by Matthew Sterne
on July 26, 2010
‘”How long does getting thin take?” asked Pooh anxiously.’ AA Milne
Hmm – who to take to Aubergine? Not a date. No, I think I would take a good friend who loved food and wine as much as I do. A fellow fatty. This is a place to be an unapologetic gourmand. To wave pretension aside and indulge. It isn’t the cheapest option, but I suggest you go for the degustation menu with wine. Surrender yourself to the omniscient sommelier Dominic. Previously of La Colombe and Gleneagles in Scotland, he made the evening really special pairing some mighty fine wines from the tome of a wine list.
The characterful buildings were once the fashionable 19th century home of Sir John Wylde, the first Chief Justice of the Cape. In those days the estate, near the Dutch East India Company’s gardens – extended over several hectares. By virtue of his office, Wylde was one of the most prominent figures in the colony. For more than a quarter of a century he not only ruled the Cape’s Supreme Court and Legislative Council, but also presided over its flamboyant social life. His elegant table, fine wines and scintillating company were renowned. The tradition lives on in this eclectic space where modern, glass fronted wine cellars meld into the traditional Cape Dutch homestead. From outside, Aubergine looks tiny, but it opens up into a double volume dining room with a few enticing nooks as well as an ample garden courtyard for the summer months. Knsyna blackwood and twined leather chairs, bamboo and padded ceilings, fire places and original sash windows complete the picture.
Harald Bresselschmidt is in charge here and he runs a superb kitchen and a great venue. But it wouldn’t be German run if there wasn’t the odd Teutonic style faux pas. ‘Stand by your man’ was oozing from the speakers and there were frilly fonted menus, cameo doilies and even an ersatz fibreglass rock pool in the garden courtyard. And if you’re going to serve lavender sorbet as a palate cleanser, then you can’t have lavender scented toilet freshener in the loos. Non-ideal associations.
But that’s it for the complaints – they fade in comparison to the exquisite cuisine. I don’t want to bore you with food and wine descriptions – the pleasure lies in going to experience it for yourself… Plus, of course, the degustation menu changes frequently.
Ok, so I said I wouldn’t, but I can’t resist telling you about a few of the dishes that blew me away. A first starter of seared sawfish with a sesame crust set on Kalahari truffle and Nara oil vinaigrette with pumpkin and pear was washed down with a sumptuous and creamy Chamonix chardonnay. Perhaps only marginally less delicious than the second starter of squid ink noodles with skate wing and calamari – you will not taste a softer, more sublime piece of fish. Textures, flavours and combinations to challenge and delight. It was an education. The medallion of springbok with an orange and bittersweet chocolate crust and a rosemary jus was served with a 2005 Beaumont mouverdre. The first time I’ve tried a 100% mouverdre and what a discovery it was! The crescendo was a pumpkin soufflé with a rumtopf emulsion and saffron orange ice-cream. The rumtopf is not for the faint hearted! All washed down with a great little pudding wine – Hilldenbrand Sleepless Nights Semillon NLH.
So if that doesn’t get your peristaltic contractions chomping at the bit then I suggest you steer clear of Aubergine. Gourmands only need apply.
39 Barnet Street
+27 (0)21 465 4909