Perched atop the Silvermist Estate against the slopes of Constantia Nek, La Colombe is one of the country’s exemplary beacons of culinary mastery. Long likened to a treehouse, due to its unique eye-level views of the tree canopies, the restaurant has undergone a revamp and incorporated the treehouse theme in a clever and more effective way than ever before. The gorgeous result is an inviting, airy and superb designer dining room with an adjacent al fresco seating area.
Chef Scot Kirton – famous the world over and lauded as one of the key pillars of South African fine dining – has passed on the mantle to his right hand, executive chef James Gaag. Upon realising his dream to finally lead the La Colombe kitchen, chef James has wasted no time putting his unique stamp on the menu. Die-hard fans can unclutch their pearls, La Colombe’s philosophy of delivering theatre is still very much intact and it delivers marvelous childhood dreams of how amazing whimsical fine dining can be when done right. The highly intellectual team has translated various flavors from the garden and reworked it into something visually arresting and utterly delicious.
After the bread course, the globally celebrated menu kicks off with decidedly local flavors when the black box of Cape Malay snacks is presented. When cracked open, the box releases a gentle plume of smoke, and within seconds the smoke settles to reveal a sight that will move even the most cynical of diners. Harkening to familiar favorites, the Tuna ‘La Colombe’ remains – a tinned miniature dish of yellowfin tuna medallions garnished with micro herbs, droplets of silky avo purée and sesame seeds all tied together flawlessly by a lightly sweet umami broth.
The standout dish comprises a sweet naartjie-glazed langoustine, Korean duck, Israeli couscous, fennel and an umami broth with an unctuous depth of flavour so moreish,you may catch yourself slurping to the last drop. When doing the wine pairing option, this dish comes paired with the stunning yet impossible to find – La Colombe bought all remaining stock of this wine – 2017 Saurwein ‘nom’ pinot noir.
The famous Karoo lamb is still a delicious and complex dish with a myriad of carefully balanced flavours. The dish of loin, braised neck, harissa, chermoula, burnt sage and dukkah has been tweaked and lightened to reveal chef James’s take on this modern classic, and pairing it with the Hartenberg ‘The Stork’ shiraz 2014 is a palate-tantalising duet.
Expect exciting and whimsical meal interludes that await your visit, from the forest floor spheres upon arrival to the smoking Cape Malay Snacks and the table-side charred baby corn. The pièce de résistance is the swoon-inducing pre-dessert palate cleanser. No matter the course, make sure to have your cameras at the ready.
After the cheesy pre-dessert and a dessert of pineapple, coconut, piña colada and litchi, be sure to leave space for the petit fours.
Seasoned sommelier and winemaker Joseph Dhafana is at the ready to assist with any wine choices. The menu comes with recommended pairing options, but Joseph is always on hand to create a bespoke pairing option or recommend a bottle that will work across the gourmand menu flavours.
La Colombe may be theatrical and beautifully whimsical, but service is serious. The professional and attentive wait staff do not skip a beat or waste an opportunity to impress.
The newly refurbished space has a minimally clean aesthetic, with only the food and artist Lucie de Moyencourt’s forest mural to break the elegantly muted colour scheme.
That special occasion when the only thing that will do is an escapist type of gastronomic voyage with lashings of whimsy.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
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.