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.
Chef Julia Hattingh prepares a five-course tour d’exquis through a gorgeous landscape of ingredients and flavours. Each week or two the restaurant collaborates with a wine farm to pair each course with a particular wine from its range. You might be served dishes like a Beatrix Dairy-Goat Dairies sensational Reblochon-style Josephine cheese with a nasturtium pesto; warmed freshwater trout with seaweed-marinated beans, black-sesame paste and roe; a slow-baked duck-liver parfait with molasses pineapples and pancakes infused with noble late harvest; and beef short rib with celeriac-and-cauliflower gratin. Each course is cooked with a panache that belies Chef Hattingh’s youth. There is an auspicious new voice on Cape Town’s fine dining scene.
It’s all about wise and deft food-and-wine pairings at Reverie. There is clearly a lot of thought and preparation that goes into the combinations, and the chef’s formative years spent in the winelands have born wonderful fruit, as it were. She is intimately familiar with South Africa’s hidden gems and classic terroirs. When the wine is combined with the flavours of the food, you can honestly say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The evening is more of an experiential process than an intimate dinner, so the service needs to be suitably efficient and industrious, which is it. Fortunately, it also manages to be attentive and friendly at the same time. The chef describes and explains each course before it is presented, and will join the table here and there for a relaxed chat.
Reverie is a table d’hôte setup, which means that there is a single 18-seater table in the establishment, and guests are encouraged to enjoy the social aspect as much as the food. The atmosphere is that of a culinary soirée, and if the delicious food doesn’t melt the ice, the incredible array of wine certainly will.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. read our editorial policy here.