Monday, January 24, 2011

La Colombe

I have been mulling over this blog for a month now, just wondering whether I have a natural bias to high end fine dining, coupled with a dose of laziness and a lot of eating out.

Then I was asked by someone recently what my favourite meal and restaurant was? The first thing that popped to mind was La Colombe and the trio of lamb I had there. I can still taste the confit lamb with its tender falling off the bone texture.
Now let me get to it, when I was in Cape Town I had the opportunity to lunch at La Colombe, which is on the Constantia Uitsig wine estate. By opportunity I mean I sent my reservation via email a month and a half before. I still think of it as a wonderful opportunity, even though I was paying.

I must tell you that it was the 3 January and our waiter did look like he had fallen into the vineyards a night or two ago, he cleaned up nice but had a few telling scratches. Other than that he gave great explanations on the dishes which are put up on blackboards and then mounted on a chair next to the table. He also knew the exact moment to send over the sommelier to help with our wine choices and was just attentive enough without disrupting the great conversation.

 To start there was what they call Tapas, but really it was an amuse bouche of Asian kudu tartare with pesto sweet potato crisps and hoisin sauce. It was wonderful, even for my brother’s girlfriend the reluctant meat eater. It was soft and sweet with a spicy under current that lingers slightly at the back of your throat. It had the right amount of seasoning, not overly salty but just right.

We then ordered glasses of white wine and true to form I did not take these down, as I love a good glass of wine but not an enthusiast so tend not to pay attention to the label. What I can remember is it was a blend of some kind, totally helpful I know.

Then came the second amuse bouche which was a prawn style thai egg, it’s served in the shell with what looks like a foam. It was light the prawn was partial coated in cooked egg an submerged in the salty, hoisin and wasabi flavoured foam. I must be honest at this stage I wasn’t sure what utensil to use, as it would seem simple enough to just tip the egg and drink it all, but knowing my luck with spillage I use the mini spoon that was laid out.

Yes like any great establishment bread was served too.

Now to the main event, as a starter I ordered the fricasse of quail and langoustine, which is apparently the popular choice. The gamey quail was set on sweetcorn alongside the sweet langoustines. Honestly I enjoyed the dish but felt that my quail although tender was slightly under seasoned, more salt please!

To go with the mains we had a wonderful Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noir, now I love a pinot Noir and to date nothing has topped my love for the Hamilton Russell but I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Think smooth, mellow and light!

For mains I had the trio of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes. Sublime!

The medallions are cooked medium and to perfection, also superbly seasoned unfortunately they could not overshadow the melt in your mouth herby confit of lamb. That confit was super tender, and when you put it in your mouth you can taste the juices that it was cooked in. So wonderfully developed is that thyme garlic wine flavour that I felt like I was eating the gold that is at the bottom of the roasting pan. The third of the trio was the sweet breads, now sweetbreads are the glands found in the throat of the lamb. I found the texture not as pleasing although the taste reminded me of eating bone marrow combined with kidneys and skop. What I can say it was tasty slightly crisp on the outside and soft to the bite.

For dessert I had the tanka bean crème. Now there should be a warning if you are not a fan of banana steer well clear of this dessert. Tanka bean is similar to vanilla, the crème is served in a chocolate cylinder with banana cake and caramelised bananas. Wonderful and not overly sweet way to end lunch. I could not even squeeze in a coffee, little did I know that La Colombe gives you a little something extra for you to remember them by.

A choice of Turkish delight, truffle, marshmallow ,a queen cake i think it was set on coffee beans. Being the glutton I am, I had their marshmallow truffle.The marshmallow was so light it was like eating air sprinkle with vanilla sugar The truffle was deep and decadent filled with coffee crème/ liquer

This experience was definitely worth the money spent which for three course, two amuse bouche, three glasses of white, a bottle of pinot noir and a delight at then end for three people including tip around R2000. A splurge but as Oscar Wilde says "Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination". I have told my family that we need to have a dinner at La Colombe, as we are all great appreciators of fine food prepared to perfection and delivered with finesse.

What we did notice is that all the wait staff that afternoon were caucasian, which is surprising in South Africa. This had our table wondering whether it is the same at dinner service and whether this is a La Colombe specific phenom but I will take that out of the Jozi Foodie Fix realm.

Parting words, if you love lamb then trio of lamb at La Colombe is the best sacrifice that could be made of a lamb. Above and beyond the exquisite food, the knowledgeable, warm waitstaff and wonderful extras in between and at the end make it a lovely experience set in a romantic nook in the centre of the Constantia Uitsig vineyard.

My experience at La Colombe affirmed why it was on Eat Out’s Top 10 in 2009 and part of 2010’s Top 2010 nominees. I think I need to make it my mission to eat at all of the 2010 Top 10 establishments as I can’t imagine they’d top that lamb.

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