Phenomenal food at The Greenhouse in Constantia

I do love a list. Especially a top-10 restaurants list. Oh, the arguments it can cause as everyone fiercely fights for a place for their favourite. It also makes for a brilliant goal – to try out every one on the list. A mission I have chosen to accept.

Luckily on the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards list of top-10 restaurants in South Africa for 2017, nine of them are in Cape Town and the surrounds. Making my mission easy to complete.

So today we’re heading to The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenhort, to give it its full title. Its home is in a beautiful five-star hotel set in nine acres of stunning gardens in the historic Constantia Valley. And it sits proudly at number five in South Africa on the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards 2017.

The intriguing menu is conceived by Executive Chef Peter Templehoff and Head Chef Ashley Moss. They are committed to using local ingredients which makes for some interesting dishes. At today’s lunch we went for the three-course option. But of course – as you’d expect in a high end establishment like this – the three-course option is not three courses. Because there are pre-starters (three of them) and a bread course. And wonderful they were too – a fabulous way to start before you have your starters!

First up were little crispy parcels of cauliflower in a Cape Malay sauce. Great crunch, amazing flavours – and they look beautiful, too.

The Greenhouse: Pre starter

A crunchy base for the cauliflower in Cape Malay sauce

The biltong bitterballen were a revelation. Crisp on the outside, lovely and creamy inside with a good biltong hit. Biltong is a type of dried, cured meat that originated in Southern Africa – great use of one of my favourite ingredients.

Greenhouse: bilton bitterballen

Savoury and creamy biltong bitterballen

Deep-fried herby leaves were served topped with a tasty black garlic sauce.

The Greenhouse: Pre starter

Crunchy leaves and savoury delight

And then there was the bread course – yes, it’s officially a course these days – and so it should be, a real bread extravaganza. Three types of bread served with ceremony – and with three types of butter. Wow!

The Greenhouse: Pre starter

An extravaganza of bread three ways

The Greenhouse: butter

And of course an extravaganza of butter, too

Our butter was given a little bit of extra attention in the form of a grating of ancient volcanic salt. Seriously! There was garlic, spring onion and salted butter to sample.

The Greenhouse: butter

Salt is grated over at the table

Pre-starters consumed with sighs of joy we then all gasped with happiness when the starters were delivered. Ostrich tartare was served with salt baked celeriac, a truffled quails egg, kombu pickled vegetables and Cape mushrooms.

One of the most delightful presentations ever – it arrived nestling in the bottom of an ostrich egg which was nestling on top of a nest – complete with feathers. And what stunning tastes. My favourite bit was the fact that some of the egg yolk had been removed and replaced with truffle cream giving a surprisingly different flavour and texture. An amazingly clever mix of flavours and textures to tantalise the taste buds.

The Greenhouse: ostrich tartare

Ostrich tartare nestles in an ostrich egg

The Greenhouse: ostrich tartare

An overhead of the delightful tartare

On to mains. The local Cape fish (Kingklip) was served with langoustines, a Chinese noodle bean, miso onion, soba noodles and a crustacean emulsion. Beautifully cooked kingklip – possibly my favourite fish anyway – sweet, juicy langoustines and a wonderfully delicate sauce.

The Greenhouse: kingklip and langoustine

Beautifully flaky kingklip and sweet langoustines

The other mains choice was Braai Bokkie which was served with coffee carrots, lacquered onion, mushrooms and sweetbread. The springbok was coated with ground coffee before it was grilled to a succulent state of rareness.

The Greenhouse: springbok

Wonderfully tender and tasty springbok

Today was one of the rare days I ate dessert – obviously I had to as it was included! I opted for the Mpumalanga mango, Ethiopian passion berry, coconut ice cream and granadilla curd. All my favourite flavours dished up on a single plate. How perfect is that?

The Greenhouse: pudding

A wonderful mix of tropical flavours

The other pudding option was cleverly designed to look like a cheeseboard. But it didn’t taste like one! Camembert cheese cake was served with pineapple compote and pine nut biscotti. The cheese cake looked like such a perfect round of Camembert it certainly sent confusing signals to the brain. Genius!

Greenhouse: cheese cake

Is it a cheeseboard? Or is it a cake?

Phew! What a selection of delights. And of course it wasn’t over yet. A delightful tray of sweet treats to finish off a wonderful feast – mini custardy tarts and chocolate and passion fruit truffles.

Greenhouse: chocolates

Sweeties to complete the feast

This is certainly a wonderful voyage of flavours and clever ideas all well executed. The ambience is a touch formal which fits with the class and standards of both the restaurant and the hotel. Another one ticked off the list and well-deserved of its high ranking.

