by Matthew Sterne
on June 21, 2010

The Horny Grazer Review

Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

 

At Midday you will hear an almighty bang from the Cannon on Signal Hill. This tradition dates back to the days of the Dutch East India Company when the Cape was used as a stopping point on the trade route between Europe and the East. The firing of the cannon would signal to farmers that ships were approaching the harbour so that they could bring their wares to market.

Signal Restaurant at the Cape GraceLunch was not on the cards however as we arrived for an early dinner reservation at the multi award winning Signal Restaurant presided over by executive chef Malika van Reenen. What I love about the Cape Grace is that it is so proudly South African – you will not feel like you are in a generic five star hotel that could be in any major city – you will know that you are right in the heart of Cape Town.

Service at Signal is a slick and effortless affair – my coat was taken, chair was pushed in and my napkin strewn across my lap in one practised movement. Menus arrived, aperitifs were offered as was an array of mouth watering breads – onion, red pepper, parmesan and garlic, focaccia to name but a few – and a choice of butters – plain salted or harrissa. We had no single waiter, but rather a whole squadron fawning over us. The atmosphere is calm but vibey – with just a week to go until the world cup, things were starting to hot up. The aptly named ‘Medicine’ introduced himself as the assistant sommelier and suggested a rather fine Bordeaux blend from the Raats Estate – be sure to take advantage of the expert knowledge of the sommeliers who will pair the perfect vintage with your sumptuous feast. And don’t forget to take a post-prandial digestive in the Bascule Bar with a selection of over 400 whiskies from every corner of the globe.

Signal Restaurant at the Cape GraceThe dining room itself is elegant, but doesn’t quite shake off that slightly multi-purpose and slightly stilted hotel feel. On Thursdays and Saturdays however you’ll be treated to the perfect side dish which goes a long way to assuaging that complaint – a little light jazz with more than a hint of Mozambiquan/Portuguese. A glass of Steenberg 1682 brut was the ideal accompaniment to a kingclip and sweet cucumber amuse bouche as well as my exquisite starter of seared scallops with a white bean puree, chorizo, toasted almond and saffron butter. Yum. My dining partner opted for the equally delicious but rather meatier oxtail ravioli & three bean cassoulet with parmesan pangritata. Rich and delicious. Both starters were plated on a conjoined series of three bowls – visually appealing but tricky to eat from unless you’re using a spoon.

Mains were not as a good as the starters, but there was nevertheless a fantastic selection of locally sourced meats and flavours – a malay-spiced springbok loin or cumin-crusted ostrich for instance. We opted for the fillet of chalmar beef, wild mushroom compote, Boulanger potato, sautéed asparagus and pine-needle hollandaise, as well as the smoked pork belly on lemon-scented mash, broccoli florets & cranberry & rooibos gastrique. The use of rooibos in the menu is fantastic and a uniquely South African flavour even if the gastrique was slightly on the salty side. My only real criticism is that the mains could have been plated with a little more finesse.

I rounded things off with what for me was the highlight of the meal, a rooibos crème brulee with homemade white chocolate & honeycomb ice cream. Enough said.

Signal should be applauded for its uniquely South African menu with contemporary flare –  I could go back ten times and still find dishes I wanted to try, so I suggest you get cracking!

Signal Restaurant at the Cape Grace