La Tête in Cape Town may be known for its nose-to-tail philosophy (and delicious pigs’ tails, chicken livers and ox hearts), but its fans will attest to the appeal of everything on the menu. The plain name of one of our favourite dishes belies its layers of flavour and quality of ingredients. It’s simple, smart cooking. Meet the fish sandwich.
A golden piece of fried fish, flaky inside and crispy outside, on a bed of eggy caper mayo business, all sandwiched together between two slices of nutty sourdough bread. The fish sandwich is off-the-charts tangy and delicious.
Its creator, chef Giles Edwards, explains the history of the dish thus: “During my 13 years in London I travelled extensively. Istanbul was one of my favourite places and anyone who’s been there is sure to have had the midnight snack of a fish sandwich on the Bosphorus River.
“Basically, the locals cast nets into the river and pull up tiny sardine-like fish. They deep fry them as is, and sandwich them between white government bread. That’s it! At two in the morning they are amazing.”
Back in Cape Town, Giles says one of his favourite things is fish and chips at Hout Bay Harbour or Snoekies. “So my sandwich really brings those two worlds together.”
The elements of the open sandwich are simple: deep-fried fish, watercress, home-made tartare sauce, and a lightly pickled red onion on beautiful crusty sourdough.
“We get all our fish from Southern Cross seafood,” explains Giles. “It’s essential that it is sustainable and on the SASSI green list.” At the moment the fish for the sandwich is hake, but it has also previously been angelfish. The fish is lightly salted, dipped in beer batter and then deep fried. Giles tends to use the tails, so that determines how many he can serve for the day, and whether or not it’s on the menu.
“We do bake our own sourdough for the dinner service, but currently use Woodstock Bakery sourdough for the sandwich, which is perfect. It has a great crust and is perfect for what we want.”
The La Tête tartare sauce calls for plenty of hard-boiled eggs, home-made mayonnaise, capers, parsley, dill and chopped cornichons (French pickled gherkins). “It could be a sandwich filler itself,” says Giles. Quite right.
The final addition is a sprinkling of tangy red onion. “I love vinegar in my food, and the quick pickle of the red onions is so effective.”
“The sandwich will set you back 110 ront,” says Giles, “which is fair, as it is almost enough for two.” It’s only available during lunch time and is not always featured on the menu. Hold thumbs.
If it’s not a fish sandwich day, never fear. You’ll find a number of other options on the daily menu, such as lamb chops with pearl barley and green sauce, crispy duck and radishes, devilled chicken hearts, and pork rillettes.