La Colombe is the number 10 restaurant on the Eat Out magazine’s top ten list for 2012. Yet this restaurant with its French Asian fusion focus has been on this list more than most restaurants in South Africa. Situated on the Constantia Uitsig wine estate it personifies absolute wine land decadence
We have booked for a lazy Sunday lunch slot. The facade of the restaurant seems mediocre until you step through the white French doors into the courtyard. A little splash pond greets you with intimate table settings in secluded corners and passages. This must be a magical setting at night with fairy lights adoring every tree. We are seated in a romantic spot under a white canvas umbrella with gravel underfoot and a crisply dressed white round table awaits the afternoon’s feast.
Our lovely hostess Jeanette overs us an aperitif, the local bubbly from the Uitsig estate is refreshing on the warm summer day. Like a well-oiled machine we are visited by various co- hosts and a very knowledgeable wine steward. We now have olive and sundried tomato bread, a surprise complementary tapas selection from the chef and the menu on a chalk board and an easel. We are ready for the next act!
While perusing the mouth-watering menu, eloquently explained by Jeanette, we sample the dainty tapas selection. The slither of Beef Carpaccio rolled around shiitake mushrooms melts in your mouth; the mini Caramelized Onion Tartlet with goat’s cheese looks as if it is made by the fairies and the ingenious Tom Guy Thai soup served with a prawn and chestnut is presented in a hollow egg shell.
This truly sets the scene for things to come. Attention to detail is the name of the game and flavours and textures are combined to cause taste explosions. The menu is not elaborate and thank fully so, everything begs to be tried out and we chose a selection that speaks to our senses.
Accompanying our sparkling wine we start off with some oysters all the way from Saldanah Bay they are poached in a champagne veloute and are served in the shell and topped with the optional osietra caviar. To save space we share the Trout Sous Vide sourced locally in the neighbouring Franschhoek this is served with confit nicola potatoes, tomatoes and shallots, lime marmalade and fennel foam. Everything is presented with flair and a personal touch.
Our neighbours are celebrating a birthday and decide to light up cigarillos during the meal- we are very pleasantly surprised that the floor hostess asks them to refrain as this is not a smoking area even though it is outside as non-smokers we applaud this and thank Dr Zuma silently for wonderful smoking laws in South Africa.
We take a break with a palate cleanser, the choices being granny smith granita with Pimms jellies or pineapple granita with Malibu jellies. Both very refreshing, though the pineapple is defiantly for the sweeter tooth. Now on to the main courses. The options definitely has something for every palate, there is Springbok medallions , the line fish today is Kabeljou, vegetarians can opt for the Wild Mushroom Spring Roll and the unique Veal ‘La Colombe is a fillet of veal served with a steamed langoustine.
Being a pescatarian myself I decide to have my monthly dose of iron and is not disappointed with the Grilled Fillet of Chamber Beef served on a bed of fine green beans with crisp potato basket filled with braised oxtail topped with baked potato and horse radish foam, wild mushrooms and a to die for black pepper and truffle café au lait. Hubby chooses the Suckling Pig; this will put any Sunday roast to shame. Confit belly and shoulder, sous vide loin and rump as well as braised cheek with caramelized apple and turnip spring roll. Beetroot dauphinoise, onion and sage puree, creamed leeks and a Calvados jus complete the dish.
We take a substantial breather before we even consider dessert. It is a lazy Sunday lunch after all and the surrounds is peaceful and tranquil to support this. A stroll around the gardens or stretching under a pine tree is just the thing to create an appetite for the sweets menu, which we have glimpsed at other tables. Again the chalk board and easel appears and the show must go on.
Dessert arrives with the usual panache. The Rose and Coconut Pannacotte is as pretty as a picture with cashew pebbles, orange and orange flower yoghurt, lime syllabub, rose foam and the tiniest rose meringues as garnish. The Smoke Chocolate Torte is rolled in coffee and hazelnut crumble, with Hennessey marshmallows, hazelnut covered meringues, blue berries, tobacco salted caramel sauce and hazelnut semi-frodo.
However it doesn’t end here. A selection of petit fours arrive compliments of the chef with the rose Turkish delight and truffle filled with salted caramel a personal favourite. In addition there are cinnamon marshmallows as well as madeleines and delicate coffee meringues. We select the caramel rooibos tea to accompany this mini feast and smiles in acknowledgement to our French neighbour that says he comes here frequently especially for the petit fours.
Sadly the gastronomic extravaganza must end and we have to say our good byes. A quick stop at the wine shop on the estate ensures that we can take a little bit of the La Colombe experience home. With the Uitsig bubbles in the fridge it will remind us to later unpack and reminisce the amazing memories of an afternoon well spent.