Where to go for foraging, fynbos tastings and apothecary workshops
A Feast for the Senses at Constantia Uitsig Restaurant
With tranquil surroundings, picture perfect views and an inspired menu, Uitsig offers sensory delight
One of the most tranquil places to hang out in the whole of Cape Town is Constantia Uitsig, once a part of Simon van der Stel’s famous Groot Constantia. Today it still produces internationally acclaimed wines and hosts a hotel, spa and three restaurants. The River Cafe is the most laid-back of the restaurants, while La Colombe was awarded 12th place in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the World Awards.
Somewhere in between is the Constantia Uitsig Restaurant, housed in the original Cape Dutch homestead. It has a clear view of the Constantia vineyards all the way up the mountain side. Antonia and I are here to enjoy their Mediterranean Provencal cuisine in relaxed style.
As we take in the stretch of roses, vineyards, mountain and sky, we agree that this part of Cape Town deserves to be celebrated and promptly decide to start with a glass of Constantia Brut 2006 Méthode Cap Classique and some fresh-fresh St Helena Bay oysters. They arrive shucked and served in a Chinese spoon with pickled fennel.
Ah, that just sets the mood for an afternoon of sensory bliss
Browsing through the menu whets our appetite and we find it hard to choose between the Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad, the Carpaccio and the specials of the day. Our waitress recommends the Tomato Tart, which has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 1992, as the most popular. So we settle on the tart and some Bouchée De Moulesfrom the seasonal Specials Menu, which “changes daily depending on the fresh ingredients available at the time,” according to Executive Chef Clayton Bell.
Both the starters are served with puff pastry. The tomato tart has a puff pastry base with Fontina cheese, Dijon mustard, fresh basil and sundried tomato paste on top. It is garnished with spring onions and fresh tomato. We’re not surprised that this has been the all-time favourite, but the steamed black West Coast mussels are even better. Shelled fresh mussels in a saffron velouté is presented between two puff pastry squares and garnished with pea shoots.
It’s a languid afternoon and we opt for a small portion of handmade Panzerotti alla Panna, before moving on to the main course. The half moon shaped pasta parcels are filled with ricotta cheese, herbs and spinach and topped with a creamy Parmesan sauce. The nuttiness of my Unwooded Chardonnay adds a lovely dimension to the ricotta and parmesan flavours.
“The filling is smoother than baby puree,” swoons Antonia and I must agree that the texture on the tongue can compare with feeling cashmere on your skin.
Sharing a meal is an intimate affair, especially at Constantia Uitsig
Constantia Uitsig Restaurant oozes that relaxed kind of family romance that can only be likened to the Mediterranean. I imagine Antonia and I time travelling to Tuscany or Provence without making any more effort than ordering another dish or two from the menu. Constantia Uitsig Restaurant also has private dining rooms, perfect for a memorable family meal or a gathering of special friends.
My main meal is a Chalmar Beef Fillet, prepared medium rare as per chef’s recommendation and served on a bed of wilted spinach and roasted pine nuts with a creamy truffle, mushroom and artichoke sauce. Topped with a ragout of exotic mushrooms, gem squash and new potatoes, the earthy flavours are absolutely to my liking. Antonia’s Grilled Springbok Loin is nice and sweet in comparison. It is served rare, with a caramelized honey and lemon sauce. Mouth puckering indeed.
There’s always still a little spot for dessert and from the way the afternoon is lingering we feel that it would be appropriate to end it on a suitably sweet note. The Marquise au Chocolat is calling my name. It’s a dark chocolate dessert on a Crème Anglaise with a hint of Grand Marnier. We also try the iced berries, served with a hot, white chocolate sauce. The sensation of hot and cold, the tart flavour of the berries and the indulgence of the chocolate sauce is a really cool (hot?) experience. We also try a bit of the seasonal sour cherry compote topped with yoghurt sorbet.
Constantia Uitsig Restaurant carefully serves up another perfect day in Cape Town. We think the average pricing of R70 for starters and dessert and R150 for mains is fair, but the whole experience would be worthwhile at any price, really. We’re utterly satiated, but, we’ll be back.
By Lize de Kock
Constantia Uitsig Restaurant
Constantia Uitsig |Spaanschemat River Road | Constantia | Cape Town | Phone: 021 794 6500
Check out our Eating Out Section for more luscious lunch and delectable dinner spots.