Summer lunch in the courtyard at Boulestin

Happy sunshine news from London! We’re having a heatwave! Seriously there’s an official definition of a heatwave which is when the daily maximum temperature for more than five consecutive days exceeds the average maximum temperature by five degrees. Not sure if we have actually met the target (though I think we may have surpassed it) but it feels like a heatwave to me. And what happens when there’s a heatwave in London? We all become obsessed with living an al fresco life…obviously.

Parks turn into sunbathing paradises, pavements transform into the perfect spot for social gatherings over a chilled beverage and everyone’s smiles widen. Of course I also have to make it my mission to search out the best restaurant roof terraces, courtyards and terraces the capital has to offer.

Which is why, today, we are heading to Boulestin in swanky St James. Not the most obvious place where you’d find an alfresco dining opportunity but that’s because Boulestin has a secret courtyard! How I love a secret courtyard.

This Boulestin opened in 2013, though the original was in Covent Garden, opened by Xavier Marcel Boulestin in 1927. M Boulestin is reputed to be the world’s first TV chef (on the BBC from 1937-1939). He is described as the most imaginative and liberating food writer of his time. High praise.

The menu is influenced by his original recipes, serving authentic French classics and a whole lot besides. It’s an exciting selection to tempt you as you settle under the umbrellas in the serenity of the courtyard, just steps from the hubbub that is St James.

What’s on the menu

On such a balmy day my eyes lit up as soon as they saw the gazpacho consommé in the starters section. And it was served with a cucumber and basil sorbet (can anything sing summer out any louder?) and some marinated courgettes.

This is a truly wonderful summery dish with an intensity of flavours that zing off your palate. And it’s so light and refreshing, it’s almost like a delicious savoury drink. I wanted to lick the bowl.

Boulestin: gazpacho

The taste of summer in a bowl

The charred octopus came with almond taramasalata (now that sounds intriguing), green olives and a roasted fig. Flavoursome, tender octopus with little dots of added flavour to bring the dish together perfectly – oh and the sweetness of that fig.

Boulestin: Octopus

An exotic dish of octopus and fig

There’s a cornucopia of wonderful mains to boggle your mind, made easier by the fact that the warm summer air made the stomach go towards a desire for something cooling. So first up, lemon and rocket risotto served with mousserons and ricotta. Mousserons are small wild mushrooms which added a delicious earthiness to the creamy, citrussy taste, all topped off by fluffy clouds of ricotta. The rocket made for the perfectly green shade – certainly greener than most of the lawns in sun-soaked London Town.

Boulestin: risotto

A vibrant, zesty bowl of risotto

The tuna tartare came with avocado mousse, compressed watermelon and a black sesame tuille. Succulent tuna layered with the watermelon and wonderfully dressed made for another sunshine dish – especially when combined with the creamy avo and crunch of the tuille. Wow! And double wow for the watermelon, such a creative and delicious addition.

A spectacular tuna dish to savour

How was that for the perfect summer lunch? Hidden away in the peace of a secluded courtyard drinking in the warm London air and enjoying great food. I’m not counting how many times I’ve used the words summer, sunshine or anything related, though I know it’s plenty! How I love London during a heatwave…can you tell?

Boulestin: courtyard

The beautiful hidden courtyard

Today’s price point

Lunch cost £76 for two people for a starter and a main each.

Boulestin is at 5 St James St, London W1

Our return to Thali: we couldn’t resist

I don’t often blog twice about the same restaurant in the same year and this is the second time I’ve done it this year – we’re heading back to Thali. And it’s no coincidence that it’s two restaurants from the same group.

Chef Liam Tomlin is behind both Thali and the Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia (my other double blog). You can read about my previous lunches at Thali and Beau Constantia times two!

As well as great food, it’s a great concept. A set menu of dishes to share that are served as four courses for a set price. No menu indecision to cope with and no food envy, just loads of delicious flavours to savour.

And I find the food of Thali so inspiring that I think I produced some of my best food pics ever. Enjoy the extravaganza.

What’s on the menu

This crispy spinach bhaji came topped with two spicy sauces. Spinach has never tasted this good (and I love spinach).

Thali: Spinach bhaji

Deep fried spinach bhaji, mint and coriander dressing, date and tamarind

The next course was a delightful mix of vegetarian offerings served with the softest of paratha. The extravaganza of cauliflower was incredible – tandoori cauliflower served with cumin cauliflower puree and cashew and coconut salad. Who knew you should tandoor cauliflower? You really should!

Thali: Dhal, Paratha and cauliflower

The platter also included the wonderfully creamy and satisfying smoked tadka dhal, perfect for a bit of paratha dipping.

Thali: tadka dhal

Close up on the smoked tadka dhal

Thali: Cauliflower

What a delicious cauliflower collection

Tandoori chicken skewers were served with tomato chill jam and cucumber coriander raita. Triple yum. I do love the individual mini tandoor ovens that are delivered to your table.

