Lunching at Foliage

I admit – I’m not a food blogger, or even a foodie. My descriptive adjectives when describing taste sensations are limited to about 2 and I don’t claim to know different cooking methods and techniques and even occasionally (and sometimes not occasionally) have to ask the waiter what something is on a menu. I admit these things.

BUT

I love food. Good food. The best kind of food and I don’t mind paying for it. I don’t spend money on Louboutins and LV handbags (or even Nine West or Aldo), but I’ll gladly spend it on food (and on travel – obviously).

I don’t eat fast food. Ever. Even hungover (not that I can recall what a hangover is these days. Its been a while).

Luckily for me, I have someone in my life that, while has been known to add tomato sauce and avo to a classic fried egg on toast, also has an appreciation for fine food. After being hooked to Master Chef (Australia) this past season, we both now have seen what all goes into creating the masterpiece plates of delicate food that we eat, and the price tags for the finest ingredients beautifully prepared and artfully plated, is (mostly) justified.

Foliage has been on my eat-list (its a real list. Written on my kitchen’s blackboard. A list of restaurants we need to visit. Some may say its also a hint list for date nights. Its not really working as a hint list though) since this time last year when I was recommended we go, and instead I booked another restaurant and had the worst dining experience of our life (including chipped plates, fetching our own water from inside their kitchen and waiting 3 hours for our meal).

While definitely more of a dinner spot, with its warm dark interiors and fireplace, we lunched because at a million months pregnant, dinner isn’t much more than a piece of toast due to feeling so full by the day’s end.

The food was nothing short of sublime (adjective 1). It was beautiful (adjective 2) to look at, but not in that ‘what the hell is this and do I want to eat it’ kind of way (thinking back to squid ink the year before which was interesting, but caused a moment’s hesitation). Beautiful in the kind of way that makes you almost forget to photograph it before you dive straight in. We had a front row seat (not actually a chef’s table, but a table next to the kitchen) of the chefs in action, and a full view of all the bottles and jars of ingredients and local produce in the kitchen. I love an open plan kitchen most new restaurants have these days that not only allows us to watch the magicians in action, but also builds our respect for their work as they’re doing it on display.  No one likes to be watched while working.

We started with a shared starter. Not because we’re stingy, because the reality of my eye-ball to appetite to stomach size ratio is not accurate and I always want to try everything and land up doing the dessert an injustice due to the other courses.

The restaurant was slow when we ordered, so the Chef (had time I suppose to) split our starter onto two plates for us (how nice of him). A beautiful presentation and an incredibly decent size half-portion in my opinion. Also, really incredibly tasty and many an ooh and aah (and not many other adjectives) could be heard from our table.

Almond-roasted crayfish tail, crispy sweetbreads, apple & pomegranate glaze, ferms, garlic puree, forest mushrooms – R145

As my natural selection of medium-rare meat has been off limits for the past 9 months, I did something I never do and ordered the pork belly. The waitress recommended it, and as nervous as I was (it only took one time in London for me to be off it for life) – I’m so glad I did. It renewed my faith in pork belly and my understanding as to why so many restaurants have it on their menu. It was sublime (adjective 1.. again. Don’t say I didn’t tell you).

Roasted pork belly, sweet corn cromesquis, barley & marogo ragout, chili & banana yoghurt – R205

Just because I can’t eat meat the half-raw kind of way, doesn’t mean anyone else at our table should be deprived and the intended encouragement to order it was selfish – as one small ‘taste’ couldn’t do any harm to my pregnancy. So Mark ordered what I couldn’t. The bone marrow was the highlight on the plate for him, but personally that swiggle orangey sauce thing will always impress me the most. Its all about the presentation.

Braised kudu shake boudin, springbok loin, roasted bone marrow, mushroom & oyster, honeybush jus – R225

And finally, the dessert that I almost didn’t have space for – yes, even with the half starter and without any wine. Again a tough choice, especially as we were sharing it (yes again! I call bull on the ‘eating for two’ thing – when the other 1 you’re eating for is taking up all the space inside of you, there’s not a lot of room for the extra you’d like to eat!)

