From lunches and carols to markets and meeting Santa
Mint Restaurant at the Taj is more than Fresh
Contemporary Indian Restaurant at Cape Town’s Taj Hotel is casual, classy and spicy
Mint. Green, fresh, light and healthy. The informal all-day dining restaurant Mint opened in January 2010 as a part of the Taj Hotel in Cape Town, with the grand opening in late August. And yes, it uses fresh and light greens as the main colour scheme for the interior and decoration. Yet 'Mint' has a different interpretation to what is expected. Mint restaurant is situated inside the old Reserve Bank building at the entrance of St. Geroges Mall in Cape Town’s Wale Street. It sits exactly in the room where they used to mint coins. Hence the name Mint. A place with history, but still fresh.
The first thing Lize and I notice is the excellent service. Our waitress Mary Anne and manager Kerry are authentic, friendly and polite and make us feel comfortable. They know the menu very well and we follow their recommendations.
Let’s talk food, let’s talk Eastern
Since the Taj is a hotel with an authentic Indian influence, the cuisine also reflects this. Let’s describe the Mint menu as contemporary Indian cuisine with Middle Eastern and European touches. Word on the street is that Taj Cape Town’s Mint restaurant can be summed up in one word, "choice". I agree.
The choices are grand. It starts with breakfast (traditional Indian breakfasts, a broad choice of á la carte breakfasts and a buffet). The lunch and dinner menu also opts for a classic selection featuring seafood, meat and poultry grills. Also nice to know is that all meals are halaal.
They use interesting and specialised ingredients at Mint, such as, well, mint. Just kidding, but don’t be surprised if you find things on the menu you never heard of next to truffle oil and enoki-essence (don’t worry, the waiters can answer all your questions well).
My colleague Lize and I are at Mint for lunch. For starters we have the Epice Chicken (R65) – what a lovely spicy start. Chicken pieces with Asian spices, lemon and a chive cream dip, nicely presented and a good starter portion to share. Finger food with a kick.
For mains I decide on the Aged 'Karan' Fillet (R160), which is the signature dish of Mint. The Fillet is beautifully presented with Alba Truffle, Enoki (mushroom) essence, tiny Chanterelles and Hon-Shimeji (Japanese mushrooms) – a gift for the eye. A tip from the chef: have the fillet with a glass of Saxenburg Shiraz SSS. Lize opts for the Murg Makhani Curry (R110), chicken in a creamy spiced tomato sauce with Naan bread. Definitely the option for curry lovers – very very spicy and indulgent. The real deal.
They also keeps kids in mind, so you will also find a typical kids menu with macaroni and cheese, tomato cream soup, grilled cheese sandwich, fish fingers and french fries from R50-R65. Don’t forget to have a look at the kiddies dessert menu. The Banana Split is a lovely reminder of the good old days. We decide on a couple of desserts from the main menu and are overwhelmed by the home made caramel ice-cream served with the finest chocolate fondant.
Mint-fresh interior feel
Since I’m very curious, I like the open plan show kitchen at the back. A huge glass-window allows a glimpse of the chefs artistically plating food. Another nice feature is the modern floor to ceiling metallic wine-wall and the artistic copper lights that add to the contemporary and somehow European feel. Imagine fresh green and blue walls, large prints of vineyards, marble floors, light wooden chairs with zesty green leaf embossed seat covers and a leather menu in olive green.
Mint is open – the colors, the feel, the staff and the doors. When Cape Town’s wind behaves, the doors are open and the tables outside on the terrace give an European style street café feel in the cosmopolitan St. Georges Mall. People can peek inside and come in, then watch people and the city buzz passing by - or have a private dining experience on the mezzanine level instead.
We are sitting here at a five star hotel restaurant, but you can still 'be yourself' and dress casual. Mint is modern, relaxing and approachable.
Lize and I, big tea-lovers, are surprised about the great selection of teas. Mary Anne presents us with all sorts of different teas from Japan and Sri Lanka. We are tea-impressed. Me being a Chai-drinker, I go for my favourite. Mary Anne warns me that the Masala Chai Fierg Ceylon Spice tea takes 15 minutes, but I am ready to wait – it’s the spicyest and freshest Chai I ever had in my life. Lize decides on the dried cranberry fruit tea and we love the stunning red and black stone tea pot that came all the way from Japan – stylish and grand. It’s about time to bring fine tea-culture to Cape Town – and the Taj hotel is taking the first steps.
The wine menu is one of the largest I have seen in Cape Town. You can choose from a broad selection of red and white South African wines, house specials are the Haute Espoir Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from Franschhoek and the Dunstone Merlot Vintage 2007 from Wellington. Not inexpensive, but you can also get by with a cheaper bottle from the menu. There’s also a variety of Nederburg Auction wines, dessert wines, port wines, South African sparkling wines and Method Cap Classique.
The cocktail menu includes classics plus the Taj Summer Cup and a good choice of non-alcoholic cocktails. You also get the well known soft drinks as well as iced tea offerings, hot drinks and champagne.
Guests leave empty plates
Chef Lyle Abrahams (28) says "Our food is quite continental, but we mainly serve Indian dishes. Well, it’s an Indian hotel". He worked in New York at The John Dory, at Gordon Ramsay in London and at the Waterfront at Balthazar.
"Everything is cooked to perfection" is a feedback the staff often gets. Another moment Lyle will always remember is when a guest came to the glass window at the Mint show kitchen to show off his empty plate. Yes, it’s that good.
by Antonia Heil
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