Thali: Tandoori chicken

Tandoori chicken skewers served in your own mini tandoor oven

Next course was the two fishy plates. The fried fish tacos added a lovely fresh, crispy element and some beautifully zest flavours

Thali: fish tacos

Zesty fried fish tacos

Fresh line fish was served with delectable Cape Malay dressing, a coriander emulsion and saffron pickled onion. Such a fabulous combination of tastes and textures, I could so easily demolish a whole main course of this all by myself.

Thali: Line fish

Delicate line fish with Cape Malay flavors

The final course – and it’s curry time. Mappa duck curry with spiced mango chutney, Phatch Shoran seafood curry, warm buttery naan, perfectly cooked rice and a fragrant tomato salsa.

Thali: Curries

Two of the most delicious curries ever

I tend to avoid duck curries most of the time as it can be a somewhat chewy experience. Tonight’s dish gets my award for best duck curry ever. The flavours were so incredible and I can’t remember ever eating such tender duck.

Thali: duck

The tenderest of duck in a gorgeous sauce

The seafood curry was deliciously creamy with just the right hit of spice. A mix of mussels, prawns and line fish – heaven in a bowl.

Thali: Seafood curry

The delightfully delicious seafood curry

Thali: Rice

Even the rice is delectable at Thali

Thali: chilli jam

The glistening chilli jam

Thali: Raita

A bowl of cooling raita

Thali: salsa

A bowl of vibrant, zesty salsa

Thali is at 3 Park Road, Gardens, Cape Town.

Today’s price point

Tapas for two at Thali is R700 (41 pounds at today’s exchange rate). For two, not each. Really great value as the portions are ample and you won’t get a better Indian meal around here. Seriously.

Tasty platters and stunning views at Constantia Glen

Today we’re headed into the mountainous land of forests and vineyards that is beautiful Constantia for lunch at Constantia Glen.

This beautiful vineyard sits just below Constantia Nek nestling in the valley with a mountain backdrop and vines as far as the eye can see. Constantia is the oldest wine producing region in South Africa, they started here in 1685. So they’ve had some practice – and you can tell. Constantia Glen’s wine is nothing short of spectacular.

They produce only four wines – two whites and two reds – and they’re all wonderful though our favourite is the Constantia Glen Three – a classic Constantia/Bourdeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It’s just heavenly – even more so if you’re sitting at Constantia Glen sipping on it. Settled with our joyous glassfuls, it was time for lunch.

What’s on the menu

It’s a simple menu with a selection of tasty platters, pizzas, a soup dish and a couple of salads to choose from. The classic charcuterie and cheese offering dishes up a fine mix of tastiness.

Constantia: platter

The tasty meat and cheese platter

Today’s soup was a rich and satisfying goulash given a local touch by being served in a potjie – a round, last iron three-legged pot that’s usually used for cooking over a fire.

Constantia Glen: goulash

The rich goulash in a traditional potjie

My South African platter came loaded with all sorts of delish local delicacies like biltong, bobotie, smoked snoek pate and a beautiful loaf of pot bread.

Constantia Glen: platter

A platter of local specialities

Thinly sliced exotic ostrich bresaola was served topped with parmesan, rocket and olive oil.

Constantia Glen: bresaola

Beautifully vibrant bresaola

Constantia Glen is one of those places you simply can’t resist taking a pano on your phone. Here it is in all its lush greenness.

Constantia Glen: views

Panoramic views taken on pano

Constantia Glen: view

The stunning green and blue landscape

Constantia Glen is at in the Constantia Valley just below Constantia Nek.

 

 

 

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.

 

Coffee heaven and brunch treats at Coco Safar

Coffee is one of the joys of my life. So I’m in heaven when I’m in Cape Town as there are coffee shops aplenty. Main Road in Sea Point is home to its fair share and also arguably the best of the lot – Coco Safar.

Coffee shops don’t come more stylish than this. There’s amazing coffee from specially selected coffee beans which are roasted in small batches in the Cape Town Roastery and Coffee Lab and also there’s an enticingly different food menu.

Coco Safar: latte

The beautifully artistic frothy coffee

What’s on the menu

The dishes all sound mouth-watering – and they taste just as good! They are served on trays with  a scoop of delicious creamy potato and a bowl of chilled herby citrus alongside. Seemed like a strange combination at first sight, but one that works surprisingly well with the fruit adding a refreshing zing.

We tasted both frittatas. For meat lovers the lamb and spinach combo is wonderfully satisfying.

Coco Safar: lamb frittata

Lamb frittata with potato and citrus

Or there’s a meatless option – a mix of delicious roasted vegetables.

Coco Safar: Vegetable frittata

Zooming in on the vegetable frittata

Avocado on toast is one of my favourite breakfast treats and it’s frequently found on South African menus. Today’s dish had a little bit extra – tahini avo toast with a wonderful mix of mashed avocado topped with slices dipped in white and black sesame seeds. Lovely touch – I could eat this every day!

