It takes a supreme amount of confidence to serve up fine dining without the frills. No dry ice to achieve the “wow” factor on arrival or unnecessarily intricate plating to distract from anything but the food at hand. There’s nowhere to hide and every dish has to be at its best, purely for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say I’m not a fan of such theatre — it’s fun and magical and can make going out all that more special — but rather, I feel that when it comes to dinner (and a show, if you must), isn’t it all the more impressive when first and foremost it’s about the dinner? Shouldn’t flavour rather than façade be the star?
And at Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia that’s exactly what you get. While it may arguably have one of the most beautiful views in all the Cape and the restaurant itself is certainly a stunning space to dine with in, it consistently delivers when it comes to food. No smoke and mirrors just top-notch cooking by Chef Ivor Jones and his team.
We arrive for dinner on a Thursday evening, the summer sun just beginning to set and perfect timing for a glass of Beau Constantia MCC — winemaker Megan van der Merwe, unsurprisingly, creating a superb bottle of fizz. The bubbles are of course accompanied by Beau’s signature: Oysters Beau Constantia.
Perfectly chilled, the delicate creamy oyster and all its umami savouriness taken to the next level with a very clever combination of toppings — a little sweet, a little spicy, a little tangy... it’s a gobsmacking mouthful which whets your appetite for what’s to come.
The menu, following suit with the usual Chefs Warehouse style, takes shape in the form of tapas for two — a set menu featuring a selection of small plates to be shared between guests. Each course sent out with two or three dishes, building from smaller and lighter through to heartier, heftier mains.
Jones’s affinity for Asian-flavours is peppered throughout, whether it be a dash of dashi jelly accompanying the beef tartar or the Southern Thai influence of the linefish — hake on the day and cooked to perfection, topped with a corn gratin. It’s an element that weaves its way through the menu without being overdone or too conspicuous, but is no doubt one of the driving forces behind the big, bold and punchy flavours.
In addition to the above, highlights included the linefish sashimi — the spicy Szechuan chilli dressing tamed by elements of coconut, and the hot-smoked sweet potato — an exercise in texture with creamy toasted Parmesan Catalan and crispy crackling.
The risotto was there too, of course, the evening’s iteration one of mushroom, truffle and pine. Though slightly over seasoned, it was still a beautifully cooked dish, the chefs expertly managing to build dimensions of flavour with three very earthy ingredients.
Rounding off the mains was a Karoo lamb rib, here though there’s a saltiness, and it’s brought into balance by the lemon ricotta and charred sultana purée — a cheeky little accompaniment of scrumptious sweetbreads finishing off the dish, just right.
While that concluded the tapas for two, there was naturally still space for dessert. Their wild honey & lavender creme with crunchy honeycomb remains one of my favourite desserts of all time. Served with a cassia bark ice cream, it’s all the sweet excitement of dessert while being light enough to still thoroughly enjoy after a tasting menu. Simple yet sublime.
It’s incredibly clever, confident and considered cooking from start to finish. Pair it with a stellar service team, who don’t miss a beat, and it’s no surprise that Chef’s Warehouse Beau Constantia is as exciting and impressive a culinary destination as we have in SA right now.