On arrival for dinner, we’re invited to the rooibos bar. Here the barman puts together the delicate amuse bouche: a bread pillow with olive oil tapenade and basil gel. Alongside comes a non-alcoholic blood orange and chenin cocktail. The crunchy bread pillow, with its creamy filling, pairs deliciously with the tart and slightly bitter virgin cocktail and gets our mouths watering and ready for more.
We’re then led through drawn curtains to the dimly lit main dining area where we’re presented with the menu and two options: a two-course meal accompanied by a drink, or a three-course meal accompanied by your choice of two complimentary drinks. The bread course is served immediately and comes in the form of steamed black and white buns filled with either parsnip or aubergines. Both are lovely and light in texture and flavour.
For starters I choose the boule feta dish, which I’m told is a house favourite. It’s a chilled sphere of creamed feta cheese filled with a chunky mushroom caponata served on thickly cut toast. Once the dish warms to room temperature, the delicate saline flavour of the cheese and the earthy umami notes in the mushrooms shine. We also order the roasted cauliflower steak starter, which is served in a creamy leek velouté and topped with an oat crumble. It’s well executed and beautifully seasoned; the different textures and winning combination of cauliflower and cheese give the dish a homely familiarity with an addition of elegant finesse.
Main course options include pumpkin risotto, ostrich lasagna, sea bass curry, brisket and mutton casserole. The brisket is slightly smoked and served thinly sliced with caper mash and braised cabbage. It’s reminiscent of a Reuben sandwich, with the flavour of the smoked meat and acidity of the cabbage, but it’s rather dry. The mutton casserole is extremely rich but delicious. The slow-cooked mutton is coated in a sticky jus and comes served on a bed of confit potatoes that are moreish, buttery and soft. It’s the perfect accompaniment, along with pleasantly sweet roasted baby beets.
There are just two dessert options. The botanical dessert is an olive oil ganache with mint panna cotta, pickled apple and cucumber, and thyme ice cream. We choose the tropical dessert option, which is a coconut rice pudding topped with mango and granadilla puree. Alongside it comes a lime sorbet with a dark chocolate ring. The lime sorbet is smooth and refreshing and pairs deliciously with the tropical flavours of the rice pudding. The chocolate adds a slight note of bitterness to balance out the dessert. It’s a great way to end the meal.
Just when you think it’s all over, you’re invited to the main coffee bar for an ‘after-dinner surprise’. You’re asked to choose between coffee or rooibos before an exquisite bowl emerges from the kitchen. Based on your choice, you’ll receive either a chocolate sponge topped with ganache and cardamom cream, or a citrus sponge with rooibos cream. Both are served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, onto which you pour the hot coffee or rooibos to create a specialty Coco Safar affogatto. It’s a really enjoyable way to end off the meal and a fun and interactive way to introduce diners to the specialty coffee and rooibos on offer at the restaurant.
The dinner menu is paired with either a selection of wines or non-alcoholic cocktails. Each menu item is paired with recommended house wines from different local estates, although you’re more than welcome to create your own pairings. Cocoa Safar has its own micro-brewery on the premises where they produce their own botanical rooibos and coffee cold brews, which are available for purchase.
The staff is very well presented in their smart, stylish uniforms. Our waiter is attentive and knowledgeable about the menu items, as well as helpful in recommending meal choices. The bar staff is very well informed about their craft and it’s a true pleasure witnessing them prepare the drinks with such care and precision.
The restaurant space is truly spectacular and luxurious – you can tell that no expense was spared. The moody globe-like light fixtures set the mood as you enter the restaurant. The chocolate-brown leather seating pairs perfectly with the wooden tables, giving the space a relaxed yet elegant feel about it. During dinner, images of the botanical infusions and their components are projected on the walls, making for great dinner conversation-starters.
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