About two weeks ago the Mr and me went out for lunch at La Colombe. Since we live in South Africa, we try to book a table here at least once a year, and if it works out well twice (one summer experience, one autum/winter). You can say this probably is one of our favourite special restaurants. This time it was a while ago, I think over a year, since we’ve been here last. So we were looking forward to it! It was our third visit to the new location. Probably we’ve been about 6 or 7 times at the previous location at Constantia Uitsig. The first visit at Silvermist, the new location, we were a bit disappointed. I remember very well they just moved and they struggled with the temperature of the food. The Kitchen Hot Pass wasn’t working properly, and that day there was a cold, strong wind outside. In combination with open doors and no glass (wind shield) yet, the food was cold and our overall experience wasn’t the best. Our second visit at Silvermist was much better, but we were not blown away as we always were at Uitsig. But in the meanwhile La Colombe is in the Eat Out Top 10 Best Restaurants of the country (#2 in 2015) and Scot Kirton was Eat Out Chef of the Year (2015). So as you’ll understand: high time for a new visit for us. Please scroll down for my photo journal and commentary.
We arrived just before 1pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon in late April. No wind, blue skies, pleasant temperature. How lucky were we. And how much I love this country in autumn.
The view at La Colombe; mountains, trees, and in the front you can see part of the Chef’s herb and micro-vegetable garden.
Bubbles, look at the menu & the “Enchanted Garden”
We started the afternoon with a glass of Méthode Cap Classique from our own Franschhoek valley: the Stony Brook Lyle, a nice and light apéritif. A fine bubble, elegant with a dry finish. Perfect. I drink quite some wines of Stony Brook at home, for example their delicious crisp Sauvignon Blanc, or the beautiful Ghost Gum Cabernet. But the Lyle MCC I never tried before (and it won’t be the last time). Together with our apéritif we got the menu and the “Enchanted Garden”, a beautifully presented amuse bouche in a hollow stump. What was it? A homemade ‘boat’ of mushroom filo pastry, filled with Angus beef cubes, tarragon pesto and a sherry jelly. Absolutely divine and so well balanced. We also got some cumin seed bread for the table, with wild garlic & green herb butter. A good start.
About the Menu
At La Colombe there is a lunch and a dinner menu. From the lunch menu you can choose between the Gourmand Menu, six courses (plus the “Enchanted Garden”, another oyster amuse bouche, and the palet cleanser before your main) or you can choose the Classic Lunch Menu (à la carte choice for starters, mains and desserts, plus the “Enchanted Garden” and a palet cleanser). The Gourmand Menu is the same as in the evening, but can only be ordered for lunch with the whole table and before 1.30pm. The price for the Gourmand Lunch and Dinner is R 870 per person (without wine), R 1270 per person (with wine) or R 1680 per person (with fine & rare wine). There is also a Vegetarian Gourmand Menu, six courses (plus the “Tomato a la Colombe” which is the Vegetarian answer to the “Enchanted Garden”, another amuse bouche and a palet cleanser), which costs R 650 per person (without wine), R 1050 per person (with wine) or R 1460 per person (with fine & rare wine). The Classic Lunch Menu (à la carte) is the other option for lunch. The prices for the starters were (average) around R 170, and for the mains R 230. Desserts about R 120. For the Vegetarian Classic Lunch Menu (à la carte) you pay about R 135 for a starter, R150 for a main and also R120 for dessert.
In the evening you can either choose the big Gourmand Menu (description as above, same as lunch), or the Classic Dinner Menu: four courses (plus the “Enchanted Garden” and a palet cleanser before your main) which costs R 650 per person. The Vegetarian option for the Classic Dinner Menu, four courses (plus the “Tomato a la Colombe” and a palet cleanser) costs R395 per person.
About the food + our experience
After we ordered our lunch the food parade could start! Yay! We both ordered a starter and a main from the Classic Lunch Menu (à la carte), but were so intrigued by the oyster amuse bouche of the Gourmand Menu that we asked if we could have that as an extra pre-starter. That was possible! So we kicked off with the Poached oyster with lemon, seaweed and apple. Yummy! Very small, one bite, so it doesn’t fill you up. But perfect to extend your lunch with. Unfortunately because of this extra order the service was confused and thought we chose the big Gourmand Menu. Wrong cutlery, confused staff and a long wait (45 minutes) was the result. Also, they took away already the side plates for the bread, while I saw other tables getting a second, different bread and butter. Greedy as I am (no, I was more curious what it was), I asked our waiter about it and then he replaced our side plates and served us the Rosemary and red wine bun, with a butter made from pork belly fat with anchovies crumble, and a hint of paprika (see photo below). Very tasty, I was happy we didn’t miss this in the end!
