Aubergine Restaurant

Aubergine Restaurant in Gardens

+27 (0)21 465 0000
39 Barnet Street, Gardens
www.aubergine.co.za
info@aubergine.co.za
Aubergine Restaurant Cape Town

Aubergine Restaurant in Gardens

Fine dining in one of Cape Town’s most iconic eateries

“I knew I wanted to be a chef from age 11,” says Harald Bresselschmidt. His starched white chef’s jacket is seamless with the muted surroundings of Aubergine. I’ve managed to catch the owner-chef in the brief lull before dinner service (the restaurant also serves lunch).

Aubergine is something of a Cape Town icon. Hidden on narrow Barnet Street in Gardens, the fine dining restaurant is housed in a venerable old building said to date back to 1830, and the tall ceilings and thick, cool walls are evidence of this heritage. There’s a homespun elegance to the décor - it’s comfortable yet refined – and as the man at the helm is a collector of contemporary fine art, plenty of arresting paintings are positioned throughout the eatery. Harald points out one behind us: created by his friend and famed South African Neo-baroque artist Christo Coetzee, it’s an unusual composition of dentist tools paired with tactile baking references. “I had to have it,” he says. “My wife is a dentist, and well, I’m the cook!”

Harald was raised on a farm near the Belgian border, and over glasses of Charles Fox Méthode Cap Classique, he spins tales of his pastoral childhood. “I spent a lot of time with my grandmother in the kitchen. We had a special tart we baked with fruits from the garden and topped with homemade crumble.”

He also grew up slaughtering the farm’s animals and learnt how to use every part, so ‘nose-to-tail eating’ isn’t merely a trend for him, it’s a way of life. His relationship with the gastronomic world was all enveloping: from the knee of his grandmother to his time spent understanding what it takes to raise and prepare livestock and produce.

After finishing school at 14, he embarked on a three-year apprenticeship to become a chef. Harald then spent the following eight years travelling through Europe, gaining experience a year at a time at mostly Michelin-star restaurants, including the Savoy Hotel in London.

In 1991 he completed his masters in gastronomy from the Heidelberg Hotel Management School. A year later, Harald was headhunted for the head chef position at the Grand Roche Hotel in Paarl, and so began his love affair with the Cape. All the while, his ambition was to open his own restaurant.

“Ask any chef and he’ll tell you the most difficult part of opening a restaurant is finding the right spot. I got very lucky. I can see myself here for the rest of my life.”

And he’ll most likely be commanding the pass for perpetuity too. “I’ve asked my chef, but he never gives me a day off,” he says with a wink.

Creativity is born from authenticity

Outside night has fallen, like a soft navy blanket. We’re seated in the loft area of the restaurant. There’s space for only a few tables, and a sloping roof thatched with reeds adds to the intimacy of the setting. We watch the restaurant rapidly filling up down below. There’s a melody of crystal against crystal, the gentle salute of glasses. Wine is pivotal here. “That’s what’s different about Aubergine,” says Harald. “We don’t have all the ‘bold and beautiful’; we source our wines from smaller producers. The wine and the food must talk to each other.”

Reading the introductory letter in the menu, this paragraph jumps out: My culinary philosophy, passion and cuisine are an on-going dialogue with my past, interactions with my present and aspirations for the future. Warm, confident and creative, the mantra makes it easy to see Harald’s influence on the plates being placed before us.

The menu is a tribute to the South African ingredients, such as kabeljou, ostrich and springbok, that are woven together with Western and Eastern influences.

“We’re lucky in South Africa - we can freestyle,” says the chef. “If you cooked this kind of food in a small village in France, they would come and hit you with a pan!”

My pan-wielding hand doesn’t move an inch as we’re transported through a tasting menu that features balance, finesse and texture. There’s a lightness to the food that belies its studied complexity. We devour rabbit, cured tuna, delicate ravioli and lamb saddle ‘en chemise’ with a puff pastry coat

“Food without a glass of wine, I’m not interested”

Wine is an undeniable passion here; each course is thoughtfully paired with the right story as well as the right wine. Harald’s vinous flame was lit during his time as a young chef in Michelin-star restaurants. “All the chefs had their own cellars. I didn’t have money for extravagance, yet I still invested in wine.”

The habit persisted. And in 2009, Auslese, a food and wine pairing function venue, was born. “Every couple of years you have to do something big, and doing something different has the added benefit of rejuvenating your way of thinking.”

Situated in an historic building on Hope Street, Auslese is an interactive space created to showcase South African wines paired with tailor-made canapés. The venue is available for smaller lunches and dinners as well as for larger, more informal launches of up to 150 guests. And of course, the heart of the building houses a state-of-the-art maturation cellar.

My next course is a pillow-soft aubergine soufflé, and as I slice through the signature dish, I ponder the restaurant’s name. Brinjal, eggplant, aubergine —with its creamy-green flesh and midnight purple skin, it’s part of the deadly nightshade family. “The vegetable is striking when cut through,” says Harald. “And that’s what it’s all about: it is contrast that keeps food delicious, to the very last forkful.”

