Ryan Cole had announced “Sashimi of the Yellow Tail”. On the plate in his Cape Town restaurant “Salsify” is now but a colorful tuft. In the tangle you can see after a long look a few strips of carrot, wafer-thin radish slices, a few green stalks and two, three light brown nuts – South African tamarinds, as it turns out.
Sprinkled over it: a few frozen Parmesan lumps. As you gradually peel off the ornate mesh, you feel a hint of ginger before you hit the raw tuna at the bottom. Surprise was a success.
With its African, Asian and traditional elements of French haute cuisine, this palate-tickling appetizer perfectly represents the vanguard of multicultural cooking on the Cape of Good Hope.
Ryan Cole, along with his tutor Luke Dale-Roberts (“The Test Kitchen”) and Peter Tempelhoff (“Fyn”) are among the trend chefs on the southern tip of Africa. They experiment with fish as with sashimi, but also with meat – from beef, springbok or the forest antelope kudu, sometimes classically prepared, sometimes unusual, sometimes raw as carpaccio.
Cape Town's cuisine is multicultural
The majority of chefs at the Cape are still from Europe or Asia. They combine their experience of top-gastronomy in France, England, Switzerland or Germany here with influences from other parts of the world.
Their cuisine is innovative, but not purely fashionable, the “Fusion” is not operated for its own sake, but only where it fits. For example, the two scallops with pomegranate seeds, which Ryan Cole serves next, followed by a piece of Peking duck, which rests on walnuts, and a sliced plum.
As multicultural as the kitchen is the crew. The young chef has brought together South Africans of all backgrounds and a German manager. The elegant cooking and service team shows the guests, where it goes at the transition from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean culinary.
Also striking is the design affinity in “Salsify”. The circular building with large windows on all sides had been built as a watchtower to recognize foreign ships in time on the sea.
You sit on timeless cantilever chairs in the Bauhaus look, the street art artist Skullboy has designed the entrance area with African motifs, which looks cool and transported the colonial appearance of the building into the 21st century.
One of the trendsetting chefs in South Africa
Casual and noble: That's how the new hotspot in the city center can be described, the “Fyn” – in Afrikaans that means “fine”. The restaurant focuses on the aesthetics of the smartphone generation.
A tall, cafeteria-like space, long metal tables with wooden tops, occasionally a bonsai for decoration. A lot of gray. This could also be a co-working space in San Francisco or Berlin-Mitte.
The “Fyn” belongs to the universe of Peter Tempelhoff, for years one of the cooking trendsetters of South Africa. He has set with his urban dining hall overlooking the Table Mountain to the top of the Cape avant-garde.
As far as the fusion of local African products and Far Eastern cooking techniques is concerned, the restaurant is also up to date. But it is even more trendy – if you order the plant-based menu: purely vegetarian variations of asparagus, avocado and eggplant.
Young winemakers are open for experiments
Speaking of “eggplant”: Harald Bresselschmidt, from Prüm in the Eifel region, opened this stylish restaurant more than two decades ago in a historic Cape Town townhouse. He is one of the most influential restaurateurs in the region.
The “aubergine” has contributed greatly to cooking the kitchen to the very front. To talk to him about innovation, it is best to follow him into the wine cellar. For the avant-garde pearls in the glass at Bresselschmidt.
From one of the room-high shelves in his pleasantly cool tasting room, he brings out a particularly fine drop: “'T Voetpad” from the Swartland region, vintage 2015. “This is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Semillon Blanc, Semillon Gris and Palomino”, explains the cook and sommelier.
Who squeezes four different grape varieties in a bottle, must be courageous. Already after the first sip it is clear: This wild mixture has it all. The chef from Germany raves about the variety and experimentation of the young South African winemakers.
Some time ago, he even went over to pick five or six wines first and only then to think about what kind of food he could cook. Wine first, food second – With this motto, Bresselschmidt proves that even at the beginning of the 50's it is possible to develop new perspectives on a country cuisine.
Wine, food and design – the motto of many restaurants
Menus with wine accompaniment are a must around Table Mountain anyway. The famous wine-growing regions of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl are finally located right in front of Cape Town's door. Even the grapes for the legendary “Vin de Constance”, which Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to St. Helena, grow here.
Wine, food and design – this triad therefore pay more and more restaurants. New shops are often so popular with the happy Captonians in a short time that it is difficult to get a table.
Cape Town's hardest door is “The Test Kitchen”. You have to book months in advance online to have a chance of an evening with Luke Dale-Roberts. Especially since the charismatic British chef radically downsized his restaurant two years ago.
“The Test Kitchen” is a taste lab
Today, one has the feeling that behind the open counter almost as many employees snip, stir and taste as guests sitting at the few tables. As the name suggests, “The Test Kitchen” is a taste lab for the latest culinary trends.
It is dark behind the said door. Cocktails are served in the gloomy atmosphere of the “Dark Room” before a second portal opens to the brightly lit “Light Room”. “Edgy and urban,” is how Dale-Roberts describes his restaurant of contrasts, in which he serves local marmalades of beef or venison in front of a noble lobster salad.
Luke Dale-Roberts, born in England, studied in Zurich and London and then worked in Singapore, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines before settling in Cape Town's Woodstock district. A biography made for the multicultural South Africa.
On the plate he sets up a journey from Peru across Europe and the Far East to Africa: From ceviche, so by the addition of citrus juice cooked fish, on Indian lamb and British pork rind to the native antelope tartare.
The hotel “Mount Nelson” convinces with tradition
If you are looking for the good old things with so much trend-cuisine, you should stop off in “Mount Nelson”. Cape Town's hotel institution, which opened in 1899, had meanwhile tried to lure the avant-garde restaurateurs into a modern-style restaurant. After a short success, the quality of food and service dropped dramatically.
Luckily, the restaurant has gone back to its core competence and restored the colonial dining room in the style of the penultimate turn of the century: a huge chandelier, the walls wood-paneled, outside, the view into the well-kept English garden.
And right at the table, covered with perfectly starched white damask, a waiter in a black suit cuts the beef Wellington with silver cutlery into exactly the same slices. Classical music can also be very popular in Cape Town.
The Big Five of the Ocean at the Cape of Good Hope
Cape Town's top venues:
salsify: A shop in a prime location, with a top kitchen and matching design. Definitely recommended is the Peking duck breast with salted plum from Chef Ryan Cole (salsify.co.za).
Fyn: Peter Tempelhoff offers in his restaurant culinary purism with Table Mountain view. Especially worth the vegetarian menu with Japanese and South African dishes (fynrestaurant.com).
Aubergine: The culinary institution of the German Harald Bresselschmidt has a stunning wine cellar (aubergine.co.za).
The Test Kitchen: This is where Luke Dale-Roberts, the undisputed trendsetter of South African themed gastronomy (thetestkitchen.co.za), cooks.
Lord Nelson Restaurant: The colonial classic of the city in the “Mount Nelson Hotel”. Under the heavy chandelier, the beef Wellington tastes best. It is served with the silver trolley (mountnelson.com).
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