We selected the caramelia delice, peanut butter & marshmallow chocolate rock, num nums basically because of the word num-nums. The flowers were unexpected but so pretty!

Caramelia delice, peanut butter & marshmallow chocolate rock, num nums – R80

This is a dessert intended for one person and even shared, we still almost couldn’t finish it which leads me to an important point: Besides the beautiful food – too look at, and to taste – the great service and knowledgeable team plus the friendly chefs, I was notably impressed by the portion sizes. Yes, we’ve done a lot of ‘tasting menu’s where the portion sizes are smaller so you can have more of them and I understand this is the point at some restaurants, but we’ve also been to restaurants where the sizes are just small and one bite leaves you yearning for more, but ultimately dissatisfied and with no room to possibly ‘try’ your husbands medium rare kudu. Granted we’ve also had the contrary – massive plates of food that are much to be desired. But Foliage was the perfect balance.

Everything was incredible and we left impressed by the beauty of the food, satisfied but not to the point of being over-full and mostly with a delicious memory of our last fantastic meal out and as just a family of two.

 

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Chardonnay Deli – the best named place in the suburbs

This place is more than its name. Ofcourse, anything with Chardonnay involved is bound to be great.
I first saw a picture by Sam (from Drizzle and Dip) posted on instagram (my general source of inspiration for Coffee  Stops) and I realised, something worth mentioning and so close to my house needs a visit! Unfortunately, my first attempt took me to the wrong side of Constantia Main road which meant by the time I arrived I was grumpy as shit for driving back and forth near Wynberg instead of near High Constantia (how google maps can fail you when in need of coffee).

So for reference, and for your visit, Chardonnay Deli is near High Constantia shopping centre which is near the turn off to Groot Constantia. (Us Deep South people know, the rest need to look that up too).

The spot is not, contrary to the name, a deli of the olives, rollmops, feta dolmades, meatballs and fresh lasagnes. So basically – it is not Giovanni’s (as much as we all love Giovannis even if we’re mostly afraid of that one guy that when you order a flat white makes you feel like you’re sinning!) Instead it’s a bakery of all things in gluten-free, sugar-free, Paleo and deliciousness, sugary, chocolatey proportion.

It’s a small town farmstall with a gravel parking lot selling unique cakes, pies and chocolate brownies, fresh flowers out front, and oh the heavenly loaves and loaves of fresh bread. Chardonnay bakery may have actually been a better name, except then we’d expect Chardonnay infused bread. Which may actually not be a bad idea (Oh Sober October you make me dream crazy ideas!)

Bread (glorious bread!) aside, there’s a patio (equipped with heaters for crappy winter days in spring like today), a courtyard with a view of… well, a forest, and an indoor dining room – for… When the rest is too full I guess. Truth coffee or freshly pressed juices accompany all sorts of breakfasts. Poached eggs, to oats, to chia and granola (or as I thought, chai and granola… so basically tea and granola. Which it isn’t. But it was awkward for a moment and confirmed what we know – I should either eat out more, read more books or just keep my mouth shut on food.)

breakfast of champions – a croissant with hummus, cheese and bacon (in place of ham) – R65
breakfast of other champions – poached eggs special (R75)

As with what you’d expect from a suburban coffee shop deli bakery thingie, the people are amazingly friendly and happy to have that Sunday morning chit chat. Yes, even on a Saturday. They’re happy to adjust menu items (who likes ham anyway when you could have bacon?) and they also love dogs! Which is a win, as its a nice addition of places to visit to (people drinking wine before 12pm at) Tasha’s.

This isn’t Origin, where city people sit drinking coffee in neon running clothes after being up the mountain and down again in under an hour. It’s not Bootleggers where people are crammed in at window seats and next to other people (in sweaty post-run/walk on the prom clothes) at tables. And its not Rosetta where people sit on MacBooks blogging about product launches and restaurant openings they’ve just attended. The vibe at Chardonnay Deli is exactly what you’d think life in the burbs is all about.

