The critically acclaimed Cape Town restaurant Fyn remains at the top of its game, with global recognition from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants — yet again — and Relais & Châteaux. Its new menu, a concise and refined offering, is testament to these successes.
It’s been a fantastic year for Fyn, the Japanese-meets-South-African brainchild of chefs Peter Tempelhoff and Ashley Moss, together with service and beverage director Jennifer Hugé. In June, the restaurant was again one of the only African restaurants to make the World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ extended list.
It was at these awards that it was also presented with The World’s 50 Best’s coveted Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award. The latest feather in the restaurant’s impressive cap — and another culinary first for Africa — is the invitation to join Relais & Châteaux, the prestigious global association of five-star hotels and two- and three-star Michelin restaurants recognised for their exceptional cuisine and hospitality, sustainable mindset, and dedication to celebrating local heritage.
Joining this prestigious association is particularly important to Tempelhoff, who is a Relais & Châteaux World Culinary Council member. “Becoming the first standalone Relais & Châteaux restaurant in South Africa and on the African continent is a very proud moment for my team and me,” says Tempelhoff. “Having been involved in the association for nearly 20 years, Fyn’s becoming a new member feels natural. We share the same commitments to quality, excellence, sustainability, community, and integrity, and it is an honour and pleasure to share these ideals with my team and our guests.”
The team, riding high from these well-deserved successes, have returned from their winter break — which saw the restaurant undergo minor renovations, including an extension of the upstairs seating area and the addition of its Relais & Châteaux plaque — with what might just be its most impressive menu yet. The Fyn experience menu delivers eight immaculately refined and restrained courses. Each one is a remarkable showcase of South African ingredients, Japanese technique, and the unrivalled expertise of the Fyn kitchen, underscored by a strong sustainability ethos.
It begins with a trio of kitchen snacks, inspired by the Japanese art of sushi making. The neoteric nigiri sees locally sourced line fish sliced in a classic sushi serve, dressed with kosho and aged shoyu, while Mozambican crab is wrapped in a brick-pastry casing along with rice, seaweed, and furikake spice. Completing the trifecta is an onigiri of butter-soft Lambert’s Bay abalone served atop sushi rice finished with generous shavings of South African truffle. All three are deeply flavourful, umami-rich mouthfuls.
A Tempelhoff signature dish arrives next — a glorious burnt mushroom custard served with a fluffy Japanese milk bun in a brilliant celebration of contrasting tastes and textures. The creamy, savoury custard and shards of burnt sugar are meant to be slathered atop the soft bun — it’s a dish that’s never loses its appeal.
Then it’s on to the gamefish. The day I visit a fillet of fresh tuna — line-caught off the Cape coast — is seared over Japanese binchotan coals, served with crispy tempura dune spinach and bonito flakes, and finished with a spicy, sweet, and tangy chiri-zu – prepared and served table side. The beautifully clean and fresh dish, which showcases a local catch and ocean greens, is stunning in its seeming simplicity.
Slices of free-range Cape wagyu follow, arriving atop shiso leaves along with layers of rice-vinegar-pickled carrot and daikon, and fried koji. Where the previous dish impressed with its simplicity, here it’s the complexity that amazes, with the tender meat, fragrant leaf, and crunchy vegetables delivering layer upon layer of punchy flavours. The same can be said of the fish dish of kingklip and crayfish elevated with the added luxury of black caviar. The crayfish espuma, in particular, concentrates the flavours of the shellfish beautifully.
As much as Fyn impresses with its meat and fish dishes, it matches and perhaps even exceeds this with the vegetarian course. A clever dish of wild-mushroom fregola celebrates the local artichoke season with both globe artichoke and Japanese artichoke displayed to great effect, along with vegetable jibuni sauce.
The final main is a hazelnut- and parmesan-crusted Outeniqua springbok loin accompanied by celeriac puree, textures of Elgin apples, and Cape mountain sage — a wonderful celebration of local, seasonal, and sustainably sourced produce.
Dessert is a sweet kaiseki — a trio of sweets consisting of Madagascan chocolate tart, toasted-rice ice cream, and slices of burnt pineapple. The meal closes with a selection of mochi, with the Japanese treats created in collaboration with the Cape Town Japanese dessert store Mochi Mochi. No review of Fyn would be complete without mentioning the world-class hospitality and expert drinks service delivered by Hugé. Undoubtedly one of the best sommeliers on the floor in South Africa right now, she has created incredible wine pairings, playing with interesting back vintages, exciting young guns, and some spectacular heavy hitters – Eben Sadie’s Treinspoor with the aforementioned Cape wagyu comes to mind.
This is the beauty of Fyn, which, by virtue of its consistent drive for excellence, delivers a phenomenal experience at every turn.
• From the October edition of Wanted, 2023.