With our starters we both ordered the pairing wines. We both chose the Tuna Tataki starter, but we decided to go for 1x the ‘normal’ wine paring, and 1x the ‘fine & rare’ wine pairing. So the sommelier served us a Wilde Haf Riesling 2014 (Elgin Valley) and a Hartenberg Tenacity Riesling 2011 (Stellenbosch). The first one was the ‘normal’ and the second the ‘fine and rare’ option. The funny thing was I liked the Wilde Haf more, as it was light, crisp and dry, but the Mr enjoyed the Hartenberg more; slightly sweeter (but not sweet-sweet), round, full and more complex. As it took forever before the starter arrived, we almost finished our wines when the starters were served. So we both asked for half a glass refill. It is nice that you can order half glasses at La Colombe, but a shorter waiting time for the starter would have been better.
But “good things take time” they say, right? Well, this was good. Really good. Seared tuna tartare, avocado, quail egg, Ponzu, citrus and sweet potato crisps. By far the best starter I had in months in a restaurant. This was simply amazing. So well balanced, great temperature (I don’t like raw fish to be served too cold), and a good portion for à la carte. Not too big, not too small. Although having said that, I didn’t want to finish it, almost wanted to order another portion. And we were so happy we both ordered the same. Nobody likes sharing when the food is super duper great.
When the service took away our empty (and scraped out) starter plates, all went suddenly fast. We got our palate cleanser (White chocolate and coconut butter from the outside with watermelon, lemon verbena and elderflower inside – very nice) almost at the same time, and 1 minute later the main courses arrived. We didn’t have our new pairing wines yet, no cutlery yet. That wasn’t great. Between the oyster and our starter a 45 minute wait, and between starter and palate cleanser, plus main course less than 5 minutes? And no wine and cutlery yet. Then they served the wrong wine for the Mr, as he ordered the fine & rare red wine with his Springbok, and not the ‘normal’ wine. So we had to wait again for his new wine. I was happy the plates were hot. Anyway, let’s talk about the food.
The Linefish, the main I ordered, was grilled fillet of Kingklip with saffron bulgur wheat, squid, mussels, Chorizo and a smoked soubise sauce. It was a very nice dish; the fish was cooked to perfection, I loved the Chorizo, squid and mussels and the whole presentation and different tastes together was like foodie heaven. Very good. The wine (‘normal range’) served with it was the Arendsig Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 (a winery between Robertson and Bonnievale) and was a perfect marriage together with the grilled fish.
The Other Half had Seared Springbok loin with caramelised onion, walnut crumble, asparagus, roasted fig, potato fondant and a fig jus. Of course he added a thick slice of foie gras to it (R100 supplement). And he didn’t say a lot during the main (except for ‘Mmmm’ or ‘Hmmmwmmm nice’) and the food was finished quite soon, so he enjoyed it. The wine (‘fine & rare range’) served with the springbok was the Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz 2008 (Stellenbosch), which he found a beautiful wine (he knew it already), but especially with the Springbok and the fig sauce a great combination. He tasted lots of red fruit, smokiness and spices in the Shiraz.
We didn’t have all the time of the world the day of our lunch, and therefore we skipped dessert and both took a Macchiato with some sweet treats. The coffee wasn’t great, a bit bitter (too hot probably) and the foam of the milk could have been better (sorry – I am so fussy). But the chocolate, Turkish delight and some other sweets (I can’t remember) were great. A nice touch to finish our lunch at La Colombe.
