As you ascend the winding road up into Silvermist Estate, time seems to slow down. At each bend, as the city tilts away beneath you, you rise to new heights of quiet anticipation. There’s a reason you feel this way – you’re on top of a mountain and about to dine at the new incarnation of La Colombe, frequent contender on our Top 10 list and no stranger to S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
As anyone who’s visited the ‘old’ La Colombe will know, chef Scot Kirton is a master at plating pretty food. While the starter and mains have many familiar elements – no doubt to appease seasoned fans who might shy away from anything too conceptual – Scot takes the opportunity to be playful with his amuse-bouche, palate cleaner and desserts.
Your first surprise comes in a little can – lift the lid to find a Lilliputian seared tuna tataki inside. It’s a treat alongside freshly baked spelt-and-oat bread, and olive-parmesan bread sticks with herbed butter.
If you’d prefer to sidestep the foie-gras for starters, your options might be a hen’s egg with poached salmon, asparagus velouté, peas and black forest ham; a dish of tender scallops and barbecue pork with kimchi, deeply sweet and smoky aubergine, sweetcorn and a squiggle of crackling; and the undeniably delicious Farmer Angus beef tataki and tartare with coriander mousse, a black pepper puff and soft-poached quail’s eggs.
While we wait for our mains, the palate cleansers arrive on a bed of pebbles – not edible, we are reminded by the waitress. (It seems some diners have been a little too adventurous.) They’re a revelation, though: globes of cocoa butter melt in the mouth to release a fresh burst of citrus on the tongue.
For mains, we avoid ordering the SASSI orange-listed kingklip* despite the tempting description: miso-glazed, it’s served with smoked chickpea, potato and sweetcorn purée, and coconut and lemongrass velouté.
The fillet of beef, however, does not disappoint, done perfectly and served with fondant potatoes, caramelised onions and rich roasted cloves of garlic, with a smear of porcini and tarragon purée. Sure to be a crowd pleaser.
An open vegetable lasagne is one of the day’s unexpected hits, delivering tenfold my taste expectations. Tender sheets of saffron pasta overlay pillows of spinach, all put to bed with a gorgonzola béchamel. The simple description belies its rich complexity – you’ll have to order it yourself.
Pastry chef Glen Williams flexes his imagination in the dessert department with his dish of ginger curd, cashew cake, mango sorbet, black sesame brittle and buttermilk. It may not sound instantly appealing, but your curiosity will be generously rewarded. The more clear-cut choice of chocolate namelaka (the creamiest mousse conceivable) with stracciatelle ice cream and raspberries provides a flawless ending.
(Meal options include à la carte lunch, four-course dinner for R485 per person, or the gourmand dinner for R685 per person or R950 with wine.)
For a lingering lunch, why not order from a handful of wines by the carafe, including a delicious fruity Normandie Karen Rosé from Franschhoek, and the unusual and slightly sweet Cederberg Bukketraube. You won’t be overwhelmed with information on the page, but the sommelier is happy to explain and assist with suggestions.
While the staff are friendly and chatty, they still observe all the formalities you’d expect from a restaurant of this calibre. Your napkin is whipped up into a pretty whirl if you step away from the table, your glass is topped up and wine kept chilled in a nearby ice bucket, and cutlery replaced discreetly when necessary. It seems casual, yet is anything but.
Simply spectacular. Making use of cool whites and its namesake colour of dove grey, the new restaurant is like a modern lodge perched on the side of the mountain. A shaded deck and umbrella-shaded courtyard are first-prize spots on a summer’s afternoon, but throughout the restaurant you can soak up views of the Constantia valley. It’s relaxed, yet ultra elegant.
If you’re lucky you’ll get salted caramel truffles among your petit fours in the custom-made box lined with cool, dark stones. (But you’ve been warned: don’t eat the rocks!)
*This article was amended on Tuesday 24 March. The kingklip is not farmed, as initially stated.