Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
Reviewed by Tracy Gielink
Marcelle Roberts’s contemporary interpretation of Mediterranean flavours remains relevant more than a decade later, and Café 1999 is still a hedonistic haven for vegetarians. The menu (divided into titbits and big bits) encourages communal eating, with dishes like figs stuffed with gorgonzola, wrapped in parma ham and served with toasted baguette and basil pesto. The grilled prawns with chorizo, saffron aioli, red pepper and cherry tomato salsa are appealing. The chicken livers done with bacon, garlic and chilli in a creamy tomato sauce make for a heartier starter.
There is much praise for the grilled calamari served on a Vietnamese rice noodle salad with carrot, mint, cucumber, avocado and cashew nuts, and the cognoscenti are well aware of the magic Marcelle works with line fish. As for desserts: indulge in the triple-chocolate brownie served with a white chocolate and honeycomb mousse and white chocolate and poppy seed ice cream – they’re glorious.
The impeccable array is as thoughtfully constructed as the menu. It's quality- rather than cost conscious (although there are good-value options) and offers benchmark and boutique local wines. There is a stronger representation of white wines and a digestif selection.
Waiters are friendly and take service very seriously – they are erudite, insightful and adept at talking you through the nuances of dishes and recommending wines, so make full use of their considerable knowledge.
Simplicity doesn’t translate into starkness. The compact restaurant offers tables bedecked in white linen finery, but otherwise it has a modern, organic feel with wood-clad walls, a collection of horns, and delicious monster leaves recreated as leather light fittings.
If you’ve feeling festive after eating, move on to Unity Bar, which is in the same building and shares the same owners.