About the service
The service was friendly and welcoming, but unfortunately a bit stiff and not spotless. In my opinion they made quite some unnecessary mistakes. I don’t want to be rude, behave spoiled or be an unhappy complaining person, but I worked in this type of (upmarket) restaurants myself for years. So if things don’t go as they should go, I mention it and if there are too many mistakes, I find it remarkable. What exactly went wrong? (or let’s say: wasn’t spotless):
– the hostess told us the Stony Brook Lyle is a Blanc de Blanc Méthode Cape Classique, which isn’t true. The sparkling wine has more Chardonnay yes, but there is also Pinot Noir in it, so it can’t be a Blanc de Blanc. It’s a Brut.
– wrong cutlery 2 times. As we ordered the oyster as an ‘extra dish’, the waiter who was in charge of the cutlery for the restaurant assumed straight away that we ordered the big Gourmet Menu. Which was not the case. We just ordered an extra small starter. One should always check the actual order of the guests first. Before you place cutlery on the table. We noticed that the system (as in: work strategy) the team handles, could be improved to avoid these kind of mistakes.
– another waiter took away the side plates of the bread too early, before we got ’the second bread’, so these had to be replaced again later.
– we had to wait 45 minutes between amuse bouche and starter. Quite long, but OK, that can happen. Therefore we needed a refill for our pairing wines. But then after the starter was taken away, the palate cleanser came within 5 minutes, and at the same time the main courses arrived too. There was no pairing wine poured yet, and the culterly came late.
– with the main course we ordered 1x the ‘normal’ wine pairing (white) and 1x the ‘rare’ wine pairing (red). They came too late with both wines, and the red was the ‘normal’ pairing too, so had to be replaced, and the waiting time was longer again (with our mains already on the table – I was happy the plates were nice and hot).
These were all small mistakes, not that important, and definitely didn’t ruin our afternoon. We had a great time together, with beautiful food and wine. But keep in mind we were at an Eat Out top 10 restaurant (#2 last year!), where hospitality and the full gourmet experience is what they do – all day every day. Also keep in mind what you pay per person. Which is fine – when it’s perfect. If you keep this all in mind it was quite striking, and annoying, in a way. It must not be the responsibility of the guest that things work out well, that you get the right cutlery, wine and bread at the right moment. And that there is a good ‘rhythm’, with enough time between the courses to finish your wine, but not too much time that you actually feel like waiting. This was really a but of an issue where the team of La Colombe can work on.
About the bill
As good as the food is at La Colombe, the bill is always high. But I find it worth it. Really, really worth it. We paid ZAR 1800 (including tip) for two people 2-course lunch, MCC apéritif, wine-pairing (4 glasses + refill), coffee + treats and mineral water.
For the one’s who are interested – the bill a bit more specified: we ordered 2x a glass of Stony Brook ‘Lyle’ MCC (R100 each), 2x the oyster dish as pre-starter (R50 each), 2x Seared Tuna (R190 pp, yes that is pricy for a starter, but it was so so good), R210 for the Linefish and R260 for the Springbok, plus a supplement foie gras (R100) on top of the Springbok. How decadent. The wine pairing was 2 glasses of the ‘normal’ wine pairing: R45 (Arensig Chardonnay) and R40 (Wildehaf Riesling) per glass. And 2x the ‘rare’ wine pairing: R70 (Tenacity Riesling) and R170 (Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz) per glass. I found all the wines quite reasonable priced, but the last one maybe a bit over the top. R170 for 1 glass of Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz is quite a lot. For R545 you buy a bottle online, as a customer (not as a restaurant, this is probably cheaper). We finished with two single macchiatos (R20 each, including sweets and chocolates, which I found very reasonable).
Dining at La Colombe isn’t cheap, when you go in the evening and order 2x the big Gourmand Menu, with wine pairing, apéritif, table water and coffee, you will probably spend between ZAR 2500 and ZAR 3000 for an evening for two, depending on how much you drink. The Gourmand menu + the ‘normal’ wine pairing is ZAR 1270 per person. Add apéritif, mineral water, coffee and (optional) a digestif and there you are. But for me (for us) an experiences like this a few times a year is definitely worth the money. I loved it! Make sure you book on time at La Colombe, they are always busy.
What and where
Silvermist Wine Estate, Constantia Nek (road towards Hout Bay)
La Colombe is open daily for lunch and dinner.
For more information or online bookings, visit their website.
Note: I have not been asked, invited or paid to write about La Colombe. We paid the bill ourselves in full and my opinion is (as always) my own. All photos are mine.