Dining In The Dove's Nest

43 Days(s) Ago    👁 105
dining in the doves nest
La Colombe

Where: Silvermist Wine Estate, Main Road, Constantia Nek

Open: Daily lunch and dinner

Call: 021 794 2390

This is food as theatre. On a trip to Cape Town, a good friend who insists on remaining nameless, invited me to La Colombe, recently voted the best restaurant in South Africa. We even flew down a day earlier so we could get a table.

We collect our hire car and head for Constantia. When you reach Constantia Nek, you see the turn-off. You then wind your way farther up the hill, going through a series of hairpin bends. It feels like you might be in the French countryside.

The charcuterie trolley. From left, vegan chorizo and hummus butter, salmon gravlax and snoek butter, Peking duck and duck liver butter, wagyu biltong and onion butter and wild boar chorizo.

La Colombe - or The Dove in French - certainly celebrates its name. There are pottery doves on the walls, and bird song in the loos. Even the setting feels like a birds nest with wonderful views of the valley below through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Theres a doves nest on the table, with a personal handwritten note from exec chef James Gaag, welcoming us to his domain.

The setting is delightful.

Service is unlike anything Ive experienced in Durban. Its polished and professional without being supercilious. Glasses are filled, napkins folded, ladies even get a little stool next to their chair so they dont have to put their handbag on the floor. Everything is thought of, everything is seamless.

A tin of tuna arrives at the table with chefs secret sauce. Tuna tartare served inside a tin of tuna

Were not doing a wine pairing, as neither of us can drink that much wine. Instead, we sip on gin and tonic cocktails served with a giant ice-cube filled with a honey and rooibos tea centre. We would have a few more of those.

Our waiter tells us to look inside the doves nest where two eggs and two straws nestle. Were encouraged to crack the eggs ( theres a little cork in them you pull out) and inside is a palate cleanser of orange, lime and ginger. Delicious.

Madagascan crab with swordfish on a crisp waffle.

Next, our waiter wheels up the charcuterie board, while a little loaf of warm bread arrives in a little basket of greenery. What a platter! Theres wild boar chorizo, which is delicious, an exceptional wagyu biltong. The description as biltong didnt do it justice. The meat had only been lightly cured and was fairly wet, with all those lovely fats in the marbled meat intact and adding to the flavour. There was a good Peking duck, and salmon was done gravlax style with the most beautiful textures and lovely subtle dill flavours. And then there was the vegan chorizo. They tried, but to me, it tasted just like hummus.

Each meat came with an accompanying butter, which was more a pt dressed up like a fruit. There was a tomato with the wild boar - I forget what was in it - and a mushroom which was, in reality, an onion pt with the wagyu. A hummus came with the vegan chorizo. I chose the duck liver parfait dressed up as an orange which had an orange gel around it. It was deliciously smooth and had a wonderful depth of flavour. Mr No Name Brand tried the snoek pt dressed up as an apple - also good.

Quail and crayfish in a rich seafood bisque.

Then came their signature dish. A can of tuna arrives at the table - literally. It came with a jar of Chef Jamess secret sauce. Apparently there are 30 to 40 ingredients in it and its a secret known only to the chef himself. We open the tin to reveal a pretty tuna tartare. Were encouraged to spoon in the sauce which is basically a spicy orange chutney (Im probably not doing the chef justice here) and enjoy. Its a magnificent dish. You can buy the sauce to take home.

Madagascan crab came next, served on a crisp waffle with nahm jim sauce and caviar with little blocks of poached swordfish. This came on a crab-like shell and was the only dish served without cutlery. We enjoyed every morsel. Afterwards, to add a little drama, hot towels were brought in dry ice, which misted over the table.

Lime lollies rolled in grapefruit segments with raspberry dust made at the table using liquid nitrogen.

Every tasting menu has a course one simply couldnt imagine; you wonder how it could possibly work. This was listed as quail, crayfish, sweetcorn and bisque. But it worked. The crayfish tail had the quail breast wrapped around it like a roulade, while the bisque was poured over it at the table. A crisp quail leg was served on the side. Each retained their textures and flavours and yet the bisque pulled it all together. Definitely a spot of alchemy here, and for me, the stand-out dish of the day.

Another trolley wheels up to the table, with a metal block over liquid nitrogen. A young chef from the pastry kitchen makes us ice lollies - the second palate cleanser. These were lime ice cream rolled in freeze-dried grapefruit segments and dust