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Melville’s 7th Street has of late welcomed a wealth of quirky new restaurants and cafés, including Ba Pita, Spilt Milk and, most recently, La Petite Maison. Chef Tyeya Ngxola has partnered with friend and fellow Alma graduate chef Timothy Stewart to open a French-inspired bistro offering an eclectic, refined dining experience alongside boutique wines. Seating a maximum of 20 patrons, La Petite Maison is an intimate and unique space brimming with charm. After the restaurant sorts out a few teething issues, it will really shine.
The seasonal menu is as petite as the restaurant: two starters, three mains and two desserts. (There’s a vegan menu available on request and daily lunches see a casual charcuterie-and-cheese platter on offer.) To start, you’ll choose between the Atlantic squid and squid-ink risotto with Cape Malay spiced prawns and the ostrich tartare with deep-fried mushrooms, crushed coriander, ponzu and avocado. Both are a feast for the eyes and palate: the risotto wonderfully rich and brimming in butter, and the tartare fresh and delicate with great textural contrasts of radish, crisped mushrooms and caviar pearls.
Mains include forest duck with five-spiced plums; pork belly with fermented and charred wombok cabbage and cauliflower; and a spiced lamb rack with harissa, prunes and caramelised onions. These are hit and miss. The duck is cooked to perfection, with crisped skin and delicious interplay between sweet and savoury, but the pork belly doesn’t deliver – it’s primarily fat, with little to no meat.
For dessert, opt for the Coffee Bay tiramisu, which is delicate, rich and delicious.
All wines are from boutique wine houses from around the county – in fact, you’ll struggle to find any of these gems outside of the restaurant. The prices are very reasonable and mark-ups are small. Every wine on the menu is available by the glass and Tyeya is on hand to talk you through each wine’s story and origin. Try the Mizwa white merlot or the Fledge and Co Pinot Noir MCC – both are superb!
The service is enthusiastic but lacks knowledge. Further training of the waiters in terms of the wine list and menu is needed.
La Petite Maison is a hidden gem that you’d miss completely at a glance. It’s so narrow that it feels like a railway carriage, which adds to the charm of this idiosyncratic and romantic little spot. Shades of dark grey and lush greenery festoon the walls, with details in mustard yellow and red. There are two kinds of seating: counter (with bar chairs) or banquette (on the plush yellow sofa), so make sure to let them know your preference.
Romantic dinners and relaxed lunches.
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