“The world of food is so dynamic. I hope to never lose sight of how important and refreshing it is to keep discovering new foods, trends, flavours, cultures, techniques and thereby inspiring creativity!” When a chef expresses his food philosophy in these words, you can’t help but imagine that a gastronomic dream awaits when you enter his restaurant.
As we made our way from Cape Town to the beautiful town of Franschhoek, a million delicious things filled both our thoughts and our conversation. In a little under an hour, we arrived at the charming Le Quartier Français Hotel. Once we entered La Petite Colombe, we were welcomed by the most delightful hostess who showed us to our table by the window, overlooking the gorgeous gardens. The perfect spot in the house for a seasoned foodie.
We sipped our Zen garden – blood orange and sake – welcome cocktails as we perused the Chef’s Experience menu. Our nine course journey began with an elegant garden of “snacks” – Porcini lollipops, sherry glaze, porcini powder, thyme leaves. Chawanmushi (Japanese style steamed custard), confit chicken wing, langoustine and tom yum velouté. Smoked snoek paté and curried yoghurt labneh.
Whilst savouring each splendid snack and sipping on a glass of Morena Brut Rosé, we were joined by Head Chef John-Norris Rogers to tell us more about his inspiration for the menu. His recent travels to Japan have had a great influence on his cuisine and there are a number of Japanese themed items running throughout the menu including the authentic katsoubushi.
John and his team have incorporated their travels into the menu but have certainly not forgotten their local roots, using items such as smoked snoek, or Malay influences in their tuna. Just as it was mentioned it, the tuna arrived beautifully presented and accompanied by a Mullineux ‘Old Vines’ 2018. A delicious fusion of Western Cape flavours with avocado and coriander.
Before our next course, we were whisked into the kitchen to meet the rest of the team and learn more about the unique dish we were about to enjoy. The smokey savoury taste of katsoubushi complimented by scallop, pork and wild garlic was an Asian enchantment. Back at the table, we were presented with a real treat – Asian barbecue glazed duck breast, seared langoustine, mussels a la greque, sweetcorn puree, pea and pancetta verge and sweetcorn chowder finished with charred sweetcorn. It’s tough to single out a dish on this world-class menu but the fusion of flavours make this course a definite standout.
After our palettes were cleansed with watermelon sorbet and rose geranium foam, our glasses were filled with gorgeous Glenelly ‘Lady May’ 2014. We enjoyed a short breather as we anticipated our next entrancing dish. Herb crusted lamb loin, braaied lamb rib, salsa verde puree, smoked olive tapenade, lamb rib jus and lamb fat vinaigrette. As a lover of lamb, this dish spoke right to my heart.
Being quite a cheese connoisseur, I was excited at the thought of the Klein River Gruberg catalan I was about to try. Combined with honey glazed brioche, pickled pear puree, endive marmalade and candied pecan nut, it was something extremely special. The fresh and effervescent Avondale ‘Armilla’ 2011’s hints of citrus were just what was needed to prepare us for the sweet decadence which was to follow.
My one weakness is desserts and when the delicate creation of passion fruit chard, lime cheesecake coconut custard, pineapple gel, citrus cake, pineapple parfait, lime meringue and coconut caramelised coconut ice cream arrived, I could not resist diving right in. Fresh, light, fruity and just the way to end off such an incredible meal. Just when we thought our lunch was coming to an end, more sweet treats came our way. Chocolate cigars on tobacco leaves with coffee macaron and whiskey marshmallows which were torched at the table.
As the Cape sun began to slowly set, we enjoyed a coffee and liqueur as we reflected on what a special afternoon we had spent in what can only be described as a foodie’s dream. As this extraordinary Little Dove spreads its wings to a new space on Leeu Estates in April 2020, we cannot wait to share in more of Chef John’s vision for the future, “to never stop learning and discovering, without ever losing the importance of flavour.”