Tip: Want to experience a more casual side of Aubergine? Pop in for lunch (it's served between October and April) or enquire after the bistro menu (it’s available between May and September).

Bill: Fine food and quality ingredients come at a fine price. A three-course menu without wine pairing costs R465p/p and with wine pairing it costs R640p/p; a four-course menu rings in at R565p/p and with wine pairing it’s R790p/p; and a five-course menu will set you back R675p/p – it’s R950p/p with wine pairing.

---

Looking for a place to have a nightcap in the same area? Check out our guide to East City nightlife in Cape Town.

---

Use our events section for an up-to-date overview of happenings in Cape Town. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter, and if you have a smartphone, add m.capetownmagazine.com to your home screen for quick access on the go!

What’s more, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle, connect with us on LinkedIn, check out our photos on Instagram and follow our Pinterest boards for updates on what’s going down in and around the Mother City!

Cape Town Events Calendar
August 2019
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Ash_EvansBecome A Video Star

Learn how to handle yourself on camera

blowfish_new_4Half-Price Sushi Every Wednesday and ...

And drink in the sunset and view (and a cocktail)

Jedi Tedi 3Drink Rosé & Find Inner Peace

Yoga, meditation and rosé on tap at this Women’s Day brunch in Milnerton

sounding_the_voidDiscover the Art of Listening At A ...

A free audio exhibition exploring fantasy islands, suits that give you a different ...

Kinky BootsSmash-Hit Kinky Boots Extended To 2020 ...

With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award

chicha4Get To Know Your Wine: Wednesdays are ...

Sample some fine wines and meet the makers behind your favourite tipple

Cherry_Glamping3Team Building is For Bonding, So Ditch ...

Hiking, biking, canopy tours and luxury glamping just 50 minutes outside of Cape Town

zingara_bombay5 Happy Hours, Every Day of The Week

And Cafe Paradiso has a weekend seafood platter special for two

Nom Nom_New1Something New: Invent Your Own Gin at ...

All-new DIY gin bar, double your wine every Wednesday, PLUS: an all-new menu to share

vredenheim_2019_9Picnic Among The Golden Wildebeest on ...

A family game drive with a difference at Vredenheim

kaskaziBoost Your Week With A Hump Day Kayak ...

The chance to see ocean and bird life at sunrise and get to work on time

cocosafar_steak1From Rib Eye To Vegetarian – Here Are ...

Gourmet burgers and steak, as well as cocktails, are now on the menu at this all-day cafe ...

La Paris_Deli2Wednesday Delights at La Paris Deli in ...

A bakery and bistro experience at one of the most beautiful winelands wedding venues, now ...

cartelcafe6Lunch Sorted: A Midweek Buffet At The ...

Fill up your plate and tuck into a tasty lunch spread every Wednesday and Thursday: From ...

two_oceans_aquariumMake Memorable Moments at Cape Town’s ...

Throw a party unlike any other at the Mother City’s underwater wonderland

Comedyclub_new11End Hump Day With a Laugh At The ...

Share the experience at Cape Town Comedy Club in the Waterfront’s Pumphouse every ...

Om Revolution vinyasa poseHave an Outdoor Yoga Experience with ...

Embrace your inner yogi outdoors

glam_barBeauty Special: Gelish or Shellac Nails ...

Book via Whatsapp: Workday-perfect nail treatments with free rinse and discounts on all ...

OX boat rides 110% Off: See The Marine Big 5 on an ...

Whales, dolphins, penguins, cape fur seals and mola mola (sunfish), an awesome boat trip ...

theatre and film costume hire25% Off Hollywood-Calibre Costume ...

Wednesdays only: Gorgeous vintage cocktail dresses to realistic historical costumes for ...

house of hLook Who's Serving a R50 Lunch Special ...

Loved by locals, House of H now does delicious new lunch specials – from boerie rolls ...

Park Inn_RGB_ItalianDinnerSpecial5All-You-Can-Eat Italian Dinner Special ...

Made fresh right in front of you, with your choice of sauces and toppings – this is one ...

beluga_whisylounge2-for-1 Whisky Wednesdays at Beluga

Your midweek escape just got a whole lot better with the 2-for-1 Wednesday whisky special ...

Nasty Womxn - 4Nasty Womxn Flipping Greeks Myths on ...

A sketch art exhibition that retells the stories of Persephone and Medusa form a ...

grub_vine_3Free Wine Tasting Every Wednesday at ...

Grub & Vine’s #VineNight hosts a different wine farm

Vergenoegd_duckrun1Cheer On The Ducks At Vergenoegd Löw

Bring the kids along to experience the Duck Parade

WeatherGiveawaysTravel Tips

Curious to make exciting discoveries in Cape Town every day? "LIKE" us for a daily hidden gem.