Den Anker invited me to try its new Winter special, an unusual pairing of two food dishes with two Belgian beers, from a selection of three options. The invitation arrived in a very creative package, filled with the Belgian beers the dishes were paired with, marked with the hashtag #PerfectPair, and was personally delivered by Chef Doekle Vlietman.
I had invited friends Anna and Alex to join me, and it was a perfect sunny winter’s day last week. Den Anker is one of the oldest restaurants in the V&A Waterfront, having opened close to 23 years ago, and has been consistent in being a Belgium-style brasserie. Dutch-origin Chef Doekle headed up the kitchen just a few months after it opened, a remarkable feat for a chef to stay at one restaurant for so long. It has a fantastic location, with a view onto Table Mountain. The photography frame facing the mountain outside its door is a massive tourist attraction.
Junior Manager Rhys welcomed us, and showed us to our table, right next to the fireplace, making it even more cozy. Before my guests arrived, he told me that they have good feedback about the Winter Special, which runs until 19h00 daily. He brought a platter with bread and butter to our table and took our drinks order, which we kept to water and the beers designated for the pairings. The #PerfectPair Winter Special consists of a choice of one of three dishes, each consisting of two elements, and paired with two Belgian beers on tap, at a cost of R125. As there were three of us, we ordered all three the Specials platters, and shared the food and beers:
# The Wagyu Burger platter was served with two mini burgers: one with Béarnaise sauce, and the other with Dutch cheese and caramelised onion. The Cheese Burger was paired with the unfiltered blond La Chouffe, with coriander and orange notes. It has a floral scent, with a slight banana fruitiness. It is made with white barley malt and Styrian Golding and Saaz-Saaz hops. On the 330ml bottle it was described as a ‘strong beer’, with 8% alcohol. The Bernaise Burger was paired with Vedett Weissbier, an Extra White, salty, neutral beer, Rhys explained. Its alcohol content is 4,7%, the 330ml bottle informs. With the two burgers pomme frites and home-made mayonnaise were served.
# The Mussels board consisted of two bowls, the one cooked in a white wine cream sauce, which was paired with Maredsous Blond beer, its alcohol content being 6% on the front label and 8% on the back label of the 330ml bottle, and described on the label as a ‘strong beer’. It is brewed according to an original recipe and Benedictine tradition, and has a flowery and fruity aroma. It is made with white barley malt and Styrian Golding and Saaz-Saaz hops. It was served in an unusual beer glass, resembling a wine glass. The second Mussels dish was the classic Moules Marinières, cooked with leek, shallot, and garlic, and adding lemon, juice, parsley, and butter, which was paired with a fruit beer Liefmans Fruitesse On The Rocks, a most unusual refreshing and elegant red fruitbeer, made of cherries, elderberries, strawberries, bilberries, and raspberries. It contains pale barley malt and Herkules hop. Its alcohol content is 3,8% for 250 ml. The Mussels platter was served with pomme frites and mayonnaise.
#. The Fish board consisted of two vastly different dish styles: a beer-battered hake, which was paired with the Vedett Extra White; and a tomato-based fish curry made with kingklip, and served with Basmati rice, and a large poppadom crisp, which was paired with an unusual low calorie yellow Liefmans Yell’Oh On The Rocks fruitbeer, made with pineapple, elderflower, basil, apple, and lime, with a lower alcohol content of 3,8% for the 250ml bottle. It is made with barley and wheat malt, and from Saaz, Hallertau, and Hallertau Magnum hops. This platter was also served with pomme frites and home-made mayonnaise.
Vedett Extra Blond is a top quality premium Pils beer with an intense sparkle, dry and smooth to drink. The addition of rice gives it a crispy taste. It is lagered for a month, and Saaz-Saaz hops and white barley malt and rice are used to make the beer. Its 330 ml bottle has an alcohol content of 5,2%.
Even though we had done very well with our three Specials platters, Alex and I ordered a dessert each: I went for the indulgent Chocolate Mousse, described on the menu as ‘pure velvet made with Valrhona Chocolate, served with Homemade Maredsous (beer) ice-cream‘ and charged at R65. With it I received a perfect dry cappuccino. Alex ordered the Classic Chocolate Tart, also costing R65.
Yesterday I went to revisit Den Anker, mainly to thank Chef Doekle for spoiling us for lunch, and to share a cappuccino with him. He told me that his chef training came from working in a restaurant in Holland after leaving school, and taking over the kitchen when the chef left, a lucky break for him. On his return to Cape Town he stepped into the Den Anker job 23 years ago, and he is unlikely to ever leave it!
The Den Anker Winter Special is the most unusual of all in Cape Town, based on the information I have collected of Restaurant Winter Specials, listed on this Blog. It is a fun outing with friends, and the unusual Belgian beers paired with the three Winter dishes is a good conversation stopper.
Den Anker, Pierhead, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel (021) 419-0249 www.denanker.co.za Twitter:@den_anker Instagram:@den_anker
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein