Best Restaurant Experience

As I am reading Justin Bonello’s cookbook from our trip to South Africa last fall, my mind goes to La Colombe.

The restaurant was situated in Constantia, just off Cape Town and is surrounded by a vast wine estate. Mr N and I arrived late, straight from a day trip Cape Agulhas, Africa’s most southern tip. With a speeding ticket in out hand and no time to change into a more appropriate outfit, we walked into an impressive residence that took our breath away.

A bit intimidated at first, I soon realised that the restaurant (and the food as we were about to discover) was not pretentious at all. On the contrary there was a boldness and a simplicity which is rarely found in such high-end restaurants.
From the simple yet elegant decoration to the customers, mostly locals, who were sitting together in large groups, everything was creating a warm atmosphere which made us feel like guests at an exclusive and aristocratic dinner party. The service was also impeccable. Having a dedicated waiter to explain each and every detail of the dishes and their pairing wines and provide answers to all of our questions truly elevated our dining experience.

However, the strongest aspect of the evening was definitely the food. We chose the Degustation Menu, which changes every season according to the availability of the ingredients and the chef’s inspiration. A mixture of French and Asian cuisine, it consisted of 7 courses and each course was paired with a different type of wine, produced in the estate.

From the smoked lamb tongue and mussel marinière with parsley-apple puree and grated lime, to the pan fried springbok on sous-vide pear and radish with a parmesan and almond bake and pear and thyme jus, to the final three-tea and chocolate tasting plate, each dish was an amalgam of fresh quality local ingredients, put together with superb technique and thought. We had never experienced something like that. The tastes were bold, with depth, in an extraordinary and inspiring presentation. Complex yet clean flavours, married artistically together plate after plate; it was pure food at its best. The carefully selected wine, in combination with each dish intensified and completed the degustation experience.

After this meal I realised how much I have yet to discover in the complex and thrilling world of food. I also realised that I was deeply drawn to this world and that the coming winter would be a life changing one...and it was.