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Salsify is the kind of restaurant where it’s not out of the ordinary to be told your amuse bouche of limpets poached in dashi were harvested by chef Ryan Cole himself, a man clearly at home in his milieu, amongst the waves and the rocks. The rest of the dishes are further proof of a talent able to expertly extract flavour from ingredients, and play with nostalgic flavours and new techniques in a way that feels oh-so-fresh.
While you can order à la carte, the tasting menu is recommended to get a taste of the chef’s philosophy. After a series of snacks – such as ceviche with avo cream and tequila-pickled spring onion and choux bonbons piped with baked gruberg and served on a fragrant blanket of wild African rosemary – the first billed item of fried octopus with mebos, green mango salad, peanut, coconut, chickpea crisps and chive flowers is plated with swirls to mirror the whirlwind of tastes, leaving no real estate on the tongue untouched. It’s crunchy, sweet and salty. In a word, sublime.
There are clever juxtapositions: Plant-based milk in the form of sunflower cream makes an appearance in the earthy but light amasi curd with whey-cooked leek and peppery rocket snow. After a seared scallop – tender and just done, prettily topped with fried broad beans – comes the showstopper of grilled langoustine with an intense, unforgettable shellfish cappuccino and black rice. Next, the uniquely South African fortified wine Caperitif adorns skilfully prepared springbok loin, vibrant carrot purée and sumac dukkha.
A pre-dessert highlight is the rhubarb Paris-Brest with blossoms, macadamia milk jellies and creamy-tangy guava butter, before the crowd-pleasing ending of a chocolate-peanut bar with sticky caramel and nostalgia-inducing banana milk ice cream. Still, you’re not done – sweet petit fours will take you back to your childhood with mini rose-and-vanilla zoo biscuits and butternut jaffa cakes with kumquat marmalade.
If you’re here for sunset on a warm evening, a couple of cocktails on the velvet couches overlooking the lawns is the right way to blow the budget. The succinct wine list has plenty of options per varietal and some extra ‘interesting’ and ‘vintage gem’ options to please the aficionados. If you want just a glass, ask for one of the wines paired with the meal.
Fresh-faced, attentive and alternative, with the odd tattoo peeking out of a crisp white shirt. When the time comes for your sprig of pine needles or confetti bush to be set alight, don’t be surprised to see a lighter in the shape of a tiny grenade.
Salsify has revamped the interior of this historic building, giving the central room an edge with leather-clad walls. The front sea-facing room feels retro but cool, with very comfortable upholstered chairs in muted tones. The hand-engraved window graffiti from the last 80 years is a fun talking point.
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