In spring, our eyes are attuned to all things green, and our palates crave lighter tastes – especially in desserts. Winter was for sticky Melba puds and rich chocolate fondants; now’s the time for the fresh fruits of the season and light-as-air whipped cream.
One of the best dishes of this description is the English classic, the Eton mess. A moreish mixture of stawberries and meringue, smothered in cream, it’s unashamedly sweet and full of satisfying contrasts: crunchy, chewy and creamy. A little bit rich; a little bit fresh.
If you like your food with a side of history, you’ll be pleased to learn that, yes, the dessert was named after the posh English school Prince Harry and Prince William attended. Apparently, it was first served at the annual cricket match against rivals Harrow School decades ago.
But there’s nothing ‘boarding school’ about this crowd-pleaser, which can be made with other fruit, such as bananas (though, strictly speaking, then it’s a Lancing Mess); deconstructed; served in a glass with a coulis; or made sans dairy… We’ve rounded up some restaurants across SA that serve this lovely light classic.
The Bungalow Restaurant (Clifton)
Fancy enjoying your Eton mess at sunset with a glass of bubbly, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean? For R85, you can have strawberries, whipped cream, meringue and strawberry sorbet – stunning views included.
Foundry (Parktown North)
People flock to this vibey gastropub not just for the unusual craft beers, but for reliably good food options, too. Their Eton mess uses Pimms-soaked berries with a strawberry meringue, topped with Chantilly cream and toasted almonds (R48).
Fresh at Paul Cluver (De Rust Estate, Elgin)
Niki Hall-Jones, the chef and owner of this country-style restaurant, says their Eton mess (R55) is so popular, it’s the one dessert that’s stayed on the menu since day one.
Since the restaurant uses produce fresh from the estate, it varies with the seasons: In February, it was made with figs. In autumn, cinnamon meringue was mixed with spicy apple compote and macadamia-nut brittle. In September, guests can expect vanilla meringue with passion fruit crème and sorbet. And look out for one made with blueberries, a dash of lime, and white chocolate ganache sometime soon.
Fusion Café (Morningside, Durban)
Visitors to this innovative, experimental restaurant can expect to try all manner of unusual dishes and pairings. Fortunately, their citrusy orange macaroon Eton mess verrine (R48) – featuring layers of Chantilly cream, orange macarons made on site, berries and chocolate ‘soil’ – is a summer constant.
Life Grand Café (Waterkloof)
This popular Parisian-style franchise offers a ‘smartened-up’ Eton mess (R60). Think crushed meringue, seasonal berries (like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries), Baglio’s Italian ice cream, double-thick yoghurt flavoured with fresh raspberries, all finished off with a raspberry coulis. Yes, please.
Do you know of a great Eton mess? Let us know in the comments below. Even better: write a review about it and rate the restaurant that serves it to put them into the running for the Best Everyday Eateries.