Tuesday, 12 January 2010
South Africa - eating out
Where Paul's parents live is a very convenient distance away from the Cape winelands, and also pretty near to the coast. So that helped decide where we should eat when we went out.
The chicken pie at Hillcrest was tasty but nothing special. The sauvignon blanc, on the other hand, was lovely, and took us back for another bottle later in the week.
Paul wouldn't make any promises of fine cuisine on our drive to Blouberg. He said that South Africans haven't embraced the idea of eating seafood at the beach. Turns out that he was wrong. On The Rocks was a wonderful discovery - in fact, if it wasn't for the miserable bitches at the next table making life miserable for the staff, it would have been just about perfect.
I had a seafood platter of crayfish, prawns and calamari. The little squid were absolutely perfect - tender, buttery and delicious. The crayfish was a bit over-charred which got in the way of the flavour but the prawns were very good.
Paul rebelled against the seaside location and had venison espetada - a Portuguese-influenced kebab - and the taste I had was wonderful. It was tender, full-flavoured and not at all dry or stringy, which is often my worry with wine-based marinades on game meats. The little side salad on his meal was very cute too - I guess they must have used a thin flour paste over an inverted bowl to make the basket.
The other thing I loved about On the Rocks was the loo. It really isn't often that you can say that! The washrooms were bedecked with fresh flowers: they were strewn across the cisterns, laid on the window sills and each handbasin contained a pretty still-life. Yes, that is the handbasin, not a salad. I don't think it'd work in a cold country where it is painful to even think of cold water, but on a warm day having cool water splashing over flowers, shells and petals was very pretty and refreshing. And I did wait until there was no one else around before I took the picture!
Our other surprise find was D'Aria, a winery and restaurant in Durbanville about a 10 minute drive from Paul's parents' house. It's only new, the first wine was launched in 2005, but what we tried was very accomplished!
It was only supposed to be a "light snack" but when we looked at the menu, that went by the wayside.
We shared a carpaccio of springbok - which seemed only fair since the English cricket team were in the process of turning the South African cricket team into mincemeat and there were no proteas on the menu... It was cut a bit too thickly, and they could have been a bit more scrupulous in trimming off the sinew, but the flavour was extremely good.
I then had a magnificent ostrich steak. I was so pleased, because the last time I was in South Africa I'd tasted ostrich and it was so smothered in a sweet, sticky basting sauce that it could have been anything. This was something else. I could almost declare that it was the best steak I had in 2009. And I would honestly defy anyone to pick the difference between that steak and the best beef.
Paul had crispy duck on a bed of wild mushroom risotto. It was served with an overly sweet orange sauce that didn't really work with the woodsy risotto, but it was on the side so it was easy enough to ignore.
We had a really gorgeous bottle of their D'Aria Blush rose with our food. The maitre d' explained that it had just 5% merlot to give the colour, with 95% of the grapes being sauvignon blanc - but their website says 60% merlot, 40% sauv blanc. It certainly tasted much more like a sauv blanc than a merlot, very juicy and tropical.
Odette, our completely charming waitress (who incidentally reminded me of my completely charming hairdresser Michelle) offered us the dessert menu - a cute gimmick, they have a big wooden stamp and inkpad and stamp the menu on the table cloth in front of you - but we couldn't fit it in. We bought another 3 bottles of the Blush to take home, and left the restaurant to these kittens.