And it’s worth visiting.
You know, when you’re out this way… on your way to a wine farm. Or just… seeing what its like with all the open space, the trees and the horses and stuff.

**disclaimer: My references to Origin, Bootlegger and Rosetta is in no way disparaging. In fact, these are some (while not my only) favourites coffee stops in Cape Town.  

as long as it comes with caffeine

That time at Open Door

Every time the #2015Bride (who’s name is Karen but she changed it to Karin because she lives in the UK permanently and finds most people there called her Caryn, which she hated so by changing the spelling everyone in South African now calls her Caryn and its all quite confusing) and Andy, her now husband (as the nuptials where in January) visit, I like to book a table for four at restaurant in Cape Town. One that impresses without being over the top. One that has a vibe, a good wine list, and great food. Mostly because the rest of our friends live in Somerset West, and that means any other evening meal the Semi-British couple have, is most likely is at the Millhouse. Which isn’t a bad option. Its just the only option. Every time. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Somerset West really should open another restaurant.

A whirlwind visit, longer than some of the previous spontaneous visits of a weekend (where the sms has come as I’ve left work on a Friday night announcing that they’re sitting on a plane about to take off and destined for Cape Town – he works for British Airways. Its not a kak perk to have), this time I booked a table at Open Door, because having a decent restaurant close to home which means no R150 taxi fee is fairly awesome, and also – I was impressed that other time.

Because as it goes, time with friends you only see once every six months, who lead lives distant from your own, and who have accomplished a lot since their wedding in January, including falling pregnant and buying a house (in Windsor) and moving into it (the day before they flew out to SA) – there was a lot to catch up on and no time to take out my phone and start photographing plates of food or bottles of wine. Ah, how a meal out SHOULD be enjoyed.

But because its a place worthy of a few typed lines, possibly more (current word count: 338 – shit, that goes quickly! Also, have never noticed that WP functionality. And now I can’t stop watching it. 356.), I thought about that first time we visited. About six weeks ago.

I never went to the River Cafe, so have no idea what was before. I saw pictures though – and what it was then, it is far from now.

En route – I told Karen (Karin) that Open Door isn’t a ‘wine farm restaurant’. Its much nicer. (Aren’t wine farm restaurants nice? she asked. I suppose they may be, but to me – Open Door feels like a top-class, stylish, modern restaurant that you’d find in a city. Not out in the burbs. Then again, there’s also Beau Constantia… So I guess my theory blows).

Hey, look – its like a door theme

Besides the BMX track that the deck looks out over, where I’m fairly certain there was once a vineyard, everything about Open Door’s decor is elegant, classy and stylish. Pick this here verandah up and insert into Hawkins House, and I’d be happy. The walls are a dark navy, the floors are a mix between beautiful tiling in the bar and bathrooms and wood in the restaurant, and the wall art is groups of locks and handles.

But you don’t go to a restaurant for the decor.

On a wine farm, I assumed it was a day time restaurant, however unless you’re sitting outside, watching your munchkin on a BMX, the restaurant is very much ‘indoors’ and therefore not necessarily only reserved for beautiful days. It also means its a dinner time option, something I’d never have considered it for.

The bonus of day time dining, is the Cafe Menu – which both girls of our lunch time visit ordered from. And won. I had the linefish – pan-roasted kingklip, served with crushed potatoes, cauliflower, mussels, and chili and lime (R135). Oh my actual. Well you know. It was top-shelf. And again, in case you missed it: R135! The other option chosen was the 300 gram Chalmar beef sirloin (R169). Not bad at all. The boys had the Braised lamb neck with butternut, roasted garlic and baby carrots (R169), a recommendation from the Chef’s fiance (who I happen to work with and who probably dines frequently here, so I was guessing he knew). It was good, although they finished it in record time, so it was a bit small – for the boys.

