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A passage to India

Alistair wrote this review of our splendid evening at Bombay Brasserie. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

When he said “Dining is and always was a great artistic opportunity” Frank Lloyd Wright was talking about more than just eating, he was talking about dining as a cultural experience.

And while he couldn’t have had an Indian restaurant at the tip of Africa in mind, his quote fits Bombay Brasserie as snugly as the elaborately brocaded gowns of the hostesses who greet you at its doors.

But the experience begins even before you reach the restaurant. Walking through the lobby of the newly opened Taj Cape Town, between fluted pink marble columns, you feel as though you have stepped into another time.

The building is indeed from another age. Built in 1932 to house the SA Reserve Bank, the building was apparently inspired by Florence’s Palazzo Pitti.

Bombay Brasserie itself nestles in another historic building adjoining the lobby – The Temple Chambers – a sunken, wood panelled lounge built at the turn of the century to accommodate the denizens of the nearby Supreme Court. Stepping down into its cosy interior you can imagine the whiskered barristers of old enjoying brandies and cigars.

The Brasserie experience is one of total immersion: from the moment you step through the doors and descend into the cosy lounge you are cosseted, fussed over, plied with delicious (if very sweet) cocktails and amuse-bouche and waited upon by no less than three separate staff.

In a wonderfully old fashioned touch, all the food is plated for you by either your waiter or the maître d’ who also recommends food and wine pairings with a refreshing candour and passion.

But the food itself remains the main event. Rather than blasting your palette with heat, the menu is redolent with subtler more aromatic spices.

Amanda and I shared Porchai Year (spicy grilled prawns) and Galouti Kebab (butter-soft minced lamb patties) to start, followed by Sunerhi Nalli (lamb shank in saffron curry) and Allepey (prawn coconut curry). We finished off with Masala Chai Custard (a delightful play on traditional crème brulee) and Malai Kulfi (cardamom ice cream).

All the dishes were delicious and immaculately presented, but the two prawn dishes were definitely the highlight of my evening. Amanda was tickled by the Galouti Kebab which was originally made for “the nobles that don’t chew”.

The portions are fairly generous, and the prices not unduly eye-watering. You’re unlikely to leave feeling either hungry or ripped off.

That said, Bombay Brasserie isn’t an everyday eating kind of place. With its carefully orchestrated pomp and ceremony and rich dishes, it’s not somewhere you can take the kids. This isn’t eating after all – this is dining.

Full disclosure: The kind fellows at the Taj picked up the tab. That doesn’t change how excellent the evening was, or the fact that I’ll be returning as a paying customer in the very near future.

“Welcome to The Roundhouse, Madam”

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You know that scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s when Holly Golightly explains how nothing bad could ever happen to you in a place like Tiffany’s? The Roundhouse is my Tiffany’s.

The “quietness and proud look of it” (to steal from Capote) segues into the Shangri-La of dining experiences. A witty waiter and attentive manager made us feel infinitely special yet comfortable. Then there is the food. It feels inadequate to call something that gave such pleasure ‘food’, but ‘cuisine’ sounds too twee.

I opted for the wine pairing, which really is the way it should be done. If the food is the diamond necklace, the wine is the black velvet it rests upon. It also makes for glowing pink cheeks.

Squid ink linguine containing the most delicate prawns I’ve ever tasted, followed by an eland filet that warmed my mouth with buttery gameness, complimented by syrupy enoki mushrooms. The sorbet palate cleanser between each course enhanced all the flavours too. Then there was the chocolate fondant with peanut butter and banana – nirvana.

At The Roundhouse, attention to detail is everything and everything is done perfectly. So it didn’t go unnoticed that it was my birthday.

When we ordered coffee, the ever-generous chef sent us apple-cinnamon donuts, caramelised popcorn, salted chocolate fudge pieces and marshmallow squares that dissolved in my deliriously happy mouth.

I floated home on a cloud of epicurean bliss. I can’t wait until my 29th birthday!

28th Birthday