Chef Julia Hattingh’s 18-seat table d’hôte restaurant in Observatory serves a 5-course chef’s choice dinner and is, in her own words, her “daydream come true”. At the dinners (that are frequently booked weeks in advance), Hattingh displays her skills, gained with time spent in local and renowned French kitchens, through intensely flavourful dishes. The menus rotate often and are crafted to pair with a selected winery’s offering – a new winery is chosen every few weeks.
The simplicity of presentation sometimes belies the numerous steps in preparation, with several slow-cooked dishes having begun their lives the day before. Hattingh draws heavily on local flavours and cherished foods – take her aged rib-eye steak, served with pap, chakalaka sauce and a boerewors crumble; angelfish with mussels and nasturtiums; or smoked impala with sweetcorn mash and plums. Her perfect egg is cooked at 63 degrees Celsius and served with a cumin, red lentil and pumpkin soup, which she pours at the table.
Local cheeses like ash-covered goat’s cheese sometimes earn centre stage in a dish and the desserts are masterful. A grapefruit sauce and a spritely scoop of ginger and raspberry sorbet heighten the humble but perfectly-made New York-style cheesecake.
Because the menu arrives as a surprise, share any allergies or restrictions when you book. Communal eating seems to be a growing trend, with an emphasis on leaving the mobile phone off and getting to know your fellow diners. However, the food is very Instagrammable, so you may want to keep it close.
The meal is paired with pre-selected wines from unique boutique wineries so, like with the food, you have no choice apart from other standard drinks like sodas and hard liquor, which are charged for separately. Some diners may find this limiting.
Service is friendly and intimate, with Hattingh welcoming each guest, addressing the table at each course and being on-hand to answer any questions between prepping dishes. Her tiny team is professional and very hands-on.
The single, shared table (you’re allowed to pick where you sit, so come earlier rather than later) is a boon for the extroverts, though may be a challenge for introverts. It’s a good way to meet new people but it’s probably best that you come with at least one companion.
Hattingh serves a relaxed daily specials menu for lunch. (Think beef and sugar bean stew, Asian chicken salads and noodle broths.) So come and enjoy without having to socialise with fellow guests. There’s even free WiFi.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.