This may look like a chicken breast. It’s actually Kingklip. A lot of it.
Braised Lamb Neck. Deliciousness really.

Evening dining means no cafe menu, much to Mark’s disappointment as his promises to have the sirloin have been heard for 6 weeks, but it does mean the portions seem to be a lot bigger. Karin and I had the braised lamb, and it was phenomenal. I don’t really eat lamb, which is a stupid rule that I made up after my engagement party spit braai, but when I do, I’m sometimes blown away by how amazing it can be (and clearly a spit braai are words never to be ushered again). This, in my non-foodie way of describing things, was out of this world.

The wine list is extensive with plenty of options in all categories (including international), but in my opinion not many to choose from in the ‘reasonably priced’ category. Always a pain-point for me is the inflated prices of wines at restaurants. There’s that whole Porcupine Ridge Beluga priced thing I can’t deal with. But to be honest, these wine list prices aren’t inflated, they just don’t have many cheaper wines.

Our lunch time visit (1 x pregnant person, two bottles between three of us! ouch!) we had the Constantia Uitsig Chardonnay R195 (retails: R95). This time, (1 x pregnant person – a different one (we’re at that age) – and again two bottles between three of us!) we had the TSW Shiraz Grenache (first tried at Chalk and Cork – I think) which was R190 (retails: R80)  followed by the Pinot Noir Fist of Fancy (also tried at Chalk and Cork, that I like. And Mark officially doesn’t) – R160 (retails: R95 – second bottles are allowed to be cheaper. Its a thing).

I am a HUGE eater. No really, I keep going long after I’m full, and mostly because I just love flavours. So while I was so full after my main, both times, I soldiered on to dessert. Because when things like ‘Baked cheesecake with lemongrass foam, coconut soil and sour cream (R54) are on offer, how am I supposed to just say ‘thanks, but really, I’m comfortably full right now’. Why, when I can burst at the seems and try “Dark chocolate torte with grapefruit, dark chocolate crèmeux and meringues” (R62). So we ordered both, with intention to ‘share’. Mark doesn’t really do sweet things, but he was out numbered, and we turned our back on Prof Tim and ate all the sugary goodness that Open Door could serve up. Our evening meal was no different. Except that they’ve taken the cheesecake off the menu (I almost sobbed). Instead all four of us ordered the Chocolate Mousse, with no fake pleasantries of sharing.

Not your ordinary cheesecake.

I strongly believe every single dish on Open Doors’ menu will be incredible, and it is not a place you’ll go to once and tick it off your list (clearly). The small niggles, as if we’re honest – niggles always exist –  waiter knowledge and that service could be a little more attentive – both easy to fix, plus perhaps the introduction of a few more options in the ‘reasonably priced’ category of wine (they have good ones, they just have more in the R400 mark, which is too much for this suburban house-wife wanna be that actually has a career) means this could become a firm Saturday favourite this summer.

Chalk & Cork – wine & tiny (big) plates of food

I have this obsession with owning a little wine bar one day. I fell in love with the idea in Italy and visiting many little enoteca. When Publik opened, I thought my dream of Cape Town’s own enoteca was realised – but it wasn’t quite it.

When Chalk & Cork opened, I was convinced that this was it. I visited the spot at last (yes, I know its been open for forever and I’m soooo slow to new places) and while it’s not the enoteca that I want Cape Town to have, it is something very cool. (It also makes me happy that my dream shop hasn’t been done by anyone else just yet, I’m just saying).

Wine by the glass makes me exceptionally happy and its (one of) the reasons that I always visit La Boheme and Socieiti – so its really awesome to see so many interesting nice wines by the glass somewhere else. So interesting in fact, it lists Craven (a young gun wine I was lucky to taste at the Hawkins wedding recently, while I sat next to Mr & Mrs Craven themselves. It makes for a special, albeit somewhat polite, tasting experience while sitting next to the winemakers that are from the secret underground world of rule-breaking winemaking – also known as the revolution in some areas. A blog post I’ll never write as I’ll never be able to wordify tasting those wines). Anyway.

