At this point you’d need to have been living under a pretty big rock not to know that The Ritz hotel in Cape Town has — after many delays and a handsome R150-million refurb — finally opened its doors. December saw a glitzy soirée toasting the opening of the hotel, its pool bar (with fabulous cabanas), and the more casual hotel restaurant, Casa.
The #GlitzForTheRitz launch was one of Cape Town’s hot tickets in December, and the fact that everyone and their mother turned up for the do is a sure sign that the community was ready for this grand old dame to be redone and given a new lease on life. The Ritz’s history and unique height, coupled with countless Instagrammable nooks, has quickly launched the towering structure into instant icon status.
That was then; now, as we hurtle towards winter, and everybody knows the Cape’s winter can be icy, windy, and wet — generally not poolside weather — the Ritz is playing its next, and, arguably, best hand with the launch of the Top of the Ritz restaurant’s seven-course tasting menu.
The tasting menu — grandly named A Journey of Flavours through Cape Town — is executive chef Adrian Cook and head chef Maveer Thulsie’s way of paying homage to the city’s culinary traditions, with the menu offered in meat, vegetarian, and vegan variations.
Each of the seven courses is a reimagined take on a local dish, prepared with locally sourced ingredients and served up high in the clouds. “What’s so exciting about the menu is that we get to play with food that is familiar to many diners, but we are presenting it in a new and exciting manner,” Cook says. “Our seven-course Journey isn’t about smoke and mirrors, but authentic flavours presented in a refined manner.”
The restaurant, perched atop the Ritz building on the 23rd floor, enjoys jaw-dropping and unobstructed views of the three Atlantic point (Sea, Mouille, and Green points) — and beyond. The interior has been kept muted, so as not to detract from the natural splendour. Blackened walls, black-velvet bucket chairs, crisp white tablecloths, and imported vintage Philip Starck table lamps create a bold aesthetic and provide the perfect setting to focus the guests’ attention on the twinkling vista and modern cuisine that awaits.
Halfway through the meal, as we entered our second revolution — the restaurant still revolves, just like old times — I felt spoilt for choice upon what to focus: the views of the ocean or the beautifully plated dishes. The fish course, called Ocean View, is a dish intended to evoke a sense of nostalgia, with a fresh line-fish fillet accompanied by salt and vinegar cigars, kelp crisps, and homemade tartare. It’s the most impeccable dish on the entire menu, revealing the chef’s confidence. Between the exquisitely plated beetroot-and-goat’s cheese salad, dubbed The Gardens, and the final Mountain View dessert of smoked chocolate mousse, chocolate soil, pebbles, white “mushroom”, and smoke, one can’t help but lament the loss of leaving this iconic location practically disused for all these years.