A Travellerspoint blog

EPISODE FOUR: La Colombe Restaurant

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 decadenceDSCN0954.jpg
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.DSCN0920.jpg

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.DSCN0924.jpg

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.DSCN0926.jpg

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.DSCN0932.jpg

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.DSCN0925.jpg

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.DSCN0941.jpgDSCN0940.jpg

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.DSCN0936.jpg

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. DSCN0953.jpgDSCN0946.jpgDSCN0951.jpg

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.DSCN0956.jpg

Posted by L and H 06:54 Comments (0)

EPISODE THREE: Meet your travel angels

The mother city was waiting for us in all her glory. The sun was shining brightly the ocean sparkled and we were officially on holiday. Earlier that day we had some fantastic news our cabin on the cruise was upgraded free of charge and we now had a” wedding bed” (will soon find out what that entails) our travel angels were already hard at work.

Travel angels are amazing, magical creatures. We adore them and love the unexpected gifts they dish out or the tricks they play on us. They have an amazing sense of humour and just when you take yourself too seriously they are ready to intervene (sometimes seemingly at your expense but never to your disadvantage). So after a flight with a surprise roomy emergency seat allocation we are ready to collect our hired car.

“We have a free upgrade for you” the friendly lady at the rental agency says. Excellent we are on a roll. All excited we rush to our car, the angels have struck again: A tiny, little blue mobile is standing in our collection bay. Now, just to let you know lovey is a big guy, broad shoulders and long legs. The neighbours at the adjourning bay laugh. “ Are you gonna pick that up and carry it around?” Well we still fail to see how that was an upgrade; the joke is definitely on us! Tiny little blue mobile

Tiny little blue mobile

We persevere, off to our abode for the next two nights. A lovely guest house in a leafy suburb in Cape Town, we have stayed there before and always enjoy the extended estate with its little stream, willow trees in abundance and squirrels playing on the grass. The friendly staff informed us, when we booked, to just phone when we leave the airport and they will dispatch somebody to unlock and let us in. We do just that, the phone goes to an answering machine. Not deterred we phone the emergency number. It continues to ring and then divert back to the original answering machine message.

Still we express no concern, happily driving to the estate. Things look a bit darker when we get there. The gate is padlocked, not a soul in sight and the squirrels are grinning at us on the other side of the fence. We are now getting a bit warm under the collar. About an hour and a half and 52 phone calls later and we are still at dead man’s door. We have to make an executive travel call. Either we wait longer hence risking not having a place to sleep or we find a new place and demand a refund and apology later. We opt for the latter.

During most weekends Cape Town is booked to capacity. On a bright sunny day with nearly perfect weather everyplace we phone probably secretly laughs at us. “Sorry we are full” becomes the mantra for the day. However the angels have had enough fun at our expense, as we drive up a steep hill in Greenpoint a sign flashes: Rooms Available. A friendly you man from Zimbabwe show us the room, perfect, we take it and with a bit of negotiation we get a good local discount as well.

Still feeling a bit sorry for ourselves we head off to Cape Town’s city centre’s best kept secret. The Eastern Food Bazaar, situated in Darling street it is truly a darling find and heaven for spicy comfort food. With our tummies and souls soothed with a killer Masala Dosa (a thin savoury pancake like dish filled with spicy potatoes, accompanied by chilly and coconut dipping sauces.)

We are now ready to meet up with good friends (that also happen to be family) in the vibey Cape Quarter area for a night on the town. Quite a bit later after some wine, cocktails, good company and sushi at Beluga we wander the streets and share travel stories. As we turn a corner I am sure I see a subtle wink from a stranger. The travel angels are going to keep us busy this trip, we cannot wait to see what they have in store for us!

Travel : it is an investment in your spirit!

Posted by L and H 08:58 Comments (1)

EPISODE TWO: Packing, Preparations and Protests

I feel like a bride before her wedding day: Excited, nervous and a little bit scared. How the hell do you fit one month’s and four seasons worth of clothes into a suitcase that is just allowed to weigh 20 kg? Furthermore we have to accommodate four formal events and six different countries. Worst of all, what about the shoes_ you cannot separate a girl from her shoes like that, it is just not right!

Channelling Albert Einstein for some relativity theory advice I commence the packing proses. You see it is all a matter of choices. Is it relative that your warm jacket doesn’t match with the warm pair of shoes? (Hell yeah! - therefor take the blue jacket with as well). Would it be possible to leave behind some of your favourite designer’s dresses? (Easy answer, no, so they all came along Marianne, will be looking fabulous.) How cold is – 5 degrees really? (Sounds terrible, take another warm jacket).

A wonderful tool to investment in, which will assist in this complicated endeavour, is a traveller’s scale. It is like the magic 8 ball, you ask it a question and it gives you a very definite answer. So a good few hours later and with the scale determining how many pairs of shoes to include I am packed. With 19.6 kg feeling like the lotto numbers, we have a winner and can zip up and ship out! Good luck with the packing love, yes, you do need more than one pair of shoes and yes formal means a tie as well!

In the morning we will be flying to Cape Town, our good friend and neighbour will be taking us to the airport, so see you on the other side! Now where is that pink scarf I wanted to put in my hand luggage……?

Travel : it is an investment in your spirit!


Posted by L and H 23:28 Comments (0)

EPISODE ONE : The Preamble

It is probably every well-travelled adventure’s secret desire to do the famous Cape to Cairo trip. It is also on our” hundred things to do before you die” list. Today however, we are starting the countdown to a different kind of South to North expedition. Maybe a route less travelled. Possibly recalling voyages of a time gone by. Hopefully doing it in comfort and style. Definitely without the 4x4 and the hostile natives (although that is never something to take for granted!)

We will be embarking on a Trans – Atlantic cruise : departing from the Cape of Storms and ending the 18 day exploration in Genoa ( or Genova if you are Italian) Along the way we will be stopping at ports like Walvisbay, Namibia; Jamestown ,St Helena; Dakar, Senegal , the Canary islands , two ports in Spain and then spend time in Italy .Somewhere we will cross the equator, everywhere we will take lots of pictures and now and again we will update you on what we are doing and with whom!

The idea for the trip started when I tried to understand how to travel from South Africa to St Helena. It turns out the only way to reach the island is via the ocean. Very few cruise lines actually venture so far off the beaten track. The most regular one being the RMS St Helena (an active royal mail ship) but with a price tag unfortunately in British Pounds. So it was with a pleasant surprise that I discovered that the MSC Melody makes this stop as well, once a year on her northbound repositioning to the motherland Italia!

Fortuitously this ticket is payable in South African Rands and if you book long in advance you get a pretty discount. So with our passports - all decked out in Schengen visas (just got then today from the Italian embassy). Our car hire and accommodation sorted for Cape Town and Italy, my Italian lessons coming nicely along ( I can now say car, truck and motorcycle as well as big , small , white, brown and green!). Flight to Cape Town and return flights from Milan via Doha booked. We seem to be ready. Packing still has to happen and I might devote a whole episode to that since we are going from 40 degrees Celsius to minus 5 degrees with snow and a 23 kg luggage limit! (courtesy of Qatar airways)

Signing off for Milnerton to Milan Adventures, till we meet again.

The answer is simple: Travel – it is an investment in your spirit!

Posted by L and H 12:44 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

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