I had the Chardonnay from Arendsig. Their Shiraz is my best, so as a devoted Chardonnay drinker, I was keen to try the Chardonnay too. It was a good choice – at R54 a glass. I also had a McGregor Pinot Noir. A risky choice as I had no idea if
a) that valley is any good at a Pinot Noir  (as the first time I had attempted to ‘understand this varietal’ – I was running around Wine on the River festival in the same valley and woke up very confused after 6 gallons of redbull) and if
b) something named Fits of Fancy should be taken seriously – at R43 a glass – I didn’t choose badly.

Onto the Chalk part of their name: The Tapas. I’ve firmly established I’m no foodie blogger, so descriptive paragraphs accompanid by the fujifilm standard of photos of food aren’t my thing. Certainly the embarrassment on Hawks face when I photograph every plate of food (with the flash OFF – heaven forbid!) on my iPhone is bad enough, I couldn’t subject the poor man to actual photo taking because “Lets just eat the damn food” has been uttered a few times.
But part of the intrigue of visiting Chalk and Cork, after their interesting wine by the glass selection, is certainly the number of hearts I’ve dished out on their instagram account. The food.

“Little plates of heaven” I think I used to describe them (drunk on the wine by the glass and full-bellied in bed after we got home on Saturday).

While their instagram photos are definitely taken by someone who must be a food blogger, which means my pics hardly do the food justice to the taste (because you can SEE taste in a styled photo), let me assure you dear reader of this confusing and somewhat emotional except when I talk about food blog, that the taste was incredible. We ordered our tapas, with my phone in hand (and I wonder where all my flipping data goes) based on their instagram feed. A next level visual menu (there could be a market in this).

Because its tapas, you order and hope for the best. By hope for the best, of course I mean you have no idea how hungry you are until you start eating. You don’t want to go too large, but also – you know this may end badly. When have you ever gone for tapas and been surprised by ‘how little we had’. Ya. Never. Exactly.

We started with three:

Seared salmon, burnt babaghannouj, spicy soy sauce, cucumber- R70
Salt & pepper squid, hummus, radish – R55
Aged sirloin, chimmichurri, whey-pickled baby beets – R70

(I steal names and prices off websites. These may have changed)

Seared Salmon
Seared Salmon – as stolen from their instagram account
This is a picture of my seared Salmon. With some Chardonnay.
This here is calamari, that prompted Kamini (yes, the masterchef one) to tweet (and I quote) #dickmove after I tweeted her a picture.  *reads mean tweet* – that wasn’t very nice, Kamini
Aged Sirloin
An example of great photography of Aged Sirloin
Our sirloin. With chimichurri sauce that took us to a discussion of Buenos Aires. Needless to mention Hawk doesn’t recall chimichurri in Argentina.

We hadn’t even got all three of these, when we put in our second order because this food was great, but on tiny plates.

Slow-roasted pork belly, kimchi, cauliflower puree, mustard – R65
Grilled lamb rump, fresh peas, labneh cheese – R75

Pork Belly
Sold me on the Pork Belly, as Instagram sells me on most things that aren’t in my life.
Our pork belly. I mean ‘ours’ vs the picture of theirs. It was still theirs.
Lamb & Peas. Not sure I recall ordering or eating this one. I’m full just looking at all this food again.

Gnocchi – not on their online menu, so have no idea what was in or on the plate but it was the most phenomenal thing in the world ever ever. Really. Price: Who cares, because you MUST have it.

Potato pasta heaven. The gnocchi. And proof that I also sometimes drink water.

We ended off with a Chocolate Hot Pot, yadda yadda, I’m drunk. It was amazing. Delicious.

Chocolate amazingness. To share. Of course. Because.. banting.

