If it was the last night of the world, of my life, of your life, of all this, of everything, what would you dine on? What feast of the tastiest morsels of an interrupted lifetime of eating delicious things would pass your lips one last time?
It’s all Alice’s fault, apparently, or maybe Humpty Dumpty’s. More correctly, we can blame Lewis Carroll, who in Through The Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There (150 years ago, in 1872) invented the notion of a portmanteau, which in recent years has sprung into fashionability with the hybridisation of the names of Hollywood stars.
GIORGIO Nava stands out among chefs at the Cape, not only for his distinctly gentlemanly Milanese style and exquisite Italian accent and suave air but for the astonishing level of his visibility when you’re in his restaurant. He’s all over the place, which makes you think that either he doesn’t have his eye on the ball (the ball in the kitchen, that is) or he has his team so expertly trained that he can afford the time to get to know his guests.
History repeats itself. La Colombe had a brilliant chef who grew an international reputation for the Constantia restaurant and earned it a slew of awards. Then he left and started his own, more modest, eatery. La Colombe found a brilliant replacement, who clawed back its international reputation and earned it a slew of awards. But now he too has left and opened his own, more modest, restaurant.
Pairing wine with Indian food is a bit like trying to force square pegs into round holes or to persuade certain people to shut up so that somebody else can get a word in. So a wine and food matching evening at the Bombay Brasserie was an intriguing prospect, this being the posh restaurant at the new Taj hotel in central Cape Town, part of the Indian chain which casts its net worldwide.
It started with Queen Mary 2 and ended with Elton John. The day was all about queens. A proud and serene passenger liner gliding on a cool dawn sea with an orange sunrise gentling to the east is all the romance you need in a day. Watching her approach Table Bay on Thursday morning took me back, as ships always do, to key times in and even before my life.
The sole meat course was served beneath grand silver domes. After a very Grande Roche countdown (‘Sree, two, von!’), they were lifted to reveal the tiniest morsels of beef looking quite distraught, like wayward sons banished to the wastelands of vast white plates.
This land is quite different from the usual serried vineyards of these parts. It is sparse and seems dry, and the plants neatly spaced in the garden are still small, with only the promise of the harvest to come a year or more from now. Fyndraai restaurant celebrates the region’s three culinary traditions – the veldkos of the Khoe who lived on this land 2000 years ago with their Sanga cattle and fat-tailed sheep, the Cape Malay tradition of the slaves of the white farmers, and the boerekos and Dutch food of the farmers themselves.
It is all very boere-gay, with ribbon-bound old books adorning tables, tannie’s crockery on the walls, saucepans, koppies en pierings flung into the (white-painted) mish-mash madness of things happening in the ceiling installations above your head, not to mention knives and forks, ribbons and who knows what else lurks up there like so many miniature Swords of Damocles ready to descend if you frown at what’s on your plate. Best not to diss the food until you’re safely out the door. It is also perhaps best not to look too closely lest you spot something you left at the restaurant last time you were there.