Category Archives: Jo’s choice

Overture Review

By common, unchecked consensus, this may be my first choice since the unmentionable purple vegetable related restaurant. Of which we shall not speak. And if it is such, I forgive myself all my brinjally sins! Overture is Redemption!

Overture was on Eat-out’s list of top-10 restuarants of the year, which can or cannot be a good thing. More that that, every single of the 17 people who made comments on eat-out website said things like:

– best restaurant experience ever!

– most wonderful service ever!

– amazingest food ever!

And it was all true.

Overture is at Hidden Valley wine estate, so named because you will u-turn at least once on the way there and there are windy, dark country roads which seem entirely too long to fit into the space on the map where the farm should be. Overture itself is a summery lunch place, which is why we obviously needed to have dinner there in winter*. We got there on time (40 min from cape town) and it was dark, and cold, and unobvious where to go, and did I mention the cold?

This concludes any negatives I may have had, and at this point we get to the restaurant.

We’ll need to go for a summer lunch. It would have the most amazing views – wraparound balcony high up, with vineyards as far as the eye would be able to see, were there light. In winter, the inside is a modern, wood-and-stone-and-metal type building, with warm light and high ceilings and one of those completely open kitchens for additional entertainment.

The staff were lovely. We had 3 people looking after us, which normally is a bad sign (purple! vegetable! alert!) but wasn’t here. I remember most of their names, which is a good sign (thank you Vision and Brenda!), and they were omni-present, very helpful, knowledgeable and had a sense of humour.

Tap-water test: Passed with flying colours. “Would you like some still or sparkling water?” “A big jug of tap water would be nice?” “Certainly, ma’am.” With a smile. And that was it. And the very lovely Brenda ensured water glasses were never empty. Yay!

Bits and pieces: Lovely, warm bread served straight away with olive oil, and every time we were finishing a plate of food, mop up sauce with!. Also, baby marrow mousse/soup taster thingy served straight after ordering to make sure we were never empty-handed. And delicious things they were!

Wine: This is a no-bring-your-own-place (we checked in advance), but they have, beside wine list, a very recomendable food-and-wine pairing thing. Which I recommend. The deal is, their 3, 4 or 5 course menu can be served with matched wine or not. It is unusually reasonable to do the matching thing, and well worth it. It is so reasonable, in fact, that I was expecting the wine portions to be measly, I mean, elegantly restrained. Instead, they were enormously bountiful and very tasty to boot. The idea, I gathered, was to make sure that we always had something to drink. For example, the Chicken Liver Pate and Snails starter dish came with a glass of noble late harvest on the menu, which was delivered ahead of the food, along with an unexpected and unmentioned glass of delicious chardonnay, to “have something to sip on while you wait for the food”. Bliss! And danger to designated drivers, a position from which I was allowed to abdicate half way through the evening with some relief (thank you, Jess!!!).

Now for food: 3, 4 or 5 courses, as said, where all items from the menu are eligible for the deal. So 2 mains followed by 2 deserts and a starter is fine, IF you are insanely hungry and have a couple of spare stomachs to stuff five courses into. Or your name is Landlord, Evil Landlord. (Though he at least had his starter-starter-main-main-desert in the right order.)

The prices are actually very reasonable, ranging from R195 for 3 courses, no wine, to R350 for 5 courses, with ample rivers of wine. We ended up having around 4 courses each, according to a rather complicated matrix:

Course 1:

(All): The kingklip, smoked, with poached egg and a hollandaisy but not really creamy whitey sauce. Paired with Hidden Valley Rose, which is suprising un-rose like (tastes more like a white, which is how I like my Roses). Lovely. Rich. Mope-plate-with-bread-to-hoover-up-the-sauce-y.

Accidental (involuntary muscle twitches!) stealing of last bit of kingklip from Stv’s plate done by me. I am sorry! There is no excuse!!!

Course 2:

(Jo and EL): Snails cooked in red wine with Chicken Liver Pate. Served with a creamy green (why green? I don’t know!) sauce. Paired with aforementioned Late Harvest/Chardonnay duo. Very very rich, but lovely flavours. Snails not tasting snail like, pate very fluffy and light but rich at the same time. This was kind of the theme for the day. More bread. Mop, Mop.

(Jess): Spinach Soup with bread dumplings with cheese inside. Rich and wonderful. With one of the 2 Sauvingnons.

(Stv): Malawian-heritaged fish from Bredarsdorp (local ingredients thing) something like talepi? tamale? Thumbelini? Something of the sort. With risotto bianco and tomato risotto. Surprisingly, my favourite flavour combination for the evening (cue coveting Stv’s dish. Tuck fingers under seat for dining safety). Yum and light and fluffy and all those things. With another Sauvignon, judged even nicer than the Spinach Soupy one.

Some under-the-tablecloth bread trade observed between the Fish and the Spinach Soup. Just saying.

Course 3: (Wondering if we can actually have any more than this, despite firm 4 course plans)

(Jess): Duck. I cannot remember how it was done or what it came with, only the extreme juicy deliciousness of it. Mmmmhmmm… duck…. And it came with the Hidden Valley Merlot, which was dark and berry-y and the wine winner for the evening by universal, glass-sharing concensus.