I had had only two glasses of wine, but I was in fact drunk. Drunk on delicious food and special wines. Mostly I was drunk on this place though. It is romantic, special, tastefully decorated and is filled with special charm in all its corners (including Dr Seuss messages in the bathroom).

Its not an Italian Enoteca, but it doesn’t need to be. It gets my vote and I can’t wait to be a cool kid in the summer eating cauliflower pizza in its streetside courtyard. (as long as its non-smoking).

Food (that’s big) in Japan – Kyoto Garden Sushi

Japanese food isn’t all sushi.
It’s also a weird memory from a house in Kimberley plus dishes that aren’t raw at all.

When I went to DM and book a datenight table for two at Kyoto Garden Sushi I noticed that the last time I had chatted to them to try arrange a table (that never happened – mostly because sometimes I get distracted) was exactly a year ago. So… to say this meal was a long time coming – well, you get it. I was so excited. Not one bad word had ever been said about the place (but then again, why would I go to somewhere if bad words were spoke about it?… Oh wait, there was that time we went to Racine.)

I didn’t even know where we were driving to on our big (but actually small) night out from the burbs. Pulling up in Kloof Nek Road made me smile (skew-half-not-that-funny-to-mention smile) because my blackboard list of places to visit (yes – I have a blackboard with a list) included tonight’s venue, plus the place next door (Hallelujah). At least on our next datenight we’ll know that parking is a nightmare and that all the cool kids (at The Power & Glory next door) took an uber. Granted all the cool kids aren’t living in the suburbs with a pool, a dog, 3 bedrooms and a neighbourhood watch and where uber would cost them the same as the meal itself. Also, sidenote – all the cool kids still smoke apparently. STILL. I know, I didn’t believe people still did that either. Kind of makes me wish I smoked, just so that I could be less offended about how hideous it was. Yes yes. Anyway.

Winter specials are the best way to try restaurants. Considering earlier in the day (in a marketing team discussion) I wasn’t sure I’d choose Tokyo as a destination to visit (I mean I wouldn’t say no to a free holiday there, but I wouldn’t choose it if I had a free ticket to anywhere in the world if you see what I mean?), a winter menu at a Japanese spot (that doesn’t serve coffee but does serve the most lethal -ninja-something about a shit load of alcohol-tini) is a great way to trial if you should be back for the real deal.

So trial we did.

I’ve never had miso soup before (and cue childhood memory of flat edged spoons and lanterns in a garden in Kimberely as soon as I tasted it. Ok – so maybe I have had it). Weird déjàvu (or was it an actual memory?) aside, being a little daring (need more of this in me) and ordering something I wasn’t sure of, paid off. Heavenly! In a full meal kind of way. Tuesday night in, and that’s all I’d eat.

And that was just my starter.

Ambient lighting. Clearly.

Mark had scallops – which I was invited to try (under duress and negotiations I should probably add). But I don’t think I quite get scallops. I was expecting something like a muscle or clam, but instead got the softest piece of white fish in the world. What even is a scallop? (makes note to google stuff I eat before I get bollocked by all the pescatarians in my timeline).

I chose fish and special rice (or was it rice and special fish?) as my main. Special. Why is it always ‘special’? Like menus with special fried rice (which is more Chinese than Japanese I guess but still reminded us of that ‘special’ dish we had in Hong Kong – all chicken feet and broth. Special it said. It was, but not in the right way). Mark had noodles and prawns and I can safely say I won, but let him think he did so I didn’t have to share-share. (Yep, I’m one of those girls. I don’t know when last I ordered something and didn’t expect to share half of my companions food too.)

Special. But actually really Special I mean. 

Actually I believe, besides the knock-me-down ninja sake-tini I had, I won in all the food choices this evening.

Strategically placed Ninja-tini. This was pre tasting it and discovering that a something-tini – is PURE ALCOHOL.