Coco Safar: avo on toast

Avo on toast taken to a new level

Coco Safar: Tahini avo toast

Close up on the tahini avo toast

And the cakes! Coco Safar describes itself as a couture patisserie inspired by the great French tradition of patisserie and viennoiseries. There’s a large display cabinet full of the most beautiful sweet treats you could imagine. They almost look too good to eat.

Coco Safar: Patisserie

Delectable sweet treats all in a row

Coco Safar: Patisserie

Delicacies almost too beautiful to eat

Time for tea

There’s also a wonderful tea selection. I loved the local rooibos infused with ginger and lemongrass. Served up again on one of their delightful little trays complete with a colourful egg timer to ensure optimum brewing.

Coco Safar: Rooibos

A vibrant cup of tasty rooibos

As well as being a comfortable and luxurious place to while away several hours tasting the wonderful array of beverages and food, Coco Safar also sells a range of coffee-shop related goodies. Including the the world’s first home compostable, oxygen tight BIO-CAPSULE so you’re won’t be creating mountains of rubbish with your home-made coffees. Gotta love that.

Coco Safar: entry

The stylish entry to Coco Safar

Coco Safar is in the Artem Centre at 277 Main Road, Sea Point, Cape Town.

It is open from 7am to 9pm weekdays, 8am to 9pm Saturdays and 8am to 6pm Sundays.

Our return visit to Beau Constantia

I rarely blog about a restaurant twice – especially when the visits have been so close together. But today I’m making an exception with a return lunch at Beau Constantia’s Chef’s Warehouse. We had a fabulous lunch there in January which you can read about here. Today it was time to celebrate Terry’s birthday with lunch on the terrace overlooking the glorious valley and I had to share these stunning pictures with you.

I love the concept – Tapas for 2 – eight delicious dishes served as three courses. No decision making and a chance to try everything. Here’s what we tucked into.

The cold seared tuna was served on top of Moroccan-spiced aubergine, fresh milk curd and toasted cashews. I do love a bit of seared tuna and todays offering went perfectly with the Moroccan spices and the different textures combined to make for a delightful plate.

Chef's Warehouse: tuna

The tastiest of tuna with Moroccan flavours

The line fish sashimi was served with BBQ pineapple atchar, fried onion and curry leaf crumb and coconut cream. I loved the delicate flavour of the onion and curry leaf crumb and the light-as-a-feather topper.

Chef's Warehouse

Yellowtail sashimi with delicate curry flavours

Beef tartare came with a chilli and Madagascan black pepper dressing and sourdough croutons. One of the best tartares ever – there were tiny pieces of avo and mushrooms in the meat and the croutons were so light and crispy. Also loved the porcini dust which finished the dish.

Chef's Warehouse: Beef tartare

The best beef tartare ever with hints of chilli and porcini

This place really knows how to make the perfect risotto! Last time it was mushroom, today we enjoyed a parsley risotto, with smoked bone marrow, salted lemon and pecan nut salsa and a red wine reduction. Spectacular! I loved its vibrant greenness and the hint of lemon from the salsa was a lovely surprise for the tastebuds.

Chef's Warehouse: risotto

Vibrant and comforting parsley risotto

My favourite dish of the day – the char grilled lamb rib was served topped with preserved tomato and Korean chilli dressing and with asiette of heirloom tomatoes and smoked milk ricotta. The lamb was slightly crisp and melt-in-the-mouth and the dressing added a real chilli kick. The tomatoes are always a joy at Chef’s Warehouse, today they had a wonderful smokiness and were topped with beautiful purple basil leaves.

Chef's Warehouse: lamb rib

My dish of the day: soft and crispy lamb rib

The flaky grilled hake came with a fried maize and ginger crumb, braised sushi rice and a toasted Szechuan and black pepper sauce. Beautifully sweet fish with a spiced sauce.

Chef's Warehouse: hake

Sweet and spicy, flaky hake

The char grilled springbok was rare and tender and served with smoked pear and garlic puree, pickled pear, burnt butter and cassia bark jus. Such an attractive plate of food – with an added delicacy of deep fried Brussesl sprouts – so yummy.

Chef's Warehouse: springbok

Beautifully tender local springbok

Our charming waitress, Jess, informed us that the Chef changes a few of the dishes every week. So after about three weeks it’s completely different. I’d better book to go back then – you do have to book quite a bit in advance. Well, it is officially the fourth-best restaurant in South Africa. And certainly my favourite.

It was lovely sitting on the terrace on a lovely, still day. It’s often windy in Cape Town which can limit your al fresco dining opportunities. What a valley view it is.

Chef's Warehouse: view

The beautiful view in blues and greens

Today’s price point

Tapas for 2 is R700 for two people.

Chef’s Warehouse is at Beau Constantia wine estate, Constantia