Coming in at number seven in the Top 10 this year, La Colombe continues to surprise and delight. Chefs Scot Kirton, James Gaag and their team are pulling out all the stops to wow diners with theatrical touches and, in some instances, high drama. But if you’re a more reserved fine diner, fear not: flavour remains top of the list of priorities.
The first clue that things are getting a little fantastical comes at the entrance: guests are invited to pick an apple off a groomed landscape. The waxy sphere pops open, gushing sweet-and-sour apple juice.
At the table, the bread arrives with flair. Instead of demure pats of butter, a piping hot plate is laid on the table, smeared with lamb fat, dukkha, and hemp. The hot rolls, rubbed in this dripping, are lip-smackingly good.
Next, a statement of intention: beneath morsels of king crab and dollops of yuzu gel is a smooth film of lime-green asparagus mousse. As you gobble it up, a message is revealed beneath: “Food is our theatre. We hope you enjoy the show.”
The tinned tuna remains on the menu, encased in a lookalike tuna tin. The mini world of fresh tuna, with its micro-herbs and perfect dollops of purée is as fresh, sweet and perfectly resolved as ever.
The springbok dish, which comes in a beautifully carved wooden bowl, creates a similarly magical world: a paper-thin sheet of brik pastry, dusted red, and decorated with petals and tiny sprouts, conceals a mini wonderland. Underneath, the rich flavours of miso and chestnut blend with the sweetness of orange. And, somewhere amongst it all, is the most succulent morsels of springbok. It’s a triumph of a dish: scrumptious, beautiful and thoroughly memorable.
If you’re accustomed to La Colombe’s more sedate past, the Enchanted Forest course will come as a surprise. The most theatrical of all the courses, it’s an experience that will thrill some – and turn off others.
When you return to your table, the white tablecloth will be gone, replaced by a cattle skin – the prelude to the two Wagyu beef dishes. The first arrives on a marrow bone that would make Fred Flintstone proud. The tiny tasters of Wagyu bone marrow, truffle and pickled fish perched on the bones are a rather powerful reminder of the meaning of eating meat. Then there’s a char siu Wagyu dish, with a beautiful bisque, bok choy, corn and kimchi.
The cheese course features a rooibos ice cream, with the lovely sweetness of caramel, a sago puff and a cheese catalan, while the sweet option subtly brings together light flavours of rose, strawberry, white chocolate and geranium.
The final touch of theatre comes in the form of a taste test – five treats, which each represent one of the key flavours. Your palate is to do the work – it should by now be wide awake.
Sommelier Joseph Dhafana has a wonderful manner and will adapt his service to your level of wine knowledge and interest. Not interested in doing a full pairing? He can also recommend one glass to take you through all the courses.
White walls, wooden decking, white tablecloths and grey chairs leave a blank canvas for the food to glow. By day, it’s light and bright; by night, it’s slightly hushed. But, thanks to the various elements of drama, the quiet is now broken by delighted laughter. As for the enchanted garden, that’s something else entirely.
The team took the honours in previous years for service excellence, so rest assured you’re in good hands. The well-trained and -managed wait staff serves carefully and confidently. Unfortunately, telephonic communication can be less smooth.
A reduced menu is available at lunch.