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.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.
In 2016 La Colombe cracked the list of the top 100 restaurants in the world, confirming what its many fans already know: Dining here is a special, singular experience.
To start, you’re invited to tear open sourdough rolls and lather them with virgin butter, pickled fish and bonemarrow served in a dish reminiscent of a cross-section of bone, with the matching texture and pure-white hue. It’s a humble-seeming but complex beginning to a meal that will become more precise and pitch-perfect as it rolls towards completion.
Another amuse-bouche, the Garden, is a dainty phyllo log filled with onion gel, tartare and edible flowers that look almost too beautiful to bite. The serving tray is a flower box, sporting smooth pebbles and a real little baby-leaf plant.
Next is a West Coast oyster with apple, caviar, kalamansi and a light soy dressing. It’s transportive; you won't want it to end, but you might be forgiven for taking the cue of the shell-like crockery and tilting it back to sip that last splash of sea-tasting sauce.
Tuna La Colombe is the one thing head chef Scot Kirton is unable to take off the menu – and for good reason. It's a play on a tin can with seared tuna tataki, dots of avo purée, ginger and a poached quail’s egg. The colours, textures and flavours play together beautifully. It remains a knockout.
An Asian-style steamed pork bun is fun, and offers a nice rich and fatty mouthful of pork to balance out all the seafood freshness so far.
Then comes a seared scallop – so tender, so beautifully browned – with a little lollipop quail leg, deboned wing and breast, and a pool of sensational parsnip purée with braaied corn – sweet and popping in your mouth – and wilted bok choi. It arrives with a ‘bird’s nest’, an artful couple of feathers and a little quail eggshell from which you can dot teriyaki onto your plate. Not that the dish needs it – the flavours are concentrated and intense.
The alternative is Norwegian salmon with king crab, blood orange, melon and wood sorrel, but how could you forgo ordering the scallop again next time? Whoever did it the other way around probably feels the same…
The palate cleanser’s simple designation of Granny Smith on the menu belies the theatre it delivers. Two ice lollies emerge from a cloud of dry ice, standing to attention in a bowl of stones and pebbles. Lean in and you can hear the bubble and crackle beneath the surface. It’s a multi-sensory delight.
For mains, you might select the Chalmar beef (substitute Wagyu for R150 supplement) with langoustine, sticky and pungent oxtail, and peas. Chef James Gaag comes to finish the meat off over a single hot coal at the table, and dress the dish with golden mustardy jus from a dainty copper pot. A thrilling experience.
While vegetarians will miss out on the rich stocks, broths and reductions that bring most of the other dishes together, they will be pleased with the gorgeous beetroot risotto with creamy burrata and sage-burned butter, and the golden herb gnocchi with gorgonzola and butternut.
For dessert, you can choose between two more unusual options. The Three Ages of Boerenkaas comes in whorls and shapes with onion, quince, and walnut-and-cumin ice cream. If you have more of a sweet tooth, go for the Valrhona Azélia cremeux with Jerusalem artichoke ice cream (pickled from chef James’s family garden and roasted with hand-crafted balsamic from Protea Hill in Stellenbosch), grapefruit cubes and hazelnut crumbs. It’s vivid, enthralling and interesting in the best possible sense of the word. Every bite draws you in with its intricacy and uniqueness of tastes: earthy, nutty, salty, bitter and sweet.
The rock-like petit fours look unusual – on a bed of dark crumbs – but they deliver a very satisfying sweet kick in the form of hazelnut squares with popping candy, salted-caramel truffles and blueberry muffins.
The wine list is sectioned into offerings by the glass, méthode champenoise, red, white, fine and rare, old world (Burgundy and Rhone), and dessert wines. If you’re not going to indulge, spring for a non-alcoholic cocktail made with fresh fruit. The Yirgacheffe coffee experience is fun for lovers of the bean.
Numerous faces will come into focus during the course of the lunch as the team discreetly clears dishes and replaces cutlery. Dedicated waiters look after glasses and keep you entertained. They take their cue from your mood, knowing when to crack a joke or leave you to your savouring. This faultless service garnered them the 2016 Eat Out Nespresso Service Excellence Award.
