Set in a gorgeous Edwardian house in the middle of Melville, NCW’s gorgeous cuisine really is a cut above the rest, showing off chef Ence Willemse’s background from his experience at Roots restaurant as well as with Bertus Basson at the coveted Overture in Stellenbosch.
The menus at NCW change monthly, allowing for variation in ingredients, flavour combinations and creativity according to seasonality and availability of various ingredients. An example of a menu is a silken cauliflower soup served with piquanté pepper ice cream and charred sweetcorn served with hot, crusty homemade bread and butter. Juicy clams with squid ink gnocchi and saffron sauce come next, followed by a rich lamb tagine with cous cous and prunes. A highlight is the quail with nachos and cheese – it’s very cleverly put together and the combination of flavours, textures and ingredients is sublime. For dessert there could be a caramel cake served with pear and salted caramel ice cream, followed by Asiago cheese with dried fruits.
Willemse utilises local ingredients in a faultless, simple, smart way and in clever combinations that tantalise the palate yet at the same time create artistic and interesting plates. It’s a fun and layered dining experience not to be missed.
The Sunday lunch menu is a little more relaxed, although just as exciting and flavoursome.
The wine list is exciting and offers a fabulous selection of wine from South Africa that will suit the meal. You’ll be guided through the list and have the opportunity to try some gems. NCW also hosts a variety of wine-tasting evenings so be sure to watch out for these.
Service is professional and accurate, with attention to detail given from the moment you book until the moment you leave. Booking is easy and may be done via telephone, on social media or via email. Service in the restaurant is subtle and suits the wonderful environment in which are. The hosts are pleasant and professional at all times, as well as educated about the cuisine.
The ambience is definitely a highlight at NCW. The gorgeous old building, fitted with Georgian furniture, old brass door handles and the lovely energy of an Edwardian era gives the space an incredible ambience. The style of the cuisine is well suited to the mood and the energy of the space and the overall experience is great. There’s a large dining room with small spaces unfolding off the wings, creating a fabulous environment for more intimate occasions.
Dinner or Sunday lunch. Also book a space for a party, launch or a conference, as there are great private venues that can be utilised for a special occasion. Look out for wine tastings and other events also hosted at the venue.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
Faultless is a difficult food standard to maintain. Nonetheless, this is the experience at NCW. When the perfectly crusted, steaming rustic bread comes out, you already know you’re in exceptionally good hands. The menu changes every week to a large extent, though dishes do sometimes carry over into the next week. It’s a pity to say goodbye to any of them.
Each course has a simple title, like ‘Tomato’ or ‘Sardine’. ‘Tomato’ is a densely constructed and deeply flavoured soup of roasted and reduced tomato with a subtle hint of chilli. It’s served with a basil ice cream quenelle, artful balsamic gel studs, and a sliver of toasted ciabatta. ‘Sardine’ is a West Coast creamy oyster served on a sparkling glass dish alongside a crispy noodle-wrapped, smoky sardine on a citrus-spiked salsa that includes fine slivers of chorizo and careful dots of roe emulsion. It combines the tastes of Iberia and South Africa seamlessly.
Just mentioning highlights is impossible because every dish is one, but one that really stands out is a folksy South American-influenced plate. It’s made up of pulled chicken in a melt-in-the-mouth pastry; a delicate oxtail dumpling, served with red corn, beans and a tart orange mayonnaise; a juicy sirloin supporting a frill-fried quail egg, shoestring fries with a thick gravy and pea puree; and a perfect slice of gold-bedecked chocolate tart with salted caramel and chunky pralines.
When you think you cannot manage anything more, the cheese course called Pecorino and Pears delivers the finest taste experience in the form of crisp shards of pear, a puree, delicious sponge made of parmesan, and pieces of crispy bacon cured in maple syrup. It’s all finished off with a dust of pecorino.
Manager Justin Tombo also acts as the sommelier, pointing people to good matches for each course or the full menu. The cellar is a growing collection, much like the art, ranging from the top-end classics to surprises like Klawer’s Villa Esposito. Wines are available by the glass as well. There is a wide selection of local MCCs and French champagnes. The mirrored cellar is within strolling distance across the restaurant floor.
The service is very courteous and delivered by pleasant people. At the moment they lack the skills, however, to engage fully with interested diners and explain the menu confidently.
What a beautiful series of spaces, unfolding into one another with gorgeous artworks and antique furniture. Some are clubby, leathery sitting spaces, while others are for listening to either live piano music or recorded jazz and wandering among the art. The kitchen is open to the restaurant, and it’s a joy to see Ence and his team at work. They are surprisingly quiet, with Ence in a zen-like beatific concentration. The artful presentation of the food is as excitingly successful as the taste.
Lunches follow the same six-course menu, except on Sundays when real Sunday roasts are wheeled around the restaurant or lunch patio, accompanied by all the comfort foods you can imagine.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their own meals. Read our full editorial policy here.