Part of the Dear Me group, the upstairs eatery’s food is described at experimental. While multiple-course dinners are the main attraction, The White Room can also be used as a venue to host parties and conferences. Lisa van Aswegen reviews.
In the past few years since the opening of café-cum-bistro Dear Me, Chef Vanessa Marx has made a name for herself due to her emphasis on seasonal, ethically sourced produce. Now her skills have found a rather different outlet at The White Room, an upstairs space that serves a nine-course set menu every Thursday night. A concise little guide book greets diners at the table, introducing each course, followed by an explanation of its inspiration, often from international restaurants, as well as the provenance of the ingredients used. Some dishes are more successful than others: a perfect Saldanha oyster is served with onion dressing and cucumber noodles for much-needed crunch; marron with iceberg salad and aïoli is wonderfully sweet and tangy; while the quail with raw honey and vanilla is moist, tender and moreish.
Other dishes just don’t hit the mark, though: the olive sphere in homage to Ferran Adria is too cold and has a gritty texture; herb-infused tomatoes verge on the medicinal. Some dishes are hit and miss, such as the strawberry jelly (chunks of undissolved gelatine) with beetroot and basil granita (salad anyone?) and vanilla yoghurt cream (heavenly). I would go back tomorrow for the steak, egg and matchstick chips as well as perfect Valrhona chocolate truffle with popping candy, though. The overall effect however is sadly disjointed.
While the dishes may work in their home base at Michelin-starred restaurants, these spaces also provide context not only for the dish itself but for a whole menu. The lack of cohesion makes it more of experimentation in the culinary arts, yet quite a playful one at that.
Wine pairing can be done with the courses, and there are some great wines: French Drappier Champagne, local LAM chenin blanc viognier from the Swartland. But, and this is a big but, there is no explanation of why the wines were chosen or what qualities they have that make them suited to a particular dish, so the diner is very much left to fend for himself.
While the waitrons are slick and professional, it’s more a case of being servers as there is practically no verbal interaction except for announcing the dishes. The booklet on the table seems to have replaced the need for waiters to explain dishes and provenance, and this extends to the wine service too. It does make for quite an impersonal experience.
The small upstairs space is all white and light: from chandeliers to Louis Ghost chairs, whitewashed wooden floors and white curtains. It could do with something to warm up the space (even in white) and to help absorb noise.
Pop upstairs to hip Tjing Tjing bar for a nightcap.
By Lisa van Aswegen