So April in Cape Town is autumn and conversations are punctuated with gloomy statements like “winter’s on its way”; “I can’t believe summer was over so quickly” and “it’s time to hibernate”. As someone who lives mostly in England and has experienced proper Northern European winters I’m (probably annoyingly) gung ho about the autumn weather in Cape Town.
Then suddenly the temperature plummeted, it was actually cold at night and, horror of horrors, you couldn’t eat al fresco anymore. I think the contrast between the perfection of summer and the reality of winter is so stark that it makes it even harder to cope with.
But then the most amazing thing happened…for four perfect days it was summer again. Actually, it was better than summer because it was unexpected. And there’s something sensational about the light in April if it’s sunny. Everything looks so perfectly clear it takes your breath away. Okay, so if all of this isn’t good enough to be going on with, it so happened that on one of these unexpectedly awesome days we headed off to Constantia Uitsig for lunch.
Uitsig is one of three restaurants on the Constantia Uitisig estate in the beautiful Constantia valley. As soon as you turn into the estate and slowly drive your way through the vines, showing off with a background of mountains and perfect azure sky, your mind shifts into paradise gear. And this is even before you’ve got to the restaurant.
Uitsig opened in 1992 and is housed in the original Cape Dutch homestead. Head chef Clayton Bell’s philosophy is “Don’t over-complicate food and don’t mess with good quality ingredients”. The menu has a Mediterranean Provencal flavour and takes some poring over…a word of advice, don’t pore over it with too much concentration as there are a long list of specials that are beautifully described. Iif you’ve focused and been decisive about what you want, you’ll end up totally confused. Well, we all did anyway. I can tell you it took a lot of endeavour to come to the decision of what to eat. Here’s what we chose.
This is my favourite foodie photo of the year (so far)…a spectacular tomato tart that really couldn’t be simpler and or more bursting with flavour. A tomato tart with a puff pastry base with fontina cheese, dijon mustard, fresh basil and sundried tomato paste.
I chose the fish carpaccio. Soft food that melted in the mouth with a wonderful Asian-style dressing. The small mound of sticky rice in the centre is such a clever addition as it means you can mop up every bit of the sauce. I’m loving the dappled sunshine!
Fresh mussels in a beautiful sauce, topped with perfect buttery pastry.
Total tomato heaven, the Bocconcini salad again couldn’t be simpler or taste better. Buffalo Mozarella tossed with cocktail tomatoes with fresh basil, olive oil and minced garlic
One of the specials of the day, a concoction of livers in an amazing sauce, again topped with that tasty pastry.
On to mains. Catch of the day was our favourite fish…kingklip. Pesce al forna con erbe aromatiche: Kingklip baked in the oven with sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary, mint, garlic, butter and white wine served with garlic and parsley mash. LIght and aromatic with a fabulous herby mix.
Another special of the day. Certainly one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten, and the same can be said of the mushroom sauce.
A classic Italian veal dish, perfectly executed. Veal saltimbocca alla Romana: Tender veal escalopes with parma ham and sage
A luscious rack of lamb with a velvety sauce.
Desserts, and it was time for two classics for the table.
Of course, I couldn’t resist the cheese. Oh, and did I mention it was my birthday? The chef wished me happy birthday in chocolate on my cheese plate!
To extend our lunch we tucked into a bottle of the amazing dessert wine Vin de Constance. Napoleon loved it, Bismarck drank it and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens wrote about it in their novels. And we love it too, thank you Candy.
What can I say? For an autumn day this will go down in history…we just didn’t want to drag ourselves away. We ate outside overlooking the vineyards, here’s our view.
Find out more at www.constantiauitsig.com