I’ve had a brilliant restaurant journey this year in Cape Town and I’m mulling over my own top-10. So watch this space.

Today’s price point

A meal at The Greenhouse is a real special occasion sort of thing, which does also mean that it is on the expensive side of Cape Town choices. Having said that it’s good value  – it would certainly punish your wallet a lot more for this calibre of food in London.

We had the official three-course menu which was actually eight dishes. And sensational they all were, too.

With one pre-lunch drink each and two bottles of wine between six our bill came to R1,000 each (approximately £58 at today’s exchange rate).

The Greenhouse is in the Cellars Hohenhort Hotel, 93 Brommersvlei Road, Constantia, Cape Town.

 

The Blue Train: A fabulously tasty experience

Okay, so you’ve been taken through the journey and sheer luxury of The Blue Train – now it’s time for the best bit (in my opinion)…the food.

From the minute you step into the Dining Car with its crystal glassware, crisp white linen and welcoming waiters, you know you’re in for a real treat. There’s a strong emphasis on local ingredients with some really clever combinations and a comprehensive wine list of  top South African wines.

You can choose from two dinner sittings (6.30 or 8.30) or eat in your suite.

First meal – lunch/brunch. There’s a choice of two starters, a soup affair and three mains as well as dessert and cheese. Service is wonderfully relaxed and friendly, yet efficient and well paced between courses. And the food is certainly something to write home about.

This perfectly pretty starter of goat’s cheese mousse came with grain mustard, compressed melon and micro greens and an aged balsamic glaze. Light and refreshing.

lunch starter

A beautiful, light plate of food got my dining journey off to a good start

In in-between bowl of cauliflower and truffle soup was beautifully earthy and rich.

cauli soup

Indulge in cauliflower and truffle soup

When I look back on my menu choices, I seem to have eaten a lot of red meat on this trip. A great choice as it happens as everything was totally delicious. This charmingly named lattice beef loin was amazingly tender, packed with flavour and served on a sweet potato puree with rosemary and mint jus. The perfectly prepared and cooked julienne vegetables were a sight to behold on their own – amazing attention to detail and flavours on this plate. I savoured every mouthful.

lunch steak

Tender beef, sweet veg and buttery pastry to savour

Between lunch/brunch and dinner there’s High Tea in the Lounge Car. A fine array of sandwiches, cakes and an amazing cheeseboard tempt you. Aware that dinner wasn’t too far away (I was allocated the early sitting), I held back but couldn’t resist one perfectly soft and crunchy, crustless cucumber sandwich. And a glass of bubbles, of course.

Time to get back to the charm of the Dining Car and some amazing dinner choices. First off a really novel foie gras dish – caramelised foie gras served with amadumbe ( a tubular root vegetable much like a yam) oat granola and lemon powder. It was served with beautifully creamy avocado (which also added a lovely green vibrancy) – what an amazing combination of richness, sweetness and tenderness that produced. A dish to dream of.

foie gras

Silken foie gras with fresh, creamy avocado

I was still basking in the pleasure of these taste sensations when my main course arrived. Ox cheek covered in biltong powder, served with a potato waffle,  pea puree and marrow sauce. So many local ingredients in a cleverly conceived of dish. Love it!

ox cheek

Another exceptional steak dish…love the biltong powder

With such exceptional food being delivered to my table I simply had to try out the dessert – in the name of research of course. And because lemon desserts are my one true dessert love. The lemon tartlet was served with a citrus curd and passion fruit jam, topped with a lemon foam and finished off with a lemon macaroon. Beautifully light and zesty, the perfect conclusion to my lovely dinner.

dessert

A fresh, lemony and fruity dessert

I’ve mentioned that the wine list is fantastic…and even better you can order all the wines by the glass. Basically everything is available which makes for the most fabulous tasting opportunity.

Happy and replete I retired to the luxury of my suite for an early night and an early awakening so I could watch more of the South African world go by when it got light. And then to breakfast.

Well, can breakfast be your favourite part of a trip? It’s just that I don’t ever remember being presented with such an amazing breakfast menu, which is why I simply had to include it in all its glory!

Love the selections under the English Breakfast heading – can you imagine what a plate full of all that would look like? There’s two pages of choices…what a way to start the day.

breakfast menu1

From page 1 I enjoyed tea, fruit juice (and they had my favourite, guava) and a lovely plate of fruit, which again included all my favourites: mango, pineapple, papaya, watermelon, melon…fresh and juicy.

fruit2

The prettiest plate of fruit to start with

And then it was on to page 2: Speciality Breakfast. How to choose, how to choose! Well, I adore Eggs Benedict, so that made it all that little bit easier. But then my lovely waiter asked me if I’d like any extras on the side…and I had to add some peri peri chicken livers!

