Our enthusiastic applause for the Ginga experience prompted my choice of Myoga, the larney restaurant at the Vineyard hotel in Claremont. I’d originally wanted to try La Colombe, which was booked solid (apparently two weeks’ lead-in time for a weekend booking is required, ooh la la), so the general plan was up-market. Up-market is certainly what we got.
Myoga has a lovely feel – luxurious, carpeted, highly-designed, all warm and orange and plush – it’s something of an antithesis to Ginja’s we-slapped-the-red-paint-on-the-wall-ourselves aesthetic, but retains at least partly its comfortable feel. The kitchen sits in the middle of the restaurant, so one can watch the controlled chaos of the chefs and catch them rather endearingly sticking sauce spoons into their mouths and then back into the pot. (I always do this, and have hitherto always felt madly guilty about it). The restaurant’s bathrooms rate a special mention for the décor dubbed “futurist nightclub” by Jo – if the joint was ever raided, heaven forfend, by the timecops, the loos could simply fire up their blue lights, rotate a few chrome fittings and glide quietly back to the mother ship. Also, there are screens on the back of the toilet doors which show a live feed to the kitchens, which is curiously disconcerting while communing with one’s bodily functions.
The menu is very similar to Ginja, featuring the same wonderful flavour combinations in a sort of modernist flow-of-consciousness description, and beautifully-sculped piles of strange shapes and colours presented with a flourish in a lonely island in the middle of a giant plate. My smoked duck-breast starter (the quest for Cape Town’s Best Duck continues) featured piquant, vinegary flavours in addition to wanton touches of toasted peanut, pomegranate seed and turkish delight, with foie gras crouton-thingies on the side. It was delectable – complex, playful, unexpected. The dessert chocolate plate was also quite possibly better than sex, with coffee ice-cream, variegated mousses, dense chocolate tart and a molten chocolate death pudding productive of helpless orgasmic noises and a liberal coating of chocolate all over my hands and face. (The second visit to the Ablutions of the Future was necessitated at about this point). Jo’s assiette of desserts included a sort of frozen berry explosion thing that cut the chocolate death very nicely, and a not entirely successful pound cake effort – stodgy, confusing. I was wrapped up enough in my duck that I didn’t really taste anyone else’s starter, but the Evil Landlord seemed to enjoy his scallops, and stv his tuna – I am entirely unable to remember what sort of flavours they came with.
I have somewhat deliberately skipped from starter to dessert because the main course, frankly, disappointed me. The trio of veal is apparently something of a Myoga signature dish, and the flavours were lovely – three medallions each with a separate saucing, including an intense mushroom/truffle thing, lemon and anchovy with aubergine, and a green pepper sauce. The potato croquettes, mashed potato with subtle herbs in a fried crumb crust, were incredible. But the meat was arb, a sort of vague, tasteless carrier for the admittedly vivid and interesting sauces. I’m rather wishing I’d gone with the Evil Landlord’s venison in chocolate sauce with plums, or stv’s incredible beef fillet with duck liver pâté.
That wouldn’t have been too much of a problem, though – the sauces were definitely worth it, and the whole meal thing, at just over R200 for three courses, was not badly priced for the larney experience it is. The problem, and the reason why Myoga isn’t up there with Ginja in my estimation, was the wine. Myoga has a sommelier, which is always a bit touch-and-go with me because it’s not really possible to talk about wine without pretentious language. Jo’s Aubergine rant about little fishes going sploosh and the rrrah! of earthy polar bears is always floating vaguely about my head, and I have to be careful not to catch her eye otherwise unseemly giggling will result. Also, fundamentally, while the idea of an experienced wine-fundi pairing the right wine with your meal is all fine and well, in fact it’s a rotten swizz on many levels – you are gently guided into ordering on recommendation, without recourse to the wine list, and thus disempowered on one quite important level of choice, namely price. The wine cost more than the meal did. The sommelier swore he was guiding us to the cheaper choices, but I don’t personally feel that R300 for a bottle of wine is actually cheap. This was the most expensive Salty Cracker we’ve ever had, and the wine was frankly way overpriced. The recommendations were good and interesting (well, I wasn’t a fan of the pinot noir, found it thin and flat), but they weren’t worth that money. It was a huge pity, because you end up feeling that the meal experience has been devalued, and the devaluation had really nothing to do with the actual food.
So, on Jo’s four-point scale I’d score it thusly:
- Atmosphere: 8
- Staff: 7
- Food: 8
- Value for money: 5
Bonus points for the lovely garden and the warning signs about the feral tortoise.