Having a table up against the glass windows is a real treat in winter. The blue gums and pine trees in the valley and beyond glisten with silver in the sunlight, and across the vineyards you might spy a chicken dust-bathing in the afternoon beams. In summer, the glass windows doors are flung open to let the forest air in. As for décor, it’s as subtle and soft as La Colombe’s namesake, the dove, with touches of feathery white and grey and dark beams inside.
Do go visit Foxcroft, the new venture down the road by Scot Kirton and Glen Williams, which won the 2016 Eat Out Retail Capital New Restaurant of the Year.
Eat Out critics arrive unannounced and pay their way in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Eat Out Chef of the Year Scot Kirton is a master at plating pretty food, and at his new venue in the Silvermist Wine Estate, he’s also taking the opportunity to experiment and add a playful touch. Your first surprise comes in a little can – lift the lid to find a Lilliputian seared tuna tataki inside, their signature dish. Served with spelt-and-oat bread, and olive-parmesan bread sticks with herbed butter, it’s a sophisticated delight. Other starters might be dishes like a hen’s egg with poached salmon, asparagus velouté, peas and black forest ham; and the undeniably delicious Farmer Angus beef tataki and tartare with coriander mousse, black pepper puff and soft-poached quail’s eggs. Moving on to mains, the fillet of beef is done perfectly and served with fondant potatoes, caramelised onions and rich roasted cloves of garlic, with a smear of porcini and tarragon purée. An open vegetable lasagne is an unexpected hit, delivering tenfold in terms of taste expectations. Tender sheets of saffron pasta overlay pillows of spinach, all put to bed with a gorgonzola béchamel. Pastry chef Glen Williams flexes his imagination in the dessert department with a dish of ginger curd, cashew cake, mango sorbet, black sesame brittle and buttermilk. The chocolate namelaka (the creamiest mousse conceivable) with stracciatelle ice cream and raspberries provides a flawless ending.
For a lingering lunch, why not order from a handful of wines by the carafe? You won’t be overwhelmed with information on the page, but the sommelier is happy to explain and assist with suggestions.
Staff are friendly and chatty, but still extremely professional. It seems casual, yet is anything but.
Simply spectacular. Making use of cool whites and its namesake colour of dove grey, the restaurant is like a modern lodge perched on the side of the mountain. Throughout the restaurant you can soak up views of the Constantia valley. It’s relaxed, yet ultra elegant.
As you ascend the winding road on Silvermist estate, time seems to slow down. At each bend, as the city tilts away beneath you, you rise to new heights of quiet anticipation. There’s a reason you feel this way – you’re on top of a mountain and about to dine at the new incarnation of La Colombe, frequent contender on our Top 10 list and no stranger to S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
As anyone who’s visited the ‘old’ La Colombe will know, chef Scot Kirton is a master at plating pretty food. While the starter and mains have many familiar elements ¬– no doubt to appease seasoned fans who might shy away from anything too conceptual – Scot takes the opportunity to be playful with his amuse-bouche, palate cleaner and desserts.
Your first surprise comes in a little can – lift the lid to find a Lilliputian seared tuna tataki inside. It’s a treat alongside freshly baked spelt-and-oat bread, and olive-parmesan bread sticks with herbed butter.
If you’d prefer to sidestep the foie-gras for starters, your options might be a hen’s egg with poached salmon, asparagus velouté, peas and black forest ham; a dish of tender scallops and barbecue pork with kimchi, deeply sweet and smoky aubergine, sweetcorn and a squiggle of crackling; and the undeniably delicious Farmer Angus beef tataki and tartare with coriander mousse, a black pepper puff and soft-poached quail’s eggs.
While we wait for our mains, the palate cleansers arrive on a bed of pebbles – not edible, we are reminded by the waitress. (It seems some diners have been a little too adventurous.) They’re a revelation, though: globes of cocoa butter melt in the mouth to release a fresh burst of citrus on the tongue.
For mains, we avoid ordering the SASSI orange-listed kingklip* despite the tempting description: miso-glazed, it’s served with smoked chickpea, potato and sweetcorn purée, and coconut and lemongrass velouté.
