In compiling the Cape Town and Winelands Winter Restaurant Specials list last week, I was invited by Harbour House Kalk Bay owner Michael Townsend to try their Winter Special Menu. My friend Bettie Coetzee Lambrecht and I enjoyed a very special pre-Mothers Day lunch at the restaurant yesterday, on a lovely sunny day, at the water’s edge.
I had not been to Harbour House in years, located at the Kalk Bay harbour. We had to ask which road to take, and the gentleman at the cones demanded payment as we drove through, telling us that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries had instructed him to collect monies, as they are not paid. When we had parked outside the restaurant his colleague approached us for payment too, but through her walkie-talkie she instructed us to pay him when we leave. We were surprised to see a Lucky Fish next to the entrance of Harbour House, another restaurant group owned by Townsend, and the team working there told us that it was the first Lucky Fish to open, as long as five years ago.
At the restaurant reception the friendly Katie welcomed us, and took us on a guided tour of the two-storey restaurant, previously having been Polana downstairs (and for a very short time the smoking section of Harbour House, but now just a less formal part of Harbour House, the whole restaurant being non-smoking now) and Harbour House upstairs. A major interior decor transformation took place late last year, with a deck added, and various sections of the restaurant created, seating more than 200 patrons in total. The chairs appear newly painted in white with newly upholstered seats in blue. Everywhere there are marine decor touches and lit candles, with orchids, giving a smart upmarket feel to the restaurant. One section of the restaurant has tables at the windows, and a middle section with couches and tables, which one can move to once one has finished one’s meal, so that the next sitting of patrons can be seated.
We were shown to a lovely corner table, looking out onto the ocean, with a white table cloth and material serviettes, a vase with a protea, unbranded bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, unbranded salt and pepper grinders, and a plate with pre-mixed olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Kyle introduced himself as our waiter, and talked us through the Winter Special menu, irritating when he tried to change my initial choice of main course, as if he did not want me to order the duck. We had to speak to the manager about Kyle. He brought Bettie a glass of Groote Post Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, but did not check if she wanted another glass when she had finished it. He brought a bread plate, not introducing it, and forgot the butter I had requested, but when I reminded him he brought it pre-packaged rather than as a slice.
As her starter Bettie ordered Norwegian salmon rillettes, beautifully presented, and consisting of diced salmon with red onions and dill, lemon aioli, a soft-boiled quail egg, and cured salmon trout. ‘Rillettes‘ may not be the correct word for the dish, as the dish is not cooked. We did not want to duplicate dish choices, so I ordered Artichoke Orzotto, an Italian-style risotto made from slow-braised pearl barley and served with artichoke and Parmesan cream, topped with artichoke and strips of spring onion, and rounded off with lovely cheese truffles which had been coated in a selection of toasted seeds. It was a most unusual dish, one I have never encountered before, and unfortunately incredibly salty, laced with salt crystals. The third starter option is French onion soup, but it was not yet wintry enough to consider this dish as a starter.
Bettie’s main course choice was an unusual Bouillabaisse du Cap, less a soup and more a fish dish, consisting of line fish, calamari, prawns, black mussels, carrots, and a seafood bisque. On the side Bettie received ciabatta Melba toast, saffron mayonnaise, and finely grated Parmesan cheese. Bettie was in seafood heaven with her dish. I chose the grilled catch of the day, which was intended to be kabeljou, but I am fussy with fish, so was allowed to exchange it for kingklip from the main menu, but with the same elements on the Winter Menu, being smoked potato mash, a dill and pea purée, Hollandaisse sauce, and a citrus salad of orange and grapefruit, topped with dill and a pansy, and Pomegranate pips, carrot strips, and Spring onion added colour. It was one of the best kingklip dishes I have eaten. The pan-seared duck breast is the third choice of main course, Kyle warning that duck can be tough if it is not cooked for long enough. It is served on butternut purée, roasted balsamic beetroot and buttered brown lentils, topped with a fried quail egg, and served with goose jus.
The biggest surprise was the excellent dessert, two choices being offered. Bettie ordered a baked strawberry cheesecake with a berry and rarely-encountered rhubarb compote, strawberry yoghurt sorbet, caramel-coated pistachio nuts, and delicious meringue ‘sandwiches’, a delightful study in pink, and perfect for Mother’s Day today. Bettie questioned whether ‘cheesecake‘ was the right description of the main element of her dessert, having a soft consistency. I ordered a dark chocolate torte, served with brownie crumbs, vanilla ice cream, and heavenly caramel popcorn coated with Sabayon, served with a perfectly made cappuccino, with a biscuit on a rose petal.
The Harbour House Winter Special is only available at the Kalk Bay branch, and costs R160 for two courses and R180 for three courses. A wine special of Horse Mountain Shiraz or Chenin Blanc Viognier blend is offered at R30 per glass, with a limit of two glasses per person. This menu is only available in May, and the dishes will change in each of the winter months. The Winter Special Menu is available for Monday – Saturday lunches, and Monday – Sunday dinners. It offers excellent value, the dishes are beautifully plated, and one dines in a stylish and scenic setting!
Harbour House Kalk Bay, off Main Road, Kalk Bay. Tel (021) 788-4133. www.harbourhouse.co.za Twitter: @HarbourHouseZA Monday – Sunday Lunch and Dinner.