Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Tasting Room

As much as I love food, fine dining really not my thing. Comfort food, great company, great wine more my speed. But the chance to dine at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais was something I was really excited about. I don't need to bore you about the facts about how many awards these guys have won, Top 50 in the world, Eat Out etc. I think awards are just that, but when a restaurant delivers year in and year out then you know its gotta be special. And that is exactly what Margot Janse, she is the Michael Jordan of Food, and her team have been doing for quite some time.

We arrived and were warmly welcomed, nothing quite as spectacular as Rust en Vrede I may add. But warm and friendly nevertheless. The room is neither over the top nor glitzy. But has a certain warmth, minimalist atmosphere that makes you feel very relaxed and comfortable. That old cliche: if the design and layout is over the top then the food is best left under the table works in reverse here. Linen, cutlery, furnishings and stemware were all of the quality you would expect.

You get to choose between a 5 course and a 8 course menu. We chose the 8 course with wine paring. The 8 courses kind of becomes 10 after the chef throws in 2 little surprises. Before I get to the food let me just say the following regarding the wine. I was pleasantly surprised. Why? Vin de Florence, Glenwood Merlot, Cedarberg Baukatraube, Excelsior Viognier, Môreson Pinotage hardly the big guns of SA wine. But each wine was so well matched, I guess I am a bit of a closet wine snob expecting that only the Thelemas, Kanonkops, Boekenhoutskloofs etc could do justice to the fine food. The wines served were all wonderful, excellent partners that stood perfectly alongside each dish, never overshadowing the food, but rather playing a complementary role. Just like a perfect marriage, the man always playing a great support role...

And the food you say! Well how do you talk about something so elegant, precise, well executed, sublime, delicate, poised, blah blah blah. It really is that good. Each portion so light yet packed with flavour and contrast. Each plate painted by a master craftsmen. Luderitz oyster, chorizo, cucumber and granadilla was an interesting way to start. Coming to the table in a tiny smoke filled glass only added to the excitment on the night. Were we at the Fat Duck? Followed by lemon poached Transkei rock lobster, prawn wafer, and a tiny marshmallow. I loved this dish even though it was on the sweet side. Next up was Foie gras, prosciutto, cranberry and whisky dressing. My fellow dinners weren't won over by this dish, but being a whisky fan I was in heaven. A celeriac and buchu risotto was next. I hate risotto. No, I hate badly cooked risotto. But "Local is lekker" and this was a winner. A comforting course after all the preciseness and proceeding delicacy. And so the evening went on. Each courses maintaining the same high standard. The general service overall was of a high standard. Unobtrusive, we were only asked once if we were enjoying our meal, and his was between courses. After each course our cutlery was reset with the slight of hand of a magician.

So was the evening faultless? We managed to knock over a few glasses of wine and set a menu alight, bringing a new meaning to "hot food". But if I really had to be picky I would say the overall menu isn't seasonal enough. I stand under correction but the menu hasn't changed much for quite some time. The odd change is made from time to time but never an overall change from one season to the next to reflect what is best and what is in season. So certainly not seasonal. That being a small gripe, this certainly is fine dining at the very top end. Would I return? Is almost R1000 per person fair value? Pay the Tasting Room a visit and you be the judge of that.


1 comment:

  1. Truly one of the greatest food experiences one can have in SA. Like you I was surprised with the wines chosen for the pairing, as, like you, I am a wine snob at heart. Was greatly surprised at how well it worked.

    The menu gets updated often enough, so things are kept interesting.

    Cool blog. Thanks for the read