Lunching at Idiom in the Cape Winelands

Today we’re travelling into the Winelands outside Somerset West, way off the beaten track on a long and winding road to the top of a hill. Yes it did feel like something of a voyage into the unknown. As you can probably gather from the length of that sentence.

Idiom is run by the Bottega family who take great pride in their Italian/South African heritage. As a result Italian varietals are part of the wine portfolio, bringing the spirit of Italy to South Africa. The restaurant opened in June 2016, so it’s a new addition to the ever-growing Winelands collection.

Italian/South African fusion

You won’t be surprised to hear that the menu also has a real Italian flavour to it. And a good helping of South African influences. I particularly loved my starter which was a South Africanised version of one of my all-time favourite dishes, vitello tonnato. Usually it’s a dish of cold, sliced veal that’s covered with a creamy mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavoured with tuna (normally tinned tuna). Sounds like a weird combination, but believe me it’s spectacular.

Today’s version substituted ostrich for the veal. I’m not a big fan of ostrich but was so intrigued by the creativity of the dish I had to order it. The sauce was made with tasty chunks of fresh tuna and the ostrich was some of the best I’ve ever had. It was tender, perfectly cooked and amazingly tasty. What a great start!

South African vitello tonnato in the Winelands

A classic dish with a truly South African twist

The porcini mushroom ravioli was packed with rich, earthy flavours and the home-made pasta was fresh and perfectly cooked.

Italian dishes at Idiom in the Winelands

Little ravioli parcels of mushroom delight

For mains I had beautiful little lamb cutlets, served alongside a mini bobotie (a South African dish of spiced mince meat baked with a custardy egg topping) and a lovely vegetable selection in orange and green – smooth and sweet butternut puree, cinnamon apples, crunchy sugarsnap peas, tender broccoli and pea shoots.

A delectable plate of lamb at Idiom in the Winelands

Lamb chops with a perfect vegetable selection

The pork belly came in piles of graded size – large, medium, small, with crunchy curls of crackling, buttery mash and candied apples.

Pork belly rocks in the Cape Winelands

Tender pork belly with towering crackling curls

The food at Idiom is really good – a clever mix of South Africa and Italy, packed with good flavours and combinations and beautifully presented. And the setting is truly spectacular with far-reaching views from on high across Gordon’s Bay and the sea. The Tuscan-style building and stonework also add an Italian feel to the surrounds.

Unfortunately the service leaves something to be desired. It was hard to catch anyone’s attention and people were slow to respond. Also, our plates weren’t cleared before the next course arrived and we moved them ourselves so the waitress could put our starters down. She walked off and left us sitting there holding our dirty plates until we asked her to take them. Generally the attitude was also unenthusiastic and lacklustre. A shame as it put something of a downer on the whole experience.

A taste of Italy at Idiom in the Cape Winelands

The Tuscan-style restaurant on high with sea views

The grounds at Idiom in the Winelands are an outdoor art gallery

A stunning statue and landscape

These beautiful heads welcome you at the entrance and are the masterpieces of contemporary South African artist and sculptor, Lionel Smit.

Lionel Smit in the Winelands

The stunning sculpture takes in the view

Malay Girls head by Lionel Smit in the Winelands

And here she is from the front

The beautiful setting at Idiom in the Winelands

Stone steps lead up to the restaurant

The vines include a lot of Italian varietals at Idiom

Even the view on the way out is worth a snap

Today’s price point

Our two-course lunch for two, including wine cost R640. That’s about £40 at today’s exchange rate.

Their Bianco (Pinot Grigot) is delicious and costs R100 (£6).

The red Italian varietals were on the expensive side.

A case of limited edition Nebbiolo (6 bottles) goes for R2,700 (£167).

Idiom is at Sir Lowry’s Pass, Somerset West.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in the Cape Winelands? I’d love to hear about it – I’m always looking for new places to try.

The consistently excellent A Tavola

So I eat out a fair bit and love trying new places. I also love returning to favourite places, especially ones that I’ve been to time after time that never fail to delight. A Tavola is one of these – and the fact that it’s always full or nearly so is testimony to a much-loved neighbourhood restaurant.

As well as the usual menu, there are always plenty of specials to choose from. Today Vitello Tonnato was one of them. Now that’s a no-brainer…this is one of my all-time favourite starters and one I don’t often spot on menus. It originates from the Piedmont area of Italy and was first mentioned in cookery books in the early 19th century. Someone with serious imagination must have come up with this weird-sounding combination of thinly sliced, rare veal with a tuna sauce, topped with capers. And thank goodness they did, it’s totally wow.

vitello

The beautiful combination of rare veal and tuna sauce

Another special for today – marrowbone. Spread thickly, it was beautifully rich, piping hot and salty. A truly indulgent dish.

marrowbone

The tastiest of marrowbone

For mains the Tuscan veal stew is often on the specials menu and is much loved! So much so that the times it’s not on the menu there’s deep disappointment all round. Flavours of rosemary mingle with the superbly tender veal which is served on a bed of fresh pasta. A Tavola’s hand-made pasta is truly something to write home about. tuscanstew

There are plenty of meaty choices for the serious carnivores. The tagliata is stunning and there’s a lovely fillet dish, making decisions tricky. Our waitress helped enormously when my brother was hovering between the fillet and his eventual order, the t-bone, by saying “Fillet is for girls, you should have the t-bone.” That’s that then. An amazingly juicy and flavoursome piece of perfectly cooked meat.

t-bone

Turns out I had a veal extravaganza as my main was this show-stopping veal chop, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Piping hot and delicious, this could be the ultimate way to cook veal, it seals in all the flavours and keeps the meat totally succulent and tender. There are a lot of veal dishes on the menu and my advice to any first-timer would be to order one of them. They know what they’re doing with their veal here.

We also shared a plate of zucchini fritti with our mains – a dish I always have to have on an A Tavola visit.

And some more veal for me

And some more veal for me

This is some of the best Italian food in Cape Town. It’s authentic, made using seasonal fresh ingredients and very clearly cooked with love. I’m feeling the love in the food I’ve been eating recently which makes me very happy. Long may it continue.

A Tavola is on Library Square off Wilderness Road in Claremont, Cape Town.