10 May, 2019 | Just when you thought Cape Town’s restaurant scene couldn’t sizzle any hotter, a clutch of new openings has cemented the Mother City’s crown as South Africa’s culinary capital. With the busy summer season out of the way, now’s the time to bag a table at these new epicurean outposts, advises Richard Holmes.
You’ll be hard-pressed to know where to look during your meal at FYN, chef Peter Tempelhoff’s own venture. Out of the window at the dramatic city views? Around you at the striking décor? At the chefs collaborating in the open-plan kitchen? Or simply down at your plate, to marvel at one of the creations executive chef Ashley Moss serves up from a menu that will delight even the most jaded of diners.
While incorporating South African heritage and culture, the menu is firmly inspired by Japanese cuisine, distilling the tenets and complexity of a kaiseki fine-dining menu into a more approachable experience. While the menu runs to more than a dozen dishes, the artful use of bento boxes and keiseki trays ensures you enjoy the fare at your leisure. Innovative cuisine in perhaps the most eye-catching setting Cape Town has to offer.
5th Floor, Speakers-Corner, 37 Parliament Street; fynrestaurant.com
Tjing Tjing Momiji
Over at Tjing Tjing Momiji chef Christi Semczyszyn is doing a remarkable job of imbuing kaiseki’s sense of artistry and precision into her multicourse tasting menu. ‘The kaiseki menu is very much about the journey through the plates,’ explains Semczyszyn.
The menu changes regularly to honour the seasons, but expect a calculated progression from delicate sashimi through layered broths to grilled meats and rice dishes. While the inspiration is Japanese, there’s a strong South African twist here too, adding yet more complexity and intrigue to each plate.Though somewhat hidden in the heart of the city, Momiji is well worth seeking out.
165 Longmarket Street Cape Town; tjingtjing.co.za
A darkened doorway and a graffiti-daubed stairwell don’t usually bode well for finding good food, but at The Commissary chef Wes Randles is all about stripping away the fripperies associated with it.
Set alongside The Shortmarket Club, Randles’ (decidedly more genteel) fine-dining space, The Commissary dishes out no-frills plates with a globetrotting bent. There’re massaman lamb rotis, and yellowtail ceviche, and you’ll find prawns doused in coconut and peanut sambal. If you’re lucky the fiery Korean fried chicken wings are on the chalkboard. If you’re not, the octopus sliders won’t disappoint. The tables are communal, the crockery plastic and the reservations non-existent. Fine dining this is not, but the diners lining up don’t seem to mind at all.
88 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town; email@example.com
Salsify at The Roundhouse
After a few years in the Cape’s culinary doldrums, The Roundhouse is once again the hottest gastronomic destination in town. A major revamp has seen the interior of this historic hunting lodge rejuvenated with quirky artwork and fine décor. The selfie-booth and graffiti by US-based South African artist Skullboy may not be to everyone’s taste, but they’re certainly causing a stir.
The real art is on the plate of course, and while Salsify is a partnership between Luke Dale-Roberts and Salsify’s head chef Ryan Cole, it’s Cole who is firmly in charge of the kitchen here. Formerly head chef at The Test Kitchen, he brings a remarkable fine-dining aesthetic to each plate. But this is no favouring of form over function. Cole is a master at building layers of flavour, whether it’s a starter of fire-roasted asparagus with sunflower pesto, or the impressive Peking duck dancing with salted sour plum and a walnut salsa. There’s an à la carte option, but rather set aside the time for the seven-course chef’s menu, with superb pairings by sommelier Nash Kanyangarara.
Salsify at the Roundhouse, Roundhouse Road, Camps Bay; salsify.co.za
After closing her eponymous restaurant in mid-2018, chef Ash Heeger has reopened in the same city centre space with a new look, new menu and enhanced food philosophy.
Sustainable, local and ethical produce is at the heart of the new venture, and while any chef worth their Himalayan salt bandies about these buzzwords, at Riverine Rabbit they’re taken seriously.
The three-course menu is best for power lunches and early dinners, but for a true taste of Heeger’s kitchen you’ll want the nine-course tasting menu. Dishes run from the superb ‘Burnt Leek’, topped with tarragon béarnaise and hazelnuts, to a delicious honey-cured beef. Optional, but recommended, wine pairings tap into a host of boutique Cape estates. A reduced five-course tasting menu is also offered, as are pescatarian and vegetarian options. Matching the revamped culinary offering is a complete overhaul in décor. Out goes the dark and moody look, replaced by more natural light, Scandi-chic blonde wood finishes, organic textures and eye-catching wallpaper.
81 Church Street, Cape Town; riverinerabbit.com