The fillet of beef, however, does not disappoint, done perfectly and served with fondant potatoes, caramelised onions and rich roasted cloves of garlic, with a smear of porcini and tarragon purée. Sure to be a crowd pleaser.
An open vegetable lasagne is one of the day’s unexpected hits, delivering tenfold my taste expectations. Tender sheets of saffron pasta overlay pillows of spinach, all put to bed with a gorgonzola béchamel. The simple description belies its rich complexity – you’ll have to order it yourself.
Pastry chef Glen Williams flexes his imagination in the dessert department with his dish of ginger curd, cashew cake, mango sorbet, black sesame brittle and buttermilk. It may not sound instantly appealing, but your curiosity will be generously rewarded. The more clear-cut choice of chocolate namelaka (the creamiest mousse conceivable) with stracciatelle ice cream and raspberries provides a flawless ending.
(Meal options include à la carte lunch, four-course dinner for R485 per person, or the gourmand dinner for R685 per person, or R950 with wine.)
For a lingering lunch, why not order from a handful of wines by the carafe, including a delicious fruity Normandie Karen Rosé from Franschhoek, and the unusual and slightly sweet Cederberg Bukketraube. You won’t be overwhelmed with information on the page, but the sommelier is happy to explain and assist with suggestions.
While the staff are friendly and chatty, they still observe all the formalities you’d expect from a restaurant of this calibre. Your napkin is whipped up into a pretty whirl if you step away from the table, your glass is topped up and wine kept chilled in a nearby ice bucket, and cutlery replaced discreetly when necessary. It seems casual, yet is anything but.
Simply spectacular. Making use of cool whites and its namesake colour of dove grey, the new restaurant is like a modern lodge perched on the side of the mountain. A shaded deck and umbrella-shaded courtyard are first-prize spots on a summer’s afternoon, but throughout the restaurant you can soak up views of the Constantia valley. It’s relaxed, yet ultra elegant.
If you’re lucky you’ll get salted caramel truffles among your petit fours in the custom-made box lined with cool, dark stones. (But you’ve been warned: don’t eat the rocks!)
I cannot believe La Colombe has been 'discarded' from the Eat Out Top 10! I'm absolutely shocked and appalled! Judges obviously forgot to visit this wonderful slice of Heaven... No need for me to describe any of the meals I have had the pleasure of having there, as I'm sure many of the readers/bloggers have already experienced the same feelings for themselves; if not, then you're missing out! Well done to Luke and The Test Kitchen, great work!
We had the most amazing meal at La Colombe. It was lunch time (they were fully booked for dinner more than a month ago when I made the reservation). Service was outstanding as always. Food was definitely the best I ever had in Cape Town. And it is on par with anything in Europe (3 star Michelin restaurants included). The springbok starter was beautifully presented amazing flavours, nothing could have been done better. Thank you La Colombe for keep your quality and high standards. Any new buyer of the Uitsig farm that even slightly consider to close down this restaurant would have to be mad and really brainless.
What can I say? La Colombe you beaut.
A few weeks ago, when planning my girlfriend's birthday lunch I was left with a tricky decision... Where do I take her? Which restaurant in Cape town has elegance, class and leaves you with a feeling that you didn't just eat at a restaurant? But rather that you just experienced something truly majestic. Well La Colombe was clearly the first to pop into my head. I haven't been since Luke Dale-Roberts left so with the exciting anticipation of the unknown I booked a table for the two of us. From the minute we arrived I was in awe of the famous service and attention to detail every patron receives. Our waitress, Rebecca was on top form all afternoon, the manager, Andrew, whom I had never met spoke to us in such a warm manner I felt as though he had known us for years. The Barman, James was kind enough to offer us a tasting of whiskey and made for us literally the best coffee I have ever had. A true barrister. One of the other waiters, Dale, was incredibly charming and knowledgeable about the history of the farm. Just when I thought it couldnt get better, A birthday plate was brought out with happy birthday Kristal written on it in dark chocolate. La Colombe from the bottom of my heart, thank you for creating not only a special day for both me and my girlfriend but also for reviving in me the belief that some restaurants do still get the right things right.
