La Colombe

We arrive at the same time as housing minister Tokyo Sexwale.  No he isn’t having a kiss and make up lunch with defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu but is on official World Cup business.  Sexwale is greeted by a manager with a familiar hug, indicating he is enough of a regular to make his political rivals in the ANC seethe with jealousy (oops since discovered Sexwale is a co-owner of La Colombe – see comment below).  I am sure none of its ‘pro-poor’ youth leaders would complain if they were tycoons (or turn down a free lunch at La Colombe for that matter).

Sexwale’s financial clout has waned with the failure of the Mvelaphanda Group’s whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.  But no sympathy is required, the parts are still worth a mint and he can tuck into caviar whenever he likes.

Seated on the verandah a waitron brings us the chalkboard menu while we gaze upon football duke Irvin Khoza, injustice minister Jeff Radebe and the irrepressible Mbeki-ite Essop Pahad* lurking on the lawn.  (FIFA make a special request to keep the steak knives away lest one of them in a moment of carelessness turns their back.)

The waitron expands on the brief descriptions on the menu.  As a truffle virgin I get excited about the scallops with a puree including truffle but want to make sure the real earthy fungus is in it and not just the ubiquitous, and usually synthetic, truffle oil. 
“Are there truffle shavings or truffle oil in it?” 
Diligent waitron goes to ask the chef and returns promptly. 
“There’s none.” 
Okay, I’ll go for the ballotine of rabbit.  This is done two ways: smoked bunny and a terrine.  It doesn’t blow me away but is perfectly acceptable (maybe I really only like a rabbit in red wine stew). 
Micro herbs are delicious, tasting of baby peas.

My girlfriend enjoys a beetroot tart under an ice cream-like scoop of something with a delightfully delicate sourness.  She thinks it’s crème fraiche but turns out to be a fondant of goats cheese.

She moves on to a kingklip on a bed of mung beans, quinoa, cucumber, ginger and spring onions. 
“One of the most beautifully presented dishes I have ever seen,” she gushes. 
It’s successfully surrounded by a colonial Englishman’s curry powder sauce.  This just goes to show that almost any honest ingredient can shine when it is combined correctly (just don’t use this mild powder in a real curry).

The chunk of foie gras** on top of my Springbok is a rhapsody of richness.  The bokkie underneath is underwhelming.

By this stage a film crew setting up in the lovely garden where we are lunching is proving to be a distraction.  A view of the plumber’s crack belonging to the key grip as he bends down to fix a cable is not my idea of fine dining.  Neither is a bright spotlight shining in my eyes.

This restaurant is enough of a celebrity, with all the experience that comes with it, to be able to handle its status in a more discreet fashion.  For God’s sake why can’t they do their shoot in the six-and-a-half hours of sunlight before 12:30 pm.  I’m all for using the attention around the 2010 football draw to promote the beautiful land and its top attractions but this is simply unprofessional.

To read the most recent review of La Colombe click here.

* Pahad was formerly Thabo Mbeki’s minister in the presidency and a representative on the 2010 Local Organising Committee.  Pahad is now editor of upmarket journal The Thinker.

** No Foie Gras South Africa campaign against the forced feeding of ducks and geese. This causes the liver disease in the birds essential to producing the delicacy.   

Tom Robbins
December 2, 2009

La Colombe
+ 27 (0) 21 794 2390
Constantia Uitsig Estate
Spaanschemat River Rd
Cape Town

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One Response to “La Colombe”

  1. Caroline says:

    most restaurant staff recognise the owner! Tokyo’s company own the Uitsig Estate!

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