Breakfast menu2

I’d say this could be the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had (and I’ve tasted my share of this classic dish). Breakfast doesn’t get better than this.

benedict

The best Eggs Benedict with a side of peri peri chicken livers

I had to drag myself out of that Dining Car, and it wasn’t easy. With my love of train travel, the Blue Train’s luxury and incomparable service, the fabulously unfolding South African countryside outside the window and then the truly amazing, creative food with a real local flavour I knew I’d been cocooned in my own special paradise. I still miss it!

And here’s a beautiful fruit display to enjoy – all the food is a word of art to enjoy on The Blue Train.

fruit

Find out more about The Blue Train by clicking here.

 

 

 

Fabulous lunch at the Foodbarn

Another Sunday, another restaurant to savour. This week we went to the Foodbarn in beautiful Noordhoek. The stunning, sunny day started off well with a drive over Chapman’s Peak which connects Hout Bay and Noordhoek, with its amazing views of sea and mountain. And just when you think the day can’t get any better, you stroll in to the Foodbarn…and it does.

Chef Franck Dangereux was born in Cannes and appears to have been born to cook. His dishes are pure genius, just to warn you, my repertoire of adjectives is going to take a bashing before I get to the end of this post! The food is fab, tastes amazing and looks absolutely beautiful. And to make the whole experience even better, the restaurant, housed in a thatched roof building, is totally laid-back, unpretentious and welcoming with great, friendly service. The kind of place that makes you want to kick your shoes off and settle in for a long, long while, which we did at a lovely table on the verandah. The sun streamed through the slatted roof onto our table, as you will see in my pictures – giving a real feel of the beautiful day.

There’s a bistro menu on a blackboard as well as the a la carte – and you can mix and match between them. Our lovely waitress Ruby waxed lyrical about her favourite dishes on the menu – such passion and enthusiasm made the experience even more enjoyable and our choices even more difficult.

My starter of fresh yellowtail tartare was wonderful, a light combination of summer on a plate with plenty of creamy avocado, lovely fresh fish and truly sublime prawns around the edge of the plate. Made me wish I’d ordered the prawn main course!

Delicate yellowtail tartare with the tastiest of prawns

Delicate yellowtail tartare with the tastiest of prawns

The Tunisian fish soup is spicy with fish, mussels and prawns and finished with cuminaise chickpeas and fresh coriander. This dish takes soup to another level, it’s the stuff to dream about.

Silken fish soup with tender prawns and mussel

Silken fish soup with tender prawns and mussel

The crunchy and soft goats cheese fritters came with the sweetest of heirloom tomato terrines, fresh basil and aubergine caviar.

Stunning goat's cheese fritters

Stunning goat’s cheese fritters

The springbok tartare was served with homemade tacos, spicy avo and saffron mayo.

Springbok tartare with spicy avo

Springbok tartare with spicy avo

And now for the mains. My choice elicited oohs of delight as it arrived at the table. It’s Franck’s famous Pan Bagna. Bread topped with an amazing tomatoey, garlicky sauce, two large seared trout fillets, an egg and a tomato bonbon all on a bed of salad with an anchoiade sauce. A heavenly tower of flavours and textures to thrill. Seriously, I may never be able to order anything else at the Foodbarn, it’s a plate of perfection for me.

A beautiful towering plate of food

A beautiful towering plate of food

The tender lamb chops were served pink with a delicately delicious mustard and courgette quiche, wild rocket and a rich lemon verbena scented jus. Who knew a mustard and courgette quiche could taste so good?

Tender lamb chops with a delicate sauce

Tender lamb chops with a delicate sauce

Fillet steak Bordelaise came with a pecorino and truffle potato fritter but as Kevin, who ordered it, is having a carb-free period, he declined the fritter. Ruby, suggested she serve him a portion of vegetables on the plate instead, they couldn’t be more accommodating.

steak

Yum, yum, yum!

Why I haven’t visited more often is a mystery and certainly an oversight (one I simply have to remedy). I discovered they do tapas and wine matching events, too…put me down for some of that and soon!

The FoodBarn is at Noordehoek Farm Village in Noordhoek

Food to dream about at The Conservatory

The Cellars Hohenort Hotel is in the beautiful Constantia Valley. When we were looking for somewhere different to try for a relaxed post-golf Sunday lunch recently, we popped in to check it out. A delicious bloody mary later and a perusal of the menu, we’d booked a table on the sun-drenched terrace of The Conservatory for the weekend.

The hotel is set in nine acres of stunning, award-winning gardens. As you walk from the car park you don’t even have to stop to smell the roses, the scent is floating in the air all around you.

