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As far as enviable locations for a restaurant go, Salsify is sitting pretty in the upper level of The Roundhouse. This national monument was built in 1786, serving first as a guardhouse and then as a hunting lodge for the 19th-century governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset. Lion’s Head rears up protectively behind it while before you are 180-degree views of the twinkling Atlantic Ocean. But Salsify doesn’t trade on its location alone. Chef Ryan Cole has put together a menu of modern, seasonal dishes inspired by nature, which will resonate well with an international audience, but also pays homage to South African flavours through creative interpretation. It is, as the restaurant promises, an elegant study of local ingredients and unexpected flavour combinations. Salsify offers a 10-course chef’s menu for dinner, and a six-course lunch menu that is a slightly lighter affair, though comprises many of the same dishes. Vegetarian options should be requested when you make your reservation. Both menus are off to the races from the first mouthful of kitchen gifts (aka starter snacks). The Jerusalem artichoke tart is a light and crispy shortbread tartlet made using artichoke flower filled with a light and creamy artichoke foam and topped with small crispy fries, finished off with the complementary earthy notes of white truffle and balanced with the subtle sweetness of amaretto jellies – the flavours pair together beautifully and textures are light and crispy, and melt-in-the-mouth. Alongside that is a take on the beef-and-cheese sandwich: a buckwheat cracker filled with smoked Stanford catalan, basil aioli and horseradish cream topped with Salsify’s own bresaola (cured in-house for three weeks) and freshly shaved horseradish. The ‘Pearls and Oyster’ snack is a romaine lettuce heart served on a bed of ice, topped with oyster cream, cucumber jellies for freshness, black squid caviar, amasi jellies and a lemon snow – for both theatre and complementary fresh citrus notes. In starter territory, the Fire Salad eloquently translates the chef’s love of outdoor cooking. An amasi curd is topped with a nasturtium mousse and turnip roasted in the whey, with blue-kernel popcorn for crunch. The dish is a delicate marriage of textures and flavours, the mildly spicy and earthy nuttiness of the turnip well balanced by the slight acidity of the amasi and complemented by the subtle eppery/mustard flavour of the bright nasturtium. The kitchen really pulls out all the stops for this menu. You’ll work your way through Jacobsbaai abalone, jig-caught Simon’s Town chokka and south-coast crayfish. Then it’s off to the interior (ingredients wise) for crispy Karoo ribs and sweetbreads, and a slow-cooked duck breast with duck-heart stuffing. ‘Ma’s Maltabella’ (naartjie panna cotta served with naartjie jelly, a fluffy Maltabella pillow and popped sorghum) makes for a very clever pre-dessert. It’s followed by a hazelnut and bitter-chocolate tart served with a 75% dark-chocolate cremeux (which gives a delicious, intense, earthy bitterness) and a quenelle of aged-whisky ice cream. The crowning glory, a lightly toasted tonka-bean meringue, is beautifully decorated with flakes of gold leaf. With dinner for two hovering around the R7000 mark (depending on your wine pairing), Salsify is on the higher end of fine dining in Cape Town. But the quality and complexity of every dish, combined with excellent service and those incomparable views, justifies it.
Salsify offers two wine-pairing options: the Boutique pairing (at R900 per person for lunch and R1450 per person at dinner) and the Gem Series pairing (R1500 and R2350 respectively). Though on the pricey side, the Gem Series offers once-in-a-lifetime access to some extraordinary finds and special vintages. Sommelier Victor Okolo is there to guide you every step of the way on this unique pairing, and the depth of his passion for wine makes it all the more special.
From the professional parking attendant, as you arrive to the fond farewell, every aspect of the service is polished.
Dining in a national monument lends a wonderful sense of history to this already world-class dining experience. There’s nothing museum-like about it, though – Salsify is cosy, intimate and, when all the tables are occupied, buzzing. There are three distinct dining rooms. The Sea Room is bright and airy during the day, with splendid ocean views. The Seasonal Room pays homage to the restaurant’s focus on sustainable sourcing and the plight of the oceans by way of a large-scale ceiling installation created entirely from ocean plastic. Finally, the Somerset Room (named for this historical building’s original master) is a 10-seater dining area for private eve