Twelve Apostle’s Hotel PR consultancy Five Star PR invited a number of writers to try the new Winter Menu yesterday, on a sunny winter’s day, with Lion’s Head in the background. I was impressed with how the level of the cuisine at Azure restaurant has improved since my last visit.
We met on the restaurant deck, and the Atlantic Ocean looked like a lake. We were served a glass of Môreson Solitaire Brut NV MCC as a welcome drink. Attending the lunch were veteran freelance journalist Andrew Donaldson, freelance writer Bianca Coleman, Food24’s Tessa Purdon, Eat Out‘s Lauren Josephs, hotel GM Michael Nel, and Five Star PR owner Janie van der Spuy. Our table was closest to the Azure glass door, with a hint of the ocean and the mountain, a perfect Cape Town setting.
On arrival I met the new Food & Beverage Manager Hilton Ruch, who recently moved across from the Table Bay Hotel. He opened the Taj Cape Town, and also spent a year at North Island in the Seychelles. He had originally worked at the Twelve Apostles hotel as an intern, as part of his training. His appointment came after the promotion of Gavin Ferreira to Deputy GM, the former Food & Beverage Manager, following the retirement of Horst Frehse, who left the hotel in November.
The bread plate we were served was impressive, with a variety of breads, including a seed loaf, seed crisps, cheese sticks, and the lightest attractive-looking corn bread, served with snoek pâté, biltong butter, and whipped butter. On the table there was a triple container with salt crystals, ground black pepper, and chili flakes. Chef Christo Pretorius came to introduce the menu, talking through each course.
Chef Christo sent an Amuse Bouche to the table, an attractive beetroot tartare with baby gem salad, with a crispy texture.
Our first starter was entitled ‘Hen’s Egg on Toast‘, being a soft poached egg on toasted brioche, shimeji mushrooms, smoked bacon, and a potato and chive vichyssoise (R110). This was one of the favorite dishes of our lunch, a perfect brunch-type dish too. The dish was paired with Nativo White 2014, made by The Hughes Family Wines from the Piketberg Road in Malmesbury in the Swartland. The back label informed that it was a blend of 75% Viognier, 15% Chenin Blanc, 5% Grenache Blanc, and 5% Roussanne. Most of us had not heard of this wine or its producer. Platter 2016 informs that the wine farm has belonged to Argentinian-born Billy Hughes since 2004, and practices biodynamic farming. They have built an underground wine cellar from old shipping containers. Bryan MacRobert is the winemaker. The wine was awarded 4½ stars in the latest Platter guide. What was impressive was the ‘pairing’ of the first course and a Tweet sent to each of us attending by the Twelve Apostles, with a message ‘Don’t poach my ideas’, playing on the poached egg served in this course! It created intrigue, as we did not understand the reason for the Tweet initially.
Our second starter was entitled ‘Baby Calamari Risotto‘, the bowl also containing crispy calamari tentacles, creamed cauliflower, pickled sultanas, and Parmesan crumbs (R125). A tentsuyu broth (a tempura dipping sauce, made by adding dashi to soy sauce and mirin, with fresh-grated daikon and ginger) was then added to the bowl at the table. Chef Christo explained that they utilize all parts of their produce, and so too with cauliflower, which has become expensive since Banting took off, being a popular carbohydrate replacement. The most unusual aspect of his dish was the watermelon radishes, which none of us at the table had seen before. Chef Christo told us that this is one of their most popular dishes. The dish was paired with Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2013, the wine estate being part of the Red Carnation group too.
The main course was ‘Braised Beef Short Rib‘, Chef Christo telling us that braising is his favorite winter style of meat preparation. It is placed in brine for 24 hours, and then braised for 12 hours. It was accompanied by beef tartare placed on top of the short rib, confit leek, parsnip purée, baby onions, and rich bone marrow jus. The pairing with Cederberg Private Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 was perfect. Hilton shared that the grapes come from very high altitude vineyards in the Cederberg.
Our dessert was most impressive, and had been created by Pastry Chef Nathan Jacobs. Chef Christo said that the new trend in desserts is monochrome,
and that Chef Nathan had chosen yellow as the colour of the dessert. The white chocolate half circle looked like a wall within which the other elements were plated, including lime mousse, passion fruit sorbet, coconut microwave sponge, pansies, and coconut pudding. I noticed that the dessert plate had been polished with oil, and it reflected my phone, making photographing this dish a little more challenging. The dessert was paired with Perdeberg Natural Sweet Weisser Riesling 2011.
A surprise last course was a boxed selection of petit fours, consisting of macarons and a bag of chocolate pieces and pearls, which we took home with us. We were offered coffees, to end our spoiling lunch. Chef Christo had joined us at the table after the main course, and enthused about his planned trip to France in August. He is hoping to get to JAN Restaurant in Nice. He is also excited about the kitchen upgrade at the hotel, with a cooking island, and a more modern look.
For winter a 5 course Tasting Menu costs R675. A 4-course Taste of the Sea menu costs R700, while the 4-course vegetarian Taste of the Earth costs R460.
Azure restaurant, Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town. Tel (021) 437-9000. www.12apostles.co.za. Twitter: @12_Apostles
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein