This is where you go to enjoy classic cuisine prepared by a master with a flawless, long-standing reputation in Cape Town. German-born Harald Bresselschmidt – who spent his childhood in the pastoral surrounds of a working dairy farm on the Belgian border – uses heady local truffles, sustainable fish and game meats in what is touted as ‘East-meets-West’ gastronomic fare. Inside a handsome building – situated off-street and dating back to 1830 – Aubergine, named after the versatile nightshade, caters to a mix of business folk, foreigners looking for a taste of the familiar, and the occasional, well-to-do family.
Expect mains and degustation dishes like hake with fresh turmeric and coriander; rabbit loin with liver and a tangy cherry guava sauce; ostrich fillet and sweetbreads; cured duck ham with a soft-poached egg; antelope with barberry jus; the signature, pillowy soufflé (now on the dessert menu) and a dessert called “a dialogue of rhubarb”. The chocolate fondant is masterful but the crème brûlée, served in a too-long vessel, is odd.
Many of the vegetables are grown in the restaurant’s organic garden in Stellenbosch. Both à la carte and tasting menus are paired with a phenomenal selection of wines. Some may find the foams and emulsions hark to French menus of the past while many will find the execution and presentation reassuringly familiar.
The wine list is a work of art, with natural and boutique options that are tough to source elsewhere. This bears testament to Bresselschmidt’s belief in wine complementing food – an essential element of Aubergine’s ethos. Pardon Taguzu is the head sommelier, offering impeccable, unpretentious advice. He’ll happily accommodate your preferences and budget.
From the moment you walk in, you’re welcomed warmly. Waitstaff can linger and appear surly if you don’t make a decision timeously.
There’s a hard-to-place, outdated Alpine feel with the yellowood and blonde elements, wooden sash windows and rattan chairs at closely-packed tables. It’s accompanied by low lighting in the evenings but appears more modern by day light.
There are private dining areas for celebrations away from the main restaurant section.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Bernadette le Roux
If there’s one thing you can be certain of at Aubergine, it’s consistency. Having first opened its doors in 1996, there’s not many a day here that chef-patron Harald Bresselschmidt is not in the kitchen. Although ingredients are of the highest standard, presentation harks back to days gone by with foams, smears, glass plates and doilies making guest appearances. This is one of the few restaurants in Cape Town where you will find not only abalone, which is sautéed and served with a squid-ink risotto and lemon-verbena emulsion, but also a caviar menu that comes with all the trimmings. A three-, four-, and five-course set tasting menu (each with or without wine pairings) is available and guests have the added advantage of being able to pick and choose between menus if a la carte is preferred. The menus do change but if you are lucky enough to find the cured and air-dried springbok with dark chocolate, quince and wild mushrooms, you won’t be disappointed. Handmade friandises served with coffee are a hero end to the meal.
The wine list is the highlight here. A veritable tome, it reads well with a huge selection of both local artisan wines and international choices that are housed in temperature and humidity-controlled cellars. There is something for everybody, but do be adventurous and try something new. The sommelier is both knowledgeable and helpful.
Service is outstanding with waiters, runners and sommeliers attending to your every need. There is good understanding of the various menus, excellent suggestions on wine parings and generally a fast and friendly bustle about the place.
Interiors are rather dated with heavy wood columns, alpine-esque wood ceilings, rattan-backed chairs and a mix of lighting from Asian to French. A roaring fireplace in winter saves the day, keeping it cosy and comfortable; and a glass-fronted wine cellar ups the ante giving the overall feel a slightly more modern edge. A garden terrace under palms is a good option for summer and a mezzanine inside for romantics.
Guests can purchase wines directly from Aubergine for their own home cellars.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.