Food review: La Colombe, Cape Town, South Africa, December 2020

Restaurant: La Colombe Description: Fine Dining – international fusion cuisine Address: Silvermist Wine Estate, Main Road, Constantia, Cape Town Menus: Various – December 2020 – Spring Menu and Chef’s menu (Chef’s features more dishes than Spring which has less courses) Dietary options: Includes vegetarian and pescetarian. Indicated other requests when booking Prices. Dec 2020: Spring Menu (ie with meat and everything) R995 and R1295 for Chef’s menu; Vegetarian -Spring Menu R895 and R1195 for Vegetarian Chef’s;  Pescatarian Spring R995 and R1925 for Chef’s Pescetarian Reservations: or 021 794 2390 La Colombe Dine-In Experience at home: Delivery within 22km from Constantia  

“Food is our theatre. We hope that you enjoyed the show. Warm Regards, The La Colombe Team.” This is the message, inscribed inside an origami paper dove (colombe is French for dove), presented with garden treats, at the end of the meal, December 2020 at La Colombe, Cape Town.

The dining experience is very much theatre. Each dish is staged at the table and unveiled by the servers. There is fire, ice, effects and accessories. Miniature scissors are used to snip through the skin of a charred passion fruit. There is the invitation to snap open a tin of tuna and discover what is inside. The tuna is one of La Colombe’s signature dishes and I am not going to culinary spoil what is in the tin (individually sealed and snapped open – as one would do when levering open a can of tuna). Each course and dish is a narrative – a story – infused with flavours, textures and aromas. Dishes are elevated on beds and platforms of herbs and greens, picked from the estate. It is a process of unwrapping and being entertained and delighted with what one encounters inside. There is gasping, tasting and savouring. Something arrives at the table and then then there is a spritz or pour from a receptacle and it shifts what is on the plate – visually and in terms of taste. It is the alchemy of food. It is like being at theatre, where the design – lighting, set, costumes – shifts one’s gaze and attention. This is what happens at La Colombe.

Interior space is understated; oak floors, clean Scandinavian lines, pared down; no clutter. The food is foregrounded. It is the star of the show. The vibe is a stylish tree house – perched on a vineyard. An expanse of foliage imagery has been painted on a wall but it is subtle and does not dominate. It is a very peaceful and tranquil to sit in this space, immersed in the courses which are brought out like acts in an opera.

TheCapeRobyn was treated to lunch at La Colombe. Strict instructions were advised. This was not a working lunch; no notes allowed. Quickie pics only. Still, I could not resist in putting up my impressions of this internationally famous eatery. This was my first time at the restaurant and it lives up to its reputation – as a theatre/culinary experience. La Colombe, is usually booked up months in advance. It is not uncommon to book a year in advance for the festive season-particularly by international diners – seeking a fine dining experience at an award winning restaurant- paid for in the currency of the Rand. December 2020 rates: R995 for Spring Menu (nine courses) and R1295 for Chef’s Menu (11 courses). In dollar/Euros and Pounds – well – the international contingent of foodies cannot wait until Covid is over and they can book out La Colombe.

In terms of menu choices, there are currently three menus – the everything menu – meat, the whole story; vegetarian and pescatarian menu. Pescatarian – is fish and veg (no meat, no chicken). I am pescatarian sans shell fish. There is shell fish on the pescatarian menu but no worries La Colombe is geared to make the switch so I lunched on a combo of vegetarian and pescatarian – sans the shell fish. It is great to see La Colombe attuned to the shift away from meat, to plant based dishes. I loved the cauliflower – karala styled (as in beef), gnocchi, tuna (a fun dish) and of course the ice and fire tangerine (naartjie) sorbet

Chef proprietor is Scot Kirton. Exec chef is James Gaag and after lunching there, one can see why La Colombe has consistently nabbed awards. Impeccable attention to detail – the whole experience – from when one steps inside and gets the first act of food before one descends onto the restaurant floor (I am not going to tell you … you have to be there).

Our lunch was booked, shortly after, lockdown regulations were eased in South Africa and it was announced that restaurants could serve liquor. Prior to lockdown, it would have been unlikely to get a booking with a few months lead time but this is Covid La Colombe also offers a dine-in experience –food delivered to homes – in the vicinity of 22km from the restaurant. Not sure how that pans out as part of the magic of La Colombe is being served and the interaction as bits are added and the invitation to open, peel, snip into food. No doubt, the creatives behind La Colombe have cooked up surprises and innovations for the home dining menu.

We lunched during a surge in Covid-19 in Cape Town. Most theatres have brought their curtains down until end of January 2021 – at least – and it was wonderful to experience food as theatre. There is an outdoor eating area at La Colombe – on the terrace but windows flank the restaurant interior are being left wide open during the pandemic. Excellent Covid-19 protocols with servers constantly sanitisiing and strict enforcement of mask wearing, when away from the table. It was a delight to have the opportunity to experience a theatre of fine dining gastronomy, perched on Silvermist Wine Estate – breathtaking vineyard views -in beautiful Cape Town. We did not go for wine pairing but it is available as an add-on with each menu –R700 (Spring menu) and R950 (to accompany the Chef’s Menu). Our party of three shared a tipple of a carafe of chardonnay (I think –was not taking notes) which was R120. A lovely relaxing lunch with fragrant dishes from the stage of food theatre at La Colombe– a wonderful diversion from the anxiety and tension of Covid.

© TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, La Colombe, Cape Town, December, 2020.

Food as theatre: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, La Colombe, Cape Town, December, 2020.

Kerala style cauliflower, labneh off the vegetarian chef’s menu. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, La Colombe, Cape Town, December, 2020.

This meal was announced and paid for in full – by a friend of TheCapeRobyn. Thank you for this special lunch. Featured image: Mandarin sorbet cleanser – between courses – served in a fog of dry ice © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen, La Colombe, Cape Town, December, 2020.