In my mind the Silo Hotel in the Waterfront was Cape Town highest restaurant and bar, although more bar on the 11th floor and restaurant on the 6th floor. A year ago that record was broken by Utopia when it opened as an Upmarket Bistro, in the Mirage building in De Waterkant, on the 15th floor, offering dining with a 360 degree view of the Mother City.
I was invited to try the 120-seater restaurant, which is a member of my Lockdown Sit-Down, Deliveries and Collection Facebook Group, for Lunch on Saturday, experiencing its Elevated Dining Restaurant and Bar.
I met Utopia GM Patso Ivanov at Zenzero in Camps Bay, where he previously looked after Zenzero, and other restaurants for the Kove Collection. After doing the Covid procedures of completing the register, and having my temperature taken with the receptionist, and being shown the table, Patso explained the background to the restaurant, and to the Chef and co-owner Pavel Dimitrov, both being Bulgarian. Pavel came to South Africa in 1996, starting at Vilamoura in Johannesburg as a young chef. He moved to Cape Town when the restaurant opened in Camps Bay, and then followed the owners to open Pigalle, and then followed twomof the owners to open NV-80.
Chef Pavel wanted to grow and decided to leave, to open his first own restaurant Utopia 18 months ago. I had to check the dictionary definition of ‘Utopia’, defined as ‘an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect’, a very big promise to make. Chef Pavel, known to the clients that have followed him during his cooking career as Chef Paul, came to sit with me for a while, introducing himself, as we had never met nor had I heard of him, being very low key. The other co-owner is William Coates, former owner of Mitchell’s Brewery and Ferrymans in the Waterfront.
The restaurant decor is understated, with metal top tables, and turquoise and green velvet chairs, simple but chic. Small touches of Portuguese tiling are visible, including in the background to the restaurant name. But a restaurant on the 15th floor needs minimal decor, surrounded by such breathtaking views, including the colourful Bo-Kaap and Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, of De Waterkant and the Cape Town Stadium, and of the Waterfront. There is only one picture, very impactful, in the restaurant, not needing any more. The tables were set with side plates by L by Luzerne, and the upmarket imported cutlery Sola. Napkins were good quality linen with blue stitching. I noticed the lone salt grinder, not accompanied by a pepper equivalent, the waiter bringing a large Pepper grinder to the table for the starter and main courses.
I walked around the restaurant, photographing the views. I noticed a large table set up in an adjoining section, which was being prepared for a table of 38 guests celebrating a 30th birthday. There is seating on the outside Deck too, but it was a windy South-Easter day, so I was happy to have been allocated a table with the Waterfront view. Patso offered me a glass of Kaapzicht Pinotage, in honour of International Pinotage Day, as a welcome drink, so I had a taste of our country’s unique cultivar.
The Menu and Drinks List are laminated and attached to a cork board, the latter looking slightly worn, but Patso told me that he is busy creating a new List. I liked that the Menu did not overwhelm one with too many options, yet it offered a good spread of food options, catering for Vegans and Vegetarians too. Whilst speaking to Chef Pavel, warm Ciabatta Rolls were brought to the table, with olive-infused butter, a classic touch. I found one of the two rolls to be slightly hard, taking away from its enjoyment.
I asked Patso for his recommendation of a starter, and he suggested the prawns, which are served in a spicy lemon garlic sauce (R110). They were beautifully presented, topped with chopped tomatoes, snap peas, and micro herbs. I’m not a fan of shelled prawns, finding it messy to shell them at the table, but I wanted to try the dish. I was brought cloths with which I could wipe my hands and an extra plate for the shells. I had asked Patso for the chilli to be toned down as far as possible, and the kitchen did so successfully.
Other starter options are Sautéed Beef (R110), White Sea Bass Ceviche (R120), Agnolotti a la ricotta (R110), West Coast oysters (R25 each), Cured salmon (R120), Mediterranean salad (R90), and Caprese salad (R110).
Patso asked if he could bring me a glass of Kaapzicht The 1947 Chenin Blanc 2018, explaining that the wine farm has the second oldest Chenin vines in our country, hence the name of this wine. Given that I was having two seafood dishes, it was an excellent pairing.
Chef Pavel told me that he does not do fine-dining, and that he likes to present his dishes simply, making the ingredients the hero. I could see this plating philosophy clearly in the generous main course serving of the Grilled Hake, crispy on top, served with half a lemon and a Beurre Blanc dill sauce, a delicious and healthy choice presented on a beautiful white Jars plate. It was accompanied by a side salad, also a generous portion, with crispy fresh lettuce leaves, tomatoes, peppers, olives, cucumber, and radish. (R220). I would have liked to eat the Hake with a Fish Knife and Fork.
Other main courses options are Norwegian Salmon (R240), Prawns (R260), Seafood platter (R750 for one), Springbok (R260), Fillet or Rib eye (R240), Cowboy Steak (R290), and Squid and scallop risotto (R260).
The créme de la créme of the Lunch was the Grand Marnier soufflé, which was featherlight and delicious, and served with a fresh orange sorbet and a slice of dried orange. Simple yet superb, presented with a smear of berry coulis (R85). Other dessert options are Raspberry and lime tart, and White Chocolate Brûlée and Berries, both at R85, and a cheese platter at R140.
Patso looked after my table most of the time, but two waiters helped remove the plates, and presented the main course. I felt that their service could have been sharper, in keeping with the restaurant name and its elevated dining stature and promise.
I enjoyed the Lunch so much that I have booked a table for Dinner tonight, with a visiting friend who has tried most top Cape Town Restaurants already, but has not yet been to Utopia. The service issue can easily be addressed with the staff by Patso. Street Parking is easily available, an added benefit. No deposit is required, and bookings need not be made in advance.
Utopia, 15th floor, Mirage Building, 40 Chiappini Steeet, De Waterkant, Cape Town. Tel 021 428 3065. www.utopiacapetown.co.za Instagram: @utopiacapetown
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein
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