Stepping out into the fading sunlight after the last Sauvignon had been sipped for a much deserved cigarette – I hadn’t had a single puff all day – I found that the day’s preferred tipple was a good appetizer indeed. I was ravenous. Just then Jorg piped up, “All those going to the dinner at La Colombe you should probably leave now.”
Thinking only of my stomach I sidled up to Jorg and inquired whether there were any seats still available for dinner. The rational part of brain was hoping he would say no and thus save me from any more black market organ dealings.
Jorg was chatting on the phone, “What’s that Jonathan? But I have a seat booked for you. Hold on.” He turned to me, “Harry you want the ticket?” I nodded, trying to calculate how much I could get for my spleen. “OK Jonathan I’ve sold your ticket.” And just like that I was off to dinner.
I hadn’t dined at La Colombe before and was looking forward to tasting some of the sculptured dishes from chef Luke Dale-Roberts who has helped the restaurant to win numerous awards. From their website:
La Colombe, winner of both Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year in the Prudential Eat Out Awards 2008, has once again been honoured with the prestigious Restaurant of the Year title for 2009. La Colombe has also been voted as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2009 and has achieved the highest three star rating in both the 2009 and 2010 issues of the acclaimed Rossouw’s Restaurants guide.
Not too shabby. If this place was a bottle of wine there would be little place to sit for all the stickers; luckily fine dining is no where near as vulgar as wine competitions.
We were greeted on the lawns with an assortment of bubbles, my favourite being the 2008 Steenberg Brut 1682 . And after a bit of hobnobbing with Allister Kreft of Under the Influence, Jean Vincent Ridon of Signal Hill, Jasper Raats high flying wine maker now based at Rudera and a few more glasses of the Steenberg, dinner was about to be served.
I found where Jonathan Steyn was supposed to be sitting and ambled over to the table. I saw that my next door neighbour at dinner was Neil Pendock. This was slightly embarrassing as that very morning I’d blogged about how my breakfast was interrupted by his hacked Twitter account. Thankfully the humour in it was appreciated and dinner carried on.
The food was absurdly good. Dale-Roberts is expert at clever fined tuned dishes. For example the fricassee of crayfish and veal sweetbreads, summer vegetables, miso dressing, shitaki teriyaki and sweep potato crisps was rich and eloquent, the textures working together as well as the flavours. Each course was paired with three wines. My favourite from this course was the 1987 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc which had some botrytis whose richness worked with the sweetbreads and the still alive acidity cleared the palate expertly.
This is an interesting wine that has become something of an Icon. Duggie Jooste owner of Klein Constantia was at our table and spoke a little about the vintage. It had rained throughout the harvest, hence the Botrytis. They weren’t entirely sure what to do with the wine and labelled it a Blanc de Blanc. From the cellar they sold it for around R7.50 a bottle; hearing that I added another activity to my list of things to do when I acquire a time machine. Now there are only 200 odd left in Klein Constantia’s cellar so I doubt I will be tasting it again. I savoured that wine, only three years younger than me, and tried to remember my last sip, which I did by staring at one of La Colombe’s resident geese.
There was definitely something about the geese because as I was enjoying a between course smoke I saw Tim James having a protracted conversation with one of them. Maybe it’s just us English students who like to talk to our Foie Gras?
Another highlight was tasting the reincarnation of our most famous vinous export. You know the one, a favoured tipple of Dickens, Napoleon also liked a drop – god that’s a bit of a hackneyed reference isn’t it? – anyway, the 1992 Vin de Constance was delightful. Shades of tea and and a slightly nutty character intrigued with notes of toffee that followed through onto the palate. Rich and scrumptious with cleansing acidity.
There was much else that was tasted at dinner, like the 1998 Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc nearing the end of its life I think (I guess) but so so good, with depth and and refinement. The rather harassingly young 2005 Couly Dutheil Clos de l’Olive (Chinon) I admit I say it was harassingly young because I didn’t like it much in its current state, but Jean Vincent said so many good things (He generally seems to say many things) about previous vintages it’s all I can think. Jorg described it as a fabulous Italian leather shoe that is too small. I said sure, and that that shoe had just been running through a tomato patch. It was getting late.
Bruwer Raat’s De Compostella 2007 got passed round our table at one point, and it had a depth and density missing in the French reds that were present. Also young but far more forgiving.
The night drew to a close and after a few more stolen sips of the Vin de Constance (apparently all the ‘87 Klein Constantia had been drunk by those at Cathy Van Zyle’s table) I said my goodbyes and made my way back to the city, I had an early train to Matjiesfontein.