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“I believe that if ever I had to practise cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around” James Beard
I’ve got to come clean here and admit that Indian food is not the preferred choice of the Horny Grazer. Perhaps a legacy of one too many rough Ruby Murrays in London.
I’m spice shy. I prefer to savour delicate flavours than to be blown away by heat. I have a very low threshold which, if exceeded, results in instantaneous hiccupping and nasal sweats. An unappealing combination even for a Labrador. And so it was with some trepidation that we made our reservation at the Bombay Brasserie in the Taj Cape Town.
But it’s worth making a reservation here for the design alone. Surely the most elegant dining room in Cape Town, the Bombay Brasserie combines contemporary design with the marble panelled opulence of the old Reserve Bank. Dark woods, white orchids, decadent turquoise chandeliers and the most lavishly upholstered and exquisitely embroidered imported arm chairs. Carried away by the colonial indulgence, I ordered myself a palate cleansing G&T (I’d recommend the lounge lobby of the Taj for a sneaky aperitif – it was the main chamber of the old South African Reserve Bank, now dazzlingly restored but retaining the splendid, marble columns and floors, and the lofty, domed ceiling complete with minstrel’s galleries.). Namaste.
The executive chef spent fifteen years at the Taj Mahal no less, so contemporary Indian fare doesn’t get much more authentic than this. I tend to find Indian menus a bit of a bore, so was thrilled with Hilton’s recommendation of the Maitre D’s four-course tasting menu with wine pairing. It’s not cheap (R395 for four courses or R575 for four courses with wine pairing), but if you want to get the full Bombay Brasserie experience, this is the most chakra pleasing way to do it.
I was absolutely blown away. It was such a treat to experience something new and unique. Obscure wines that one would never ordinarily order, masterfully paired with delicately spiced flavours. As exotic as Bengal Tigers.
To start, a remarkably delicious roasted yellow corn soup with tumeric popcorn. A dry, delicate flavour offset by the sweetness of the Klein Constantia Riesling. Good start.
Four courses was a little misleading as the second course consisted of three sumptuous pieces, each with its own wine. The Galouti Kebab is a superbly tender lamb kebab, apparently created for the nobles who preferred not to chew – paired with a light Dunston Merlot. The mustard infused broccoli finished off in the Tandoor oven was the spiciest dish on show and was beautifully complimented by a creamy Teddy Hall Chenin Blanc. Probably my favourite dish of the night was the Porchai Year (plump and spicy tempura prawns) served with the Paul Cluver Gewurtztraminer – absolutely sensational!
The third course (basically courses five through eight) was made up of the Murg Khatta Pyaz (Chicken Tikka with vinegar shallots) and Allepey Fish Curry (line fish in spiced coconut curry).
Dal Makhani (black lentils and kidney beans simmered overnight) and Lasooni Palak (garlic infused blended spinach) were the perfect accompaniments. And of course delicious basmati rice and naan bread (it wouldn’t be an Indian meal without them). Wines here included the Vin d’ Orrance Syrah with the Chicken Tikka; the Eagles Nest Viognier with the Fish Curry and an omniscient Paul Cluver Pinot Noir – a sensationally light Pinot that makes for a great accompaniment to most Indian dishes.
Pudding was a condensed milk dumpling served with Kulfi (Cardamom Ice Cream) which was far more delicious than it sounds.
Everything was immaculately presented, whether it was the soup in a traditional copper saucepan, the dry ice billowing pudding or the hour-glass served with the Taj blend chai. The attention to detail and knowledgeable, effusive service is second to none.
High tea is now served in the main hotel lobby where you might like to choose from one of the twenty-four traditional, Indian teas. If you’re looking for something rather stronger than tea, then head for the decadence of the cigar lounge with a devilishly tempting selection of post-prandial cognacs and a roaring log fire.
We opted instead for a white chocolate grappa to round off what was probably the best all round dining experience I’ve had for a very long time. Get thee there.
Wale St (between St Georges Mall and Adderley St)
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Matt discovered a passion for writing in the six years he spent travelling abroad. He worked for a turtle sanctuary in Nicaragua, in an ice cream factory in Norway and on a camel safari in India. He was a door-to-door lightbulb-exchanger in Australia, a pub crawl guide in Amsterdam and a journalist in Colombia. Now, he writes and travels with us.
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