The highlight however, must simply be the icecream that is.. Icecream, with… Icecream. Mixed with some amazing something. Ok, just back off and trust me. I’m no food blogger type, with a vocab of foodie adjectives. I take dimly lit food photos with my iPhone. And yes, it’s only an iPhone 5. But I do know a good thing and this was it.

The icecream highlight

In fact, it was all a good thing. Flavours that were different to anything we have ever had before – this isn’t Thai, Asian, Chinese… this is unique, sensational even. Filling without the awkward unhealthiness. In fact, the food felt a perfect fit for our detoxing-juicing selves we now are. And at R170 for the Winter Special which included a glass of wine – it was great value too.

There’s more to Japanese food than just raw fish I now know. But having read other reviews, I sort of feel like I missed out on the sushi (as well as a range of other dishes we need to try!) I guess it’s time to book a table again (and hopefully not only in a year’s time), and go back to try the higher grade version of the menu.. that includes the place’s namesake .

I’m ready for that level of Japanese.

Sensational food in a Greenhouse

Because I once wrote ‘Its not all about me’ and then continued to play some self pitying role where it was, in fact, still all about me (at least on this blog it was)… It’s time to dry my eyes and move swiftly along.

With load shedding and a rather uninspiring meal of chicken, spinach and feta sausages (have been tempted to spend the 70 bucks on these guys at woolies for ages, and am sorely disappointed in the purchase) in front of me, I’m thinking of the day I turned 34. Which was exactly three weeks ago. Time flies. We say it more and more as we get older. Never a truer word is spoken.

Besides the flying start (quite literally, in the air for the sunrise in a two seater 1979 plane) I was treated to a surprise dinner at an award winning restaurant.

Wait. Treated, well that’s not entirely true when you have a shared bank account I guess. And surprise, well that’s not true either as I had begged, pleaded and done just about anything to convince my husband to book a table there (even gone as far as provisionally booking it myself). Of course, keeping it a secret and almost leading me to believe we were going to my favourite restaurant is what he did do, and it was only when the restaurant accidentally called my cellphone at lunch to confirm our reservation that I knew it was on and that I best prepare myself.

The Greenhouse at Cellars Hohenort.

There were a few niggling bits that I can’t avoid mentioning, so will do so upfront. We were in a corner table that didn’t feel like any resemblance of ‘a greenhouse’ at all. No glass ceiling, and no view. I’m a big advocate for the sentiment that places with views generally have rather sucky food, but I also admit, on fancy pants (or special) occasions, I am quite keen on a table that looks out onto “a garden, a balcony, a window, or a fireplace”. We were looking back onto the restaurant, which when we sat down, was empty. Not exactly screaming romance and special occasion.
We were also sort of forgotten a lot of the time. With no dedicated waiter, and perhaps not doing the most expensive of menus, we felt a little neglected, especially as we sat around and waited to be served either a coffee or the bill at the end of our meal.
But, niggling bits aside… we were, after all.. there for the food. And oh! the food!

I’m never one to do the wine pairing with a menu (mostly because I hate getting too drunk to enjoy my food, and I can’t be sure how you can have that much wine, and not get drunk. Ok, call me a lightweight).
So instead, we chose the summer menu. 5 courses, which – as this wasn’t a tasting menu, can actually be considered as real courses. Big enough to taste, to taste your partners and still have enough to taste some of your own again. And with that in mind, barring the last course, we ordered one of each option so that we really could taste a bit of everything.

When the bread arrives and its the highlight of your week so far, you know you’re onto a winner. I felt the same at our meal at The Tasting Room. I also should admit that I never eat bread (by self induced rule) and that even a hot cross bun makes my knees weak, but not to detract – this was something very special.

Butternut macaroon. I mean, amazing.
Butternut macaroon. I mean, amazing.
Tomato goats cheese starter.
Tomato goats cheese starter.
IMG_1224_2
I’m guessing this is the wagyu beef tartare – but it was three weeks ago and I can’t remember.
IMG_1229_2
By a process of a elimination.. nope, still not sure what this was.

