It has been almost a year since my last confession at the altar of La Colombe. Far too long!! So I jumped at the chance to dine at the legendary Constantia Winelands restaurant again. With the advent of some icy weather and yet another rapidly approaching cold front, the fireside vibe and cosy atmosphere of La Colombe was quite fitting. And sampling their 2010 Winter Special menu was our mission: 5 courses prepared by head chef Luke-Dale Roberts and his kitchen hit squad, paired with specific wines. Bring it on!
So we arrived, all a titter and ready for a feast at one of Africa’s finest eateries. After a ridiculously expensive glass of wine at the bar we sat down at our table, all warm and glowing with the soft light of various candles. Our waiter arrived and launched into epic his monologue the menu in fine detail. And he did it so well. It must be like delivering an oral in front of the class in Grade 8, using the most technical terminology in the world of food.
Fabulously verbose sentences including words like confit, parfait, fondant, veloute, jus, fricasse, etc. One brief lapse of concentration as one soaks up the imagery of the french fusion dishes being so poetically described and you are gone! Whilst I was lost dreaming about a fricasse of prawn wrapped in pancetta with a drizzle of blah, he might as well have been talking about the Lib Dems cutting a new power sharing deal with the Tories. Well done to all the waitron-ing staff at LC! How they get through that mountain of a menu unscathed time and again is quite a feat.
After this mammoth task was over we were told that it was too late to order the winter menu as it closed 5 minutes ago. Obviously we were gutted. We were here to experience the winter menu. And no-one had mentioned that there was a time issue. So after much disappointment and repeated requests to the waiter and his colleagues with no result, we decided it was not good enough to be denied our right to get what we came for. So I was appointed spokes-guy for the table and lodged one final desperate plea with the maitre’d, who managed to persuade the chef and his crew to fit us in and provide the 5 course taste sensation that we had been dreaming about. Viola!
The knowledge of the fact that we were now able to enjoy the winter menu provided huge two-fold relief. Firstly, we did not have to order any wine, as the pre-rigged wine pairing enabled us to completely bypass the alphabetised monster wine list that was about as large and heavy as one of those Great Trek Dutch Reformed bibles. Phew. And as for the food, it was just a choice of this or that at each course. Simple.
For dessert I tried the left-field beetroot sorbet with beetroot parfait wrapped in a thin layer of chocolate. Whilst novel and quite a feat, maybe not sweet enough for me. Other desserts on offer were the classic apple tart tatin with sauvignon blanc jelly (super wow!) and berry sorbet, and a chocolate orange mousse with honeycomb ice cream.
All in all, an incredible experience of the finest cuisine. Many thanks to the team at La Colombe: front and back of house! Quite superb. We will be back.
If you do go: remember to let them know you are eating the Winter Special so that you can order in good time and not miss out!
Footnotes: much to my embarassment (at not having noticed this on the night), I have just discovered that we were in esteemed foodie company that evening. Heston Blumenthal was in the house, enjoying a similar feast to us. Heston is the creator and owner of The Fat Duck Restaurant, awarded three Michelin stars, restaurant of the year, Best Restaurant in the World and Best Restaurant in the UK. And whilst talking of celebs, it was interesting to see who had previously dined at LC, quite a list: John Kerry, Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa among them.
Photo credits: the crisp daytime ones by the team at . Follow the link to their site for a proper foodie review! And for the badly lit ones by Bruce Legg, photographer extraordinaire, under trying conditions after much wine, using an iphone and only candlelight.