(All others): Pork Belly. Rolled into a little rolly thing. With root veg. And other things. Emergency systems kicking in, memory closing down to make room for expanded stomach. It was awesome. With HV Pinotage, which was classic and fitting and unfairly pitted against the Merlot. Poor Pinotage.

Course 4: (Tam-da-Dam!)

(EL): Duck, and Merlot, and going (reasonably) strong.

(Jess): Malva pudding with cinnamon ice cream, under protest, shared with Stv in order to ensure survival.

(Jo): Sits this one out. Moans. Holds extremities. Gets teased by waiters about early defeat. Digests furiously..

Course 5: (To the Escape Pods!)

(EL): Slightly pale. Braves Malva Pudding. Shows no appreciation for cinnamon ice cream.

(Stv, Jess): Sensibly avoid any more food. Not even my most excellent desert.

(Jo): I’m having rib-eye steak for desert! My life is complete! The waiters are impressed! (Or horrified. Don’t care.) I may explode, but: Rib eye steak, medium rare, with a thin sliver of rare liver (!) (It works, but not as course 4. Liver spurned for purposes of retaining a little bit of digestive tract.) With lots of tiny mushrooms and deep-fried gnocci (works!). And Shiraz.

*Falls under table*

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, was a Fine Meal.

*Note for winter: it is small inside, and the outside tables are out of the question. So book early. By all accounts, book early in summer too. They are popular. We booked aweek in advance and got lucky, there was a cancellation! (It’s good good good so do it anyway!)

Aubergine Review

site: aubergine.co.za

I’ll keep the link there. For easy reference. To find the bit where they say you can only bring 2 of your own bottles. If you can. .

So, while I’ve been beaten there, no harm in regrouping and starting from the beginning:

The noble cause that is this club takes us to lots of very posh restaurants. It’s the paycheck celebration event, spending money is not the issue – good food, good ambiance with good friends is. We have been doing this for 10 months now, and – as jess said last night – we have either been:

  1. extraordinarily lucky in our choices
  2. living in a city with examplary, wonderful, restaurants where nothing ever goes wrong
  3. been total, easy to please lushes (worry), or
  4. had this coming to us.

d it is.

The first sign of worry was the hushed atmosphere, followed abruptly by the “only 2 bottles of own wine” rule* (not mentioned on their website in any obvious way). The “tap water, please” clearly wrote us off in the minds of our waiters as the “was McDonald’s fully booked, then?” crowd. It’s not just that it’s difficult to get actual tap water (ordered deliberately, for reasons of environmental consciousness – I repeatedly fantasised, over the course of the evening, of having had the foresight to bring a shiny visiting-card sized printed note with me denouncing the bottled water business in order to bring the  waiting staff in line), it’s the clear downgrading in terms of respect in the waiter’s eyes that bothered.

The food, which could have redeemed this all, was not quite there. We invented a bunch of rating factors on our way out, and here are some i can recall, with my proposed scores:

  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Staff: 2
  • Food: 7
  • Value for money: 2

It could appear that we are simply not used to nouvelle-sized and intended portions, but to that i say “Ginja“! Which has been our best eat so far and is in exactly in the same thrust as Aubergine, but scores 10/10/9/8 on the same scale.

So, the food:

Pros:

  • the tiny little cold cucumber soup and the sorbet we got between courses. That was lovely, interesting flavours – the soup had a goats cheese and parma ham floater (better than it sounds) which made the whole thing lovely. The sorbet was apple/mint, which works.
  • The duck. Ask Extemp. That was good, unusual, curried duck. Mmmhm.
  • the Asparagus+tuna+Parma ham starter, which was a good balance of flavours and worked well.
  • Starters, for those interested, come in at R75-R100 each, which means value for money is difficult. They are tiny, but once again – a good place will do tiny but fill you up with intense flavour. This one fell short.

The not-good-enough:

  • the tiny, expensive steak was tough. I will (excuse the terrible focus on money here, but I breathe slowly when scuba diving to save money) pay R165 for a palm-sized steak (see Tokara, for example), but It Was Tough. No redeeming features.
  • The Tiger Prawn starter. R95, because of the rare Dwarf Tiger Prawns they have to catch for it.
    On Mars.
  • I vaguely remember the EL calling his rabbit “anonymous”. Or was it “generic”? Mind, addled.

We forewent deserts, on account of having run out of wine, patience, and the ability to give them any more money.

So, I do think they have a different “experience” planned for us. The key to that seems to be their extensive winelist**, which their ice-queen-sommelier explains to you on a sip-by-sip basis

(literally:

people at the next table: *sip wine*.

sommelier: *run* Can you feel the peachstones? don’t they just taste like summer? on a raft? Can you hear the little fishes?

people: *nod vigorously*

little fishes: *sploosh*

sommelier: *sidles off*

people at next table: *sip wine*

sommelier: *returns triumphant* note how it develops! Those fishes! Gone! Now, with the rising temperature and … global warming, it’s all … nutmeg! and polar bears! taste the bear? Earthy!

Bear: Raaa!

Fishes: *shuffle off*)

i guess we missed out.

______________________
* yes, 3 between 4 people seeeeeeeems like a lot, but who are we kidding? and it’s not about the amount, it’s about the restrictions.

** ooh, they had a transparent wine fridge. Which glowed. In slowly-changing, neon colours. Not redeeming.