This was not our first time at La Mouette (well, not for all of us), but it was first time with Salty Cracker. We had discovered it last year just after they opened, and have been there before. Basically, extremely highly recommended place: excellent food, excellent value for money. Double excellent in May: they are running a two for one special that gives you 6 courses, normally a very reasonable R240 per person, at R240 for two people. You can’t get better than that, and the portions are very generous to boot.
I will digress briefly and slightly contradict myself. Latest discovery about self: despite years of training and hard work, a tasting menu is too much for me. I must face facts. We have had a number of opportunities to test this recently and it’s all coming together. Last month at Overture, we tried the tasting menu (8 courses, tiny). Then, for a hen party, the 6 course menu at Myoga (excellent range of options, really good value). And now 6 courses at La Mouette. In all cases, I am experiencing two problems:
1. It’s too much food to be able to enjoy all the flavours. Towards the end, I’m saturated.
2. I miss out on reading the menu properly and thinking about the flavours and combinations. In two of the above (La Mouette and Overture), the tasting menu is fixed – no choices. That’s not a problem in terms of variety or getting something you don’t like – it’s all good – but it does mean I don’t look at the menu with a serious and discerning eye. I think that removes some of the fun of anticipation and appreciation of the more trace ingredients.
So anyway, I think I’ll be sticking to a la carte for the foreseeable future. But back to La Mouette, because despite the rant above, that was a fine dining experience. The restaurant is set in a wonderful old house in Sea Point (right at the end of Main Road, near Shoprite). The decor is rich and baroque, and there was a roaring log fire that meant I went from toasty to I-need-to-go-outside-to-get-some-air (I was really close to the fire).
The staff is friendly, they bring tap water without any hassle (this seems to be the norm now, bottled water be damned), and generally looked after us very well. I had a half a victory: the set desert was the warm chocolate profiterole, but I hinted that I would have liked to try their gin-and-tonic desert, and they said no problem! When it came to desert, they brought me the profiterole though, and I was too full and tired to object. It was, in any case, magnificent (the almond icecream was nougaty and devine), so I squeezed it in, at which point the waiter apologised and wanted to bring me the ginantonic, and I had to say no. Self preservation. Anyway, mistake gracefully handled.
Ok, the set menu is here. Particular stand outs are their croquettes (they are famous for these things, wonderful cheesy little lovebites); the roast fish and risotto – brilliant, warm flavours, well combined; and the desert was just heavenly. The warm pimms-themed first course is more like a tiny palate cleanser, but all other five courses are full sized, armed and dangerous. The pork belly is perfectly done and rich, and the onion soup is creamy and cheesy. There is no getting off easy.
Oh, one final word of warning – skip the wine pairing. It’s relatively pricey (R180), the wines are nice but not brilliant, the portions are sufficient but not large. All of the pairings are white except for the pork belly’s match. I’d recommend a nice bottle of chardonnay for the meal and perhaps a glass of Merlot for the pork, it will be fine.
Atmosphere: 8/10 (did I mention the table of blondes? It’s probably not a permanent feature, but the big function room table just in front of us was taken up by impossible number of impossible leggy blondes. Very distracting. Very mysterious. This does not affect the rating though. )
Staff: 8/10 (helpful, friendly, mistake made but fixed)
Food: 8/10 (brilliant but heavy going – proper winter food)
Value for money: 11/10. I’m not kidding.