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There’s a hard-to-place, outdated Alpine feel with the yellowood and blonde elements, wooden sash windows and rattan chairs at closely-packed tables.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.
Celebrating twenty years at the helm in 2016, chef patron Harald Bresselschmidt has made his restaurant one of the Cape’s top gastronomic destinations. His menus showcase signature South African ingredients, applying classic French technique with a contemporary Asian spin to bring out the yin and the yang on the plate. A perfectionist, he combines seasonal flavours and textures in a subtle way, creating dishes where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts - and always in perfect harmony. Start with duck ham with savoury grape strudel or a composition of three textures of fish, move onto mains of trio of Karoo lamb and finish with a legendary chocolate fondant. The main ingredient is always the star – enhanced by exotic dressings, garnishes, pastes and sauces. Expect an earthy accent from offal (lamb kidneys, sweetbreads and liver) to venison and rabbit. Vegetarians are spoiled by gourmet compositions such as the signature aubergine soufflé, (and?) caciotta ravioli, a potpourri of vegetables scented with Kalahari truffle from the restaurant’s own Stellenbosch garden.
An award-winning wine-list tempts with top champagnes, MCC, German Rieslings, rare vintages and chef’s own Aubergine house wines specially chosen to complement the cuisine.
Top-notch, from the sommelier’s advice on food and wine pairings to professional service from knowledgeable servers.
Intimate and sophisticated, in a 1830’s townhouse with sash windows and warm wooden floors and tables transformed into a contemporary space of chic textures.
Pick a table to match the season and your mood – on the garden terrace under the palms, on the romantic mezzanine level, the annexe or the plush main dining room.
Harald Bresselschmidt has been satisfying diners at his restaurant for almost 18 years and of an evening you can still find the place full of people, even in the dead of winter. And with very good reason – the cuisine is great to look at and even better to eat, with no tricky edges or precious innovations.
The ham hock terrine, wrapped in pancetta and served with shredded cabbage salad and small slices of marinated quince, is delicious and light. The aubergine soufflé, their signature dish, filled with marinated chèvre, still has its devotees after all these years. A fish strudel, very delicately wrapped in pastry and served with crème fraîche and sauerkraut, showed well the German origins of this kind of cooking.
As for sweets, the pumpkin soufflé, made with pumpkin oil and served with ginger ice cream and a Cape fortified sauce, is an irresistable dessert and reveals itself to be quite an elegant confection for such a humble vegetable. Another favourite here is the crème brûlée done two ways, cardamom and vanilla served side by side with a scoop of sorbet.
They offer a spectacular, award-winning list featuring 38 German rieslings, 16 French pinot noirs, 4 Pol Rogers, even Krug Champagne, and fabulous local wonders like a 1984 Alto Rouge. House wines by Teddy Hall, Bruwer Raats and Eben Sadie are available by the carafe.
The service is about as smooth as it gets, with a sommelier to see you through the wine list.
This historic old house, which used to be the home of the first Chief Justice of the Cape, dates back to 1830 and is packed with character. A mezzanine area for more secluded dining overlooks the main room. In summer the garden is a favourite with regulars.
The menu changes regularly and seasonally.
Horst FrehseClassic fine dining in the Cape Town city centre, with an exceptional winelist and professional sommelier at hand. It’s great in summer to have the aperitif outside in the quiet courtyard. Visit for a blow-the-budget special occasion and order the East meet West Seafood or the quail coq au vin. (July 2013)
Jane BroughtonA classic restaurant in a quirky old building in the centre of the city, still doing classic food paired to exceptional wines. Newcomers may come and go, but Aubergine has remained firmly on the fine dining scene – one of few to weather both fashion and economic change. Recommended for a romantic date and order the delicious dishes featuring aubergine, ranging from a delicate soufflé to rolled shoulder of lamb. (July 2013)
The winter special was a bit disappointing, the wine pairings were cheap and cheerful and they only give you a tiny glass. The starters and main courses were excellent though, but the cheese platter in place of a dessert was pretentious and too busy and had too much going on, on the plate.
Very extensive wine list - I was most impressed. The service levels were top class and very friendly. The meals - an acquired taste is required.
It is interesting that all the unfavourable comments seem to have disappeared from their site. I spoke to guests who ate here on Saturday night (27) and they were very disappointed with the level, or lack of service. Very disinterested staff, long waiting time for the wrong meal and no hint of apology. They did enjoy the food, but nothing else. This is not the first time I have had unhappy guests there.
Great food (presentation and especially taste), personalised and knowledgable service, brilliant wine pairings. An all-round proper fine-dining experience.Thank you to the Aubergine team for a memorable evening.
What an amazing evening - food, service and the ambience was just perfect. Thank you.
I indented on spoiling my wife for our anniversary last night. We went to Aubergine. It seemed like a good idea. We normally go somewhere special every year - like the most amazing restaurant in the Wilderness called Serendipity or the incredible Azure restaurant at 12 Apostles. After an average meal was served - I had the Beef Fillet and Lauren had the Lamb, we realized we were stuck in either tourist trap or a hang-out for the extremely rich who don't have any idea about value for money versus taste. At about R200 for each dish, I expected something different. But alas, the little piece of lamb hiding on the plate was tough (but fortunately only two bites worth). The Fillet was tasty, but I longed more for home cooked food on the weber and couldn't help thinking that I could have done a better job myself and fed a family of 8 at this price. The service was average, the meal was average, the setting was average (I did like the wooden floors). I hope tourists don't think this is the best Cape Town has to offer. Sorry, I expect more at these prices. Ridiculous. Fortunately I still had some chicken nuggets at home which were delicious and made my meal at Aubergine seem like a good lesson in choosing future restaurants carefully and not relying on some snobby award as a reflection of good taste.