The stunning rose gardens welcome you

The stunning rose gardens welcome you

Everyone got very excited on reading the menu. Everything sounded so amazing, and we even managed to all order different things to get a proper flavour of the food. Our expectations were high as we waited for our starters to arrive.

Gosh, were our expectations met! The food at The Conservatory is truly fantastic and each plate looks like a work of art. Every mouthful was a delight, beginning with the fabulous starters.

ostrich

Ostrick tataki – shitake mushrooms, daikon radish slaw, burnt miso mayo and yuzu dressing.

I do love a souffle and don’t see them often on menus these days, so I simply couldn’t resist ordering this. Velvety smooth and perfectly cheesy.

souffle

Double baked underberg souffle served with a kirsch flavoured cheese sauce and fresh shaved parmesan.

My husband seems to be going for a full set of soup dishes in Cape Town, he’s been having one at every restaurant we go to…so far this is the winner.

The sweetcorn soup could be the best soup I have ever tasted

The sweetcorn soup could be the best soup I have ever tasted

Plates of food really don’t get more stunning than this octopus masterpiece.

Plates of food really do not get more stunning than this

Local octopus carpaccio with lemon bavarois, pickled seafood, crispy prawn and ponzu dressing.

Fish and chips in a good restaurant is always a wise choice.

A truly superior fish and chip dish

A truly superior fish and chip dish with tartare sauce, triple cooked chips and a beautiful garden salad

Fish of the day was monkfish, and this was another plate of food to remember.

Delicate monkfish to delight

Monkfish with pearl barley and spring vegetable risotto asparagus and cape lobster bisque.

When Kevin ordered the gourmet burger everyone on the table sighed with envy. I think we all secretly wanted to be tucking into what has to be the most indulgent burger ever…

burger

Gourmet burger with pan-fried fois gras, truffled mushroom ragout, pancetta, onion rings, cave aged cheddar cheese and shoestring fries.

The duck was beautifully sweet and crispy with silken potatoes.

Beautifully sweet and crispy duck that melted in the mouth

Slow roast crispy duck with pomme puree and exotic mushrooms in a honey-ginger jus

I’m literally salivating now as I relive our wonderful afternoon in the sun in blogtime. Truly great food to savour, and it was good value for money, too.

The hotel is also home to The Greenhouse restaurant which was voted best restaurant in South Africa in 2011 and for 2012 is eighth on the list. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to make a return visit and check it out, too.

Dinner at Re Ka Ta Beach Club, Phuket

Okay, so on the long list of things I love about Phuket is the fact that you can eat looking out over the sea. And at Re Ka Ta Beach Club, your table’s almost right on the sand. The Club is beautifully designed, modern, minimalist and all in blue and white, even some of the chairs light up blue as the sun goes down.

The beautiful seating area right next to the beach

We visited once for a pre-dinner g&t, loved the feel of the place and discovered they had what looked like a really lovely restaurant menu. Only one thing for it, back we went for dinner. We were seated at the absolutely best table in the house, right at the end, two small steps from Kata Beach. Stunning.

The chef’s called Bryan Burger and I found out later that he’s South African-born. If I’d known that at the time I’d have popped my head in to say hello! He focusses on using seasonal, local ingredients and his food was fabulous. Sitting by the sea, as we were, dinner simply had to be fish.

Starters of seared scallops on mango, mint and 42 below vodka salsa and soft shell crab with mountain pepper tempura and sour dip and cucumber salad were the perfect start. The scallops looked like a work of art and were beautifully cooked. The crab was surprisingly meaty and delicious.

The amazing scallop starter

Soft shell crab, a real delicacy

Main courses meant more scallops, this time with pea puree, shoots and cumin foam with air-dried serrano ham. The list read like my dream ingredients so I had to have it. Definitely on my list of best dishes I’ve eaten this year. So beautifully presented and each mouthful was a total joy.

The prettiest plate of scallops ever? And it tasted even better than it looked, if you can believe that…

There’s a grilled section on the menu, which included the grilled sea bass with wok tossed greens served with Re Ka Ta signature sauces. Perfectly cooked, sweet sea bass with three dipping sauces and a fresh salad. Phuket lobster is also available, and would you believe I asked the people on the next table if I could take a picture of theirs, as it looked so good. Couldn’t even believe my own cheek! Promise I won’t do that again.

Amazing fresh sea bass fillets

The lobster from the table next to us!

In the land of amazingly cheap restaurants, this is a step up to the more pricey category for Thailand. Having said that, the sea bass was a mere £11 and my scallops just over £15 so still incredible value.

Their salads sounded fabulous too, but sadly we ran out of time as it would have been perfect to step up from the sea and enjoy a light lunch.

A truly wonderful experience, I’ll be dreaming of those scallops with their creamy pea puree and crsipy serrano ham for a long time…