La Colombe

Silvermist Wine Estate, Constantia Main Road, Constantia Nek, Cape Town, 7848, South Africa

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The 120-acre Silvermist wine estate in Constantia Nek is within the Table Mountain National Park. It is at one end of a long stretch of wineries, a few miles from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, high up on the slopes of the Constantiaberg mountains. The main restaurant here, La Colombe, actually moved in October 2014 from another estate called Constantia Uitsig that is a few miles away towards the other end of the wine route. The dining room has a few window seats with a spectacular view down over the vineyards.

Heading up the kitchen of the restaurant is Scot Kirton, who previously worked at nearby Haute Cabriere in Franschoek and Savoy Grill in London before moving here, originally as sous chef. He was also sous chef at Test Kitchen in Cape Town from 2007 for two years, taking over as head chef at La Colombe (in its previous location) in 2010.

The wine list was more extensive than many in the winelands restaurants. Examples were JH Meyer Ivory White at ZAR 240 (£11) for a bottle with a UK retail price equivalent to ZAR 280, the lovely Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 at ZAR 430 for a bottle that costs ZAR 459 retail, and Palladius 2007 at a pricier ZAR 2,500 for a wine with a shop price of about ZAR 842. This last seems to be an oddity in pricing, since Mev Kirsten 2014 (in a similar price bracket) was a much more reasonable ZAR 1,900 compare to a retail price of ZAR 2,378.

We began our meal with a little tin of tuna, the top peeled back to reveal a nibble of pan-seared tuna medallions and tuna with ponzu, citrus, ginger and shiitake. This was remarkably well balanced, the tuna itself lovely but the dressing with it beautifully composed, the flavours bold but not overpowering (easily 17/20).

Springbok tataki with chipotle broth came with a parfait of foie gras set on rhubarb gel, with a mousse of asparagus and truffle, pickled rhubarb, a salsa of Granny Smith apple, almond and sesame crumble, orange rind and truffle jus. This was a complex dish with a host of components, but again the balance of the elements was impressive, the meat itself tender and complemented by the spices and acidity of the fruit (17/20).

Caponata had barbecued and smoked aubergine with smoked tomato purée, herb emulsion, deep fried capers and white truffle butter on brioche. This dish, of Sicilian origin, was faithfully executed, the aubergine having lovely flavour, the capers livening things up, with just enough vinegar used (16/20). A scallop imported from Canada came with sweet corn purée, aubergine and lemongrass and ginger veloute. The shellfish had good natural sweetness and was lightly cooked, the Asian flavours nicely complementing it (16/20).

My quail dish had confit leg and pan seared breast along with celeriac in several forms: purée, braised, pickled and baked in ash. This came with ginger brioche, goat cheese fondant and celeriac veloute laced with truffle. This was another successful dish, the meat good and the earthy celeriac in its assorted forms working well with the bird (16/20).

Kingklip fish had lots of flavour and was precisely cooked, served with braised fennel, mussels, squid, a tortellini of leeks and confit chicken, smoked mussel and corn veloute, creamed leeks and a little Black Forest ham. This was a complex dish that could easily have misfired, but again the kitchen managed to bring together the disparate flavours to great effect, the blend of textures and flavours combining very well (17/20).

There was a somewhat superfluous palate cleanser at this stage with a shell of white chocolate and cocoa butter containing lychee and coconut water. This was harmless enough but I am not sure what it really added (14/20). We tried some local cheese: Boerenkaas is rather like Gouda, served here with pear and pickled shallots. A Camembert style cheese came with apricot purée and a goat cheese with excellent walnut chutney.

Bahibe chocolate came with bitter orange sorbet, pistachio espuma and pain d’epice.  This was a very enjoyable dish, though the pistachio could have had deeper flavour (15/20). I preferred guava, yoghurt and lime ice cream that came with guava parfait, lime jelly and meringue with geranium (16/20)

Coffee was a brand called Gourmet Haaz and was good, and our waitress (Melissa) was excellent. With plenty of good wine the bill came to ZAR 2,231 (£103) for two before tip. If you ordered from the carte and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head might be £40 a head. This is an absolute bargain for cooking of this standard. 

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