My highlight came early at course 2: West Coast Mussels. The most unattractive course of the lot (all about presentation Chef Heston – whatevs!) The best tasting dish, and possibly because of the surprise that it would be so.

This, it was all about this!! Mussels.
This, it was all about this!! Rather boring looking Mussels.

The beer, crisps and pretzels (my husbands course 4) which I avoided because of my new make-my-life-complicated-avoid-nightshade-vegetables-diet I’m on was amazing, and hands down the taste that brought about the first demand of ‘its my birthday and therefore you have to swap with me’.

Nothing beer and batter about this.
Nothing beer and crisps about this.

Our main courses (springbok?) and kabeljou were both incredible. As expected. And who wants to know about the expected. Its the damn mussels that caught me off-guard!

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Springbok. A full course sized portion and none of that ‘teeny, tiny taster’ stuff.
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Delicious kabeljou

I sort of maybe also had a small excuse for breaking lent on my birthday.
A) it was my birthday
B) Lent is actually 46 days because of the Sundays. And on Sundays, I remain chocolate-free and therefore could break it on a Tuesday (just one Tuesday), meaning my lent was still 45 days long (5 days longer than the 40 days of desert life). And to be fair this raspberry and chocolate concoction, which was far more raspberry than chocolate, was worth it.

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The lent-breaker

All in all the food was incredible. It was an expensive meal out, no doubt about that, but every single mouthful blew us away. It was sensational! For the love of fantastic food, everyone should treat themselves at some point to a meal at The Greenhouse. In fact, I may have to go as far as to say that in terms of food alone, this was our best meal out.

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Expensive food. What’s it worth?

When I think of the dinner I had last Tuesday night, I’d be lying if the bill didn’t spring to mind almost immediately.  It’s not that I’m cheap – ok, so I do like a good deal from time to time and yes, I do own the Entertainer – it’s that, Tuesday’s dinner was possibly the most expensive food we’ve ever had. And that may even include that 7 year anniversary dinner we had at Gaucho in London Piccadilly. Even at today’s exchange rate (actually that’s a lie. That was more.)

While I could really get into a debate on the value of the rand, on the fact that annual salary increases are hardly increases at all when you consider one bag of groceries from Woolies for two or three nights dinners costs four or five hundred rand and the diesel price just jumped up about R1,60 a litre. Its about the value of a dinner. And that perhaps dinner at an award winning restaurant for R600 per head (it’s the wine and tip on it all that pushes you into gulp mode) is actually rather reasonable?

I was offered a pair of running shoes (a product) or this dinner (an experience) as my birthday present this year. Ok, little did I know I’d actually land up with both (go Hawkins!) so to really understand the value of eating 5 courses of beautiful, expensive food vs stylish and very functional running shoes that I really needed (and wanted. More wanted than needed) – I did what I do. I rationalised.

Casual dinner out at somewhere like La Parada, or Tigers Milk or Societi Bistro, especially when the evening is shared with friends and the bill is split can easily land up at R500 per couple. And that’s just a casual dinner. A funsie dinner (of patrone shots to start) could land up way past that. I mean, breakfast on Easter Sunday at Millhouse (while amazing) was already R350 for the two of us. That’s only with two cappuccinos and a buffet. Actually wait, that was overpriced.

So dinner somewhere fancy, for a birthday, eating food made by an award winning chef, in an award winning restaurant at an award winning hotel (I’m actually not sure any of those statements are factually accurate) – that is worth three times a casual dinner, right?

For some, no. Not at all. Paying out that sort of money just seems ridiculous. Especially when you could choose the running shoes. You know, the shoes that will make you feel like you’re running on air. Its a product vs experience thing. Choosing the memory (that may fade) over the item (that lives on. Every day. When you go for a run).

I guess its like travelling. Or staying at a 5 star lodge when there is availability at the 3 star one. And we all know how I feel about travelling (and fancy lodges). No prizes for guessing which present I chose. Its lucky I got the shoes as the bonus present.