by Matthew Sterne
on December 13, 2010
“Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch.” Rudyard Kipling
The twelfth best restaurant in the world. You can imagine the bristling excitement of the Horny Grazer.
La Colombe is on the Constantia Uitsig wine estate in (perhaps unsurprisingly) Constantia. Constantia for all you non-Capetonians, is in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town on the back slopes of Table Mountain (about a 20 minute drive from the V&A Waterfront). It’s a beautiful estate acclaimed for its white wines – Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in particular. What makes staying at the Constantia Uitsig Hotel so special however, is that Constantia Uitsig boasts three of South Africa’s top restaurants, each a short, bibulous stumble from the other.
La Colombe is the jewel in this rather impressive, oenophillic crown. It is perhaps South Africa’s most celebrated restaurant. The venue itself is understated. A rustic country cottage that leads out to a secret garden courtyard with vines and a myriad of other botanical curiosities clamouring for attention around the soporific, central fountain. But you won’t be falling asleep anytime soon as the super slick and knowledgeable team spoil you with treat after treat from the moment you sit down.
Three tapas style amuses bouche (you try and work out the plural) arrived as soon we sat down. Delicious and immaculately presented dishes that included a light kudu Carpaccio, pork scratchings with a sweet-chilli sauce and a hollowed egg shell resting on coarse sea salt in a wooden box. The egg shell was filled with the most delicious nectar I have ever tasted. A creamy soy concoction laden with plump bits of prawn. Soooo good.
I had every intention of taking it easy at La Colombe – starter and a main and one glass of wine from the a la carte menu. Of course, the moment I saw the Spring tasting menu, I knew it had to be mine. What’s that you say? With wine pairing? Oh, go on then…
I was staying in the hotel after all, so no driving to worry about. Staying over on a Saturday night is an excellent option. It’s a real indulgence and means that you can the go for Sunday lunch to the River Cafe. The ultimate foody’s weekend.
Never have I seen food so beautifully turned out. But not so delicate and fussy that you won’t know whether to eat it or dangle it from your Xmas tree. The food at La Colombe remains accessible.
And the service is just so wonderful. It’s polished and professional, but also warm, friendly, effortless and unobtrusive.
You’ll need to go and experience this for yourself, but here are just a few of my favourite things from the menu that evening:
Alaskan king crab, asparagus and truffle mousse, smoked salmon, orange, honey and mustard. Paired with a Rustenberg Roussane from Stellenbosch.
Terrine of duck: layers of foie gras, cured breast, confit leg and Jerusalem artichoke with a smoked lentil puree and bread crisps. Paired with a Cederberg Bukettraube.
Earl Grey Kit Kat, tapioca & Berry salad, Baumkuchen, belle rose sorbet and apple foam, paired with a Stony Brook natural sweet wine viognier.
The combination of flavours and textures in each dish was extraordinary. Clean and delicious. And best of all I got to try some grape varietals for the first time – Roussane and Bukettraube. Both new to me. Roussane originates in the Rhône region of France and is the only other white variety, besides Marsanne, allowed in the northern Rhône appellations of Crozes-Hermitage AOC, Hermitage AOC and Saint-Joseph AOC. Bukettraube is a fruity white from Germany (don’t mention the war).
Constantia Uitsig is the opposite of a health farm. It’s a fat farm – but it’s mighty good for the soul. La Colombe is without doubt the best restaurant I’ve eaten at. It’s a cliché, but it really is an experience. If you can, go for the tasting menu.