Give me a Signal

The Signal restaurant at the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town has been one of the most revered and respected restaurants in the Cape for as long as I can remember, and rightly so; the hotel itself has seen many changes over the years, but has always remained the pinnacle of Cape Luxury. I’d been looking forward to finally having dinner at the Cape Grace for a long time, and when the evening finally arrived it was as though I was a small child on Christmas morning, full of anticipation and excitement.

From the moment you enter the hotel you feel as though you have stepped into an alternate world, a world of luxury and comfort which is homely and understated at the same time. The restaurant is warm and welcoming and the staff are attentive without being invasive; there is a sense of purpose to everything and each detail is overseen with the utmost care and attention.

The menu at Signal is simple; nothing is over complicated and they use only the freshest seasonal produce which adds to the overall authenticity and flavour of each dish; the wine list is extensive without being overwhelming and the sommelier is on hand at all times to help you make the right decisions. We started with a Sous Vide Quail which was exceptionally tender and flavoursome, perhaps a touch too much salt for my palate, but otherwise a rounded dish; the sesame aioli was particularly enjoyable. The second starter was a confit duck and Parma ham terrine served with mango and coconut atchar which was lovely and sweet, offsetting the salt in the terrine perfectly. If you like terrines, then this one should definitely be on your list.

For a main course we had a slow-roast pork belly with bean cassoulet  – the serving was quite substantial but it was so incredibly delicious that we managed to get through it in the end, although if you are having the 5 course tasting menu I would suggest sharing this dish. We also ordered a rack of Karoo lamb which was served on a bed of lentils with truffles creamed potato – the portion was much more manageable and the flavour just as intense and enjoyable, I strongly recommend trying both. I noticed all the while we were sitting there that the waiters floated elegantly across the room, always there when needed and keeping out of sight at all other times; the service, it must be said, is impeccable.

For dessert we had a pecan and caramel tart served with chocolate ganache, bruleed banana and vanilla ice cream; I am not a fan of pecans, or most tarts, but this really was something else entirely and a total winner. Textured, sweet and totally decadent – all the things a really good dessert should be. We then shared a cheese board which was small, light and phenomenally tasty, although I might have enjoyed more of an explanation from the waiter with regard to the cheese selections. All in all though, a thoroughly enjoyable, almost heavenly meal, and I will be back for more very soon.

Signal Restaurant | Cape Grace Hotel | 130 Victoria Wharf St | Cape Town | 021 410 7100

Clarkes is the name. Burgers are the game.

I have been on the hunt for Cape Town’s best burger – I do this wherever I am, hunt out ‘the best’ of certain favourite meals and drinks I am partial to. It’s a nice way of getting to know a city and it often turns out to be quite pleasantly surprising, in more ways than one. This was one of those times; a rare and unique moment in time where I was faced with meaty, stodgy, perfection – and therefore rendered completely speachless (not least because of the enormity of the burger I was attempting to devour). Sitting there, watching the sun go down on the bustling streets of Cape Town, I had to pause to take it all in – the burger in question, had just made it to the top of my list.

Simplicity really is the name of the game at Bree streets buzzing hotspot Clarke’s. Their menu is something of a quiet affair, unlike the atmosphere and the crowd which it attracts; it features only cheeseburgers, a veggie sloppy joe for the non meat eaters out there, a handful of side dishes and some sweet treats as an after thought. Thinking about it, I have never eaten anything after that burger, I don’t know how anyone could possibly think of dessert after engulfing the enormous mound of meaty amazingness which is fast becoming known as the best burger in Cape Town. I am inclined to agree, it definitely gets ‘best in show’ on my burger list; the meat is cooked medium-rare and is juicy and pink, the fries are the skin-still-on, thinly sliced and fried to perfection sort, and the tiny side dish of paper thin gherkin slices in vinegar are a welcome treat as their sharp flavour gently cuts through everything else (fat, meat, bun and all). The star of the show, however, is the bun, and oh what a wonderful bun it is.

These buns, along with some of the bread on the Clarke’s daytime menu, come from the ever elusive Trevor Daly of Worcester. He recently started baking in Woodstock too, which has made things at Clarke’s just that little bit better as they now stock an assortment of his pastry treats as well (get there early in the day to avoid disappointment). But, I digress, I was talking about the buns! They are somewhere between a croissant, a brioche and a really good burger bun, buttery and heavenly, and the perfect marriage to the deliciously simple meat which is encased between the two halves. I would love to get my hands on that recipe, but at the moment, there’s only one place I know that sells these amazing burgers and the even-more-amazing buns. So if you have a burger craving, you now know where to go.

Clarke’s Dining | clarkesdining.co.za | 133 Bree street | +27 (0) 21 424 7648

My Indoor Garden Dream

There is something really earthly about having plants inside the home, they light up the room and make things feel so much more alive – the only problem I have with them is that they can be hard work; plants take up a lot of time, require care and attention and often make a mess of things – especially if you are as clumsy as me! I have never had many plants at home besides the odd herb bush, not least because I am constantly moving. I recently found a solution to my predicament though, and an amazing alternative to the old pot plant; her name is Tessa, she lives right here in the mother city, she my totally gorgeous and super creative friend, and she makes these incredible indoor garden beauties which come in all shapes, sizes and colours. I love them! They are the prettiest, tiniest indoor gardens I have ever seen; not to mention they are also mess free, stress free and capable of travelling without too much fuss. Perfect!!

There is no limit to what this gorgeous gardener can do, from miniature forests encased in glass, to beautiful picture frames packed full of colourful things, this plant décor makes the perfect low maintenance gift and is so much more special than a bunch of roses, not to mention a lot more creative. She also makes the most wonderful wedding gifts, favours, decorations and generally very pretty things. The succulents, her trademark plant, are fabulously colourful, hassle free and will last through winter, which makes them the most worthwhile garden investment I’ve made since moving to Cape Town. My new garden looks amazing, and I can take it with me when I move house – even better!

You really should look her up, and get yourself a sustainable, pocket sized garden while you’re at it. All gardