During my 2 years at Top Billing, I've definitely had culinary experiences which have reignited that passion for food inside of me. One of these was a 12 course tasting menu at The Marine Hotel in Hermanus prepared by Peter Templehoff himself. It was a truly unbelievable meal and one that I thought could never be topped. Until, of course, I attended the launch of Peter's new Greenhouse restaurant at The Cellars-Hohenort. The meal that changed food for me. The best meal of my life (so far!)
The Victorian-style Greenhouse has been designed with lots of glass and white timber and has a chic cottage feel. It has a simple understated, elegant feel - very classical, but in a modern way. The glass ceiling and large windows cleverly bring the beautiful gardens inside. The fine dining restaurant is an intimate one with only 45 seats and is absolutely magical in the evening - dining under the stars.
Peter (who also studied at The Institute of Culinary Arts) is the Executive chef for The Collection by Liz McGrath which includes The Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia, The Marine in Hermanus and The Plettenberg in Plettenberg Bay - a job most certainly not for the faint-hearted! According to Peter, he had a bit of time off during the World Cup and like most chefs, simply couldn't sit still. He decided to create a special menu for the very special Greenhouse restaurant and this sees the introduction of his new conceptual cuisine. The tasting menu is designed so that each dish is a discovery and surprise. The descriptions on the menu leave you guessing until the dish arrives at the table (using interactive service by impeccable waitrons).
Take a look at the menu... it certainly does leave a lot to the imagination!
carpaccio of tuna, scallops & abalone
pickled daikon radish, wasabi bavarois, crispy seaweed
Klein Constantia, Brut MCC 2006
This was served on a cold glass slab with the carpaccio plated in alternating vertical stripes topped with quenelles of wasabi mousse, caviar and of course the daikon and seaweed. Peter is a perfectionist when it comes to presentation and this dish was no exception but the highlight was the mini copper pots the waiters brought to the table. One elegant sprinkling of the 'powdered dressing' (which was a reddish powder) and our table was covered in a thick blanket of clouds. After wading through the puffs of vapour and finding our plates and cutlery, the flavours were extremely well balanced and the Brut elevated the seafood to another level.
FYNBOS SMOKED OSRICH
smoked ostrich tartar, avocado, horseradish espuma
Constantia Uitsig, Chardonnay 2009
...presented in an ostrich egg - yes, an ostrich egg! My version was minus the avocado (as I'm allergic FYI) which according to my dining partner was a vital component of the dish, but the horseradish espuma was a nice spicy accompaniment to the ostrich - an idea I intend on stealing unashamedly :)
SHELLFISH ON THE BEACH
langoustine and crayfish, sea sand, langoustine puree, langoustine bisque
Eagles Nest Viognier 2008
I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the most delicious food I have ever placed in my mouth! And that even includes any form of chocolate! The dish was served in a wide-rimmed soup plate. A shellfish sand (100% edible) was dusted on the rim which had a perfectly steamed mussel snuggled in the sand - to look just like the beach! How cute?! With a flourish the waiters appeared and poured steaming langoustine bisque into the centre of the bowl, over the langoustine and crayfish tails, which revealed a frothy white foam - just like ocean waves lapping at the sandy shore! Peter is an absolute genius!
roast duck, wild mushrooms, stuffed sprouts, bitter chocolate soil, Jerusalem artichoke bark, scent of forest floor
The Yardstick Pinot Noir 2009
by Adam Mason & Peter Templehoff*
The entire dining room had been waiting for this course and you could cut the anticipation with a knife - which is exactly why Peter made his way around the room calmly chatting away to guests - obviously enjoying the fact that he was teasing us! When I politely pointed out to our waiter that he'd forgotten our cutlery he sniggered and then told us that there was no mistake. We weren't getting any cutlery. Now I was confused and terribly excited! Just when we thought we were being served some food, a hot towel appeared on each table. We were given instructions to wipe our hands with the towel which was scented with forest aromas - mushrooms, dampness, pine... Then we were finally served the food... a plate of autumn leaves! Or so it appeared... We looked at our waiter for help who suggested we 'use your hands to forage for food'. Each leaf revealed a wild mushroom, truffle shaving, foie gras nugget or chocolate soil. We were surrounded by the flavours and armoas of a forest. Amazing. And so much fun!
*Yes, he even makes his own wine...
GREEN TEA & LIME
inverted creme brulee
Shochu Margarita Jelly Shot NV
A green tea mousse topped with a lime granita in a small water glass, and next to it a small corked jar filled with the Shochu shot along with a mini straw. We devoured the delicious combination of green tea and lime and the extremely boozy cocktail. Yummy! Except that, according to our waiter, we weren't done yet. Flip the water glass over and hiding in the concave of the glass was a perfect little creme brulee! oooo how I love surprises! Did I mention that Peter is a genius?!
SWEET CHEESE COURSE
camembert cheesecake, roast pineapple ice cream, pineapple compote, pine nut biscotti wafer
Vin de Hohenort 2007
Ok, be honest, pineapple and cheese? gross! But oh was I wrong. A miniature cheese board arrived at the table with what looked like a wheel of camembert - only it wasn't. It was a velvety, rich, delicious cheesecake with a subtle hint of camembert. The ice cream was intensely flavoured and very smooth - perfectly offset with the crisp biscotti wafer. The Vin de Hohenort definitely rounded off this dessert. It brought all the flavours together beautifully.
passionfruit bubble, chocolate-cardamom brulee
Buitenverwachting 1769 Natural Sweet 2007
Lucky for me, when Peter asked, I knew exactly what a tonka bean was! Last year our senior photographer attended a launch on my behalf and stole me a Tonka bean... (Thanks Angie!) His name is Katonka Tonk and he sits in a jar on my desk... Although after this dessert, he is most definitely going into a yummy frozen parfait! The passionfruit bubble looked like a perfect egg yolk, topped with gold leaf, and when placed in the mouth, exploded to reveal a sweet tangy passionfruit liquid. And with the bitter chocolate brulee, it was a sublime combination!
TREE OF DELIGHTS
macaroons and truffles
Even the petit fours were breath-taking: white chocolate olive truffles and strawberry macaroons speared onto the tips of a miniature wire tree. The perfect ending to a meal that could not get any more perfect!
Now go and make a dinner reservation! Do it! NOW!
The Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenort