowly withers away. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Sunflower Seed “Risotto” at Camphors”
On the menu: Citrus cured seabass with duck liver parfait, fine herbs, pickled cucumber, red pepper essence
We recently enjoyed the suprising combination of duck liver parfait with cured fish in this very pretty dish. How did you conceive of putting those two together?
Chef Gordon Manuel: This dish is from our Discovery menu, and while The Pool Room and Oak Valley have always been well-known for their pork and beef, those can get a little bit heavy, so part of my thinking since we took over the operation of the restaurant was to add a bit more finesse, but finesse without being overly finicky – no tweezers and that type of thing. It’s also about balance; adding something to the menu that’s not so meat-heavy, and that works really well. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Citrus Cured Seabass at The Pool Room”
On the menu: Salt crust baked celeriac, curry brittle, parmesan and passion fruit
Such a beautiful plate, and surprisingly complex for a meat-less dish. How did you come up with such an unusual combination?
Chef Gregory Czarnecki: I wanted to do something with this dish that you can’t do in Europe, where if you follow the seasons, and you respect the origin of the product, celeriac is a winter or spring root vegetable, whereas in South Africa winter almost takes up half of spring (especially now!). So I wanted to showcase something that wouldn’t be possible in Europe, and that also represents this country. People often think of South Africa in terms of landscape, and culture, but it’s also about the weather: so while in the western Cape we’ll have root vegetables now, in Durban, you’ll have passion fruit in the same season, growing at exactly the same time. This just wouldn’t be possible in Europe, so I wanted to come up with something that would promote the two different regions and climates you can have here at the same time, and that would also bring together a really “old school” vegetable and an exotic fruit. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Salt Crust Baked Celeriac at Waterkloof”
The octopus was phenomenal. Would you mind telling us how the dish came together, with the fennel and sea spinach?
Chef Giles Edwards: As with most of the dishes, it’s really about the supplier. Our chicken hearts come from Angus at Spier – they’re amazing, so I think about how I can make them appealing to everyone else. I put a deep-fried potato bake on the plate, and it just works perfectly with the dish, and it becomes an attraction – it’s the same with the octopus. I always cook it the same way; it just comes down to what I pair it with and how I use it. The octopus comes from South Coast Fisheries, who source it from False Bay. It’s Atlantic octopus, and there are not many restaurateurs buying it. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Octopus at La Tête”
On the menu: Part of “Strandveld snacks” at the beginning of lunch
We were intrigued by all your dishes, but especially the bread with bokkom butter, which was like a bagna cauda, but West Coast style. Can you tell us about how that came about?
Kobus van der Merwe: At Oep ve Koep (our previous space which is still run by my family), we used to serve a fried bokkom* fillet in different versions – there was a breakfast-y one with egg, and we did a seared watermelon with bokkom and seaweed. And then everyone in the kitchen always grabbed and dipped their bread in the pan that we fried the bokkom in, because the juices were just ridiculous. We fried them in a little oil, and then we added butter while the bokkoms were heating up, and then, almost as a joke, because it’s the nicest feeling to clean a pan with bread in the kitchen, we started thinking of sending that to the table, and then just refining it a little bit.
On the menu: Chinese 5 spice-hoisin Pork Belly w/sweet potato purée, Chinese cabbage & crackling
There seems to always be pork belly on the Black Sheep menu, suggesting it’s one of those dishes diners would start complaining about not being available if you ever took it off. How did it become one of your “signature” dishes, and what’s the story of this particular iteration?
Chef Jonathan Japha: When you’re cooking for a restaurant of this volume, you’ve got to have some food that’s pre-done, and organised, and fully cooked, and there’s no reason why you can’t make things that are suited specifically to that purpose. Pork belly is one of those meats that really works better when you cook it very slowly for a long period of time, and because it’s already cooked, it’s perfect to have sitting in a bain marie. We keep it in the oven, with the glaze on top, with water on the bottom of the pan, so that it actually continues to cook as service progresses, and it just gets better and better as it sits.