What an exceptional evening! La Colombe presented a real sensory experience for my husband and I. The winter menu was ideal for the season. It warmed up our bodies as well as our souls. I loved every dish that was presented to us. This restaurant was the highlight of my trip to the Western Cape and has created another wonderfull memory for my husband and me. Thank you, La Colombe.
Amazing food! Service! Everything was just incredible. Loved how the waitress describes each item on the menu on a big board in front of your table! Nice touch!
The third and last restaurant on our weekend of food. Similarly, a near perfect chef's tasting menu, and probably the most interesting wines in the pairing. Service (in spite of a confirmation of 3 persons the previous day, we were met with a table set for 2) ever so slightly less "real" than the other two restaurants, but no less professional, if a bit over-enthusiastic.
The 8-course tasting menu also brilliant (especially the duck and pork dishes), and probably the most interesting wines and best pairing of the trip.
A culinary feast with superb service in a most pleasant ambience. Many small details that added to the pleasure to dine. Very knowledgeable and friendly staff. Great value for money.
Having last visited in 2010 when we got engaged, I was worried about our anniversary meal today when I knew it has lost it's top restaurants in the world ranking, the chef had changed and I read the earlier today reviews. All I can say was those reviews were wrong. We had a fantastic meal and the service was excellent and at just the right pace. Sommelier knowledge pushed us towards new interesting wines which were gorgeous. Fantastic experience and well worth the money.
What a fabulous place to have an intimate meal that is well thought-out and made with great skill and passion. The waitrons are knowledgeable and customer-focused. We will definitely return to La Colombe.
Back to its best, new chef has found his feet and new tasting menu was the best experience wife and I have had in South Africa - highly recomended.
Food may be top dollar for Cape Town, but certainly excellent food and wine! Delightful!
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 offers 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 are 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.
Pretentious best describes our meals!
6 of us ate at La Colombe last night. Although the service at the table was good, we waited a very long time for our food to arrive, in fact getting through 2 bottles of wine before our starters had arrived. We were all a little disappointed with our meals. The men ordered the suckling pig thinking it would be a nice substantial meal, it arrived looking like Alice in Wonder land's tea party and was mostly unrecognisable! Vegetables are virtually non existent. We all left feeling really hungry. A pity, we were all so looking forward to eating here.
The food at La Colombe is nothing short of sublime. What could have been a somewhat tedious work dinner ended up being an altogether stunning evening. Although restricted (due to the size of our group), the menu was interesting and the service was impeccable. I shall definitely return – one of the gems of Cape Town.
About 30 years, I found myself at the Georges Cinq in Dinard at the birth of "nouvelle cuisine". It was wonderful unlike SA'a pale imitations. We paid at La Colombe a fortune for food which was pretentious but no big deal like fish, quite well done, with a sauce which I am fairly certain I could have lashed using Bovril, cornflour, salt and sauce powder. None of our party were hugely impressed and the general verdict was that we would have done better at the Wild Fig.
We had lunch at La Colombe yesterday. I went with some reservation having been disappointed when I last ate there about 3 years ago. The service was superb (well done Amber - your knowledge of the dishes and pleasant manner are to be commended), the food interesting and very tasty with wonderful presentation, ambience was good and the cloakrooms without fault. Having eaten at Overture and Jordan in the past 10 days I have to say you win hands down on all scores in my book. Well done.
After an absence of some time, I lunched at La Colombe. An outstanding tasting menu by talented chef Scot Kirton. The staff are friendly and informed and Luci who served our table had an outstanding knowledge of the wines and the various ingredients that made up the different courses we enjoyed.
Three of us had the most wonderful food, wine, service and ambience ever! They eat out all over the world and agreed this was the best! My favorite is the scallops and pork belly. The peanut butter dessert is orgasmic!
Top in most ways!
Simply the best food in Africa! Such passion and dedication for food. Thank you for the most amazing Sunday lunch!
The only restaurant I know that is superb on every level and every occasion. Brilliant!
My wife and I enjoyed a superb lunch in May - my taste buds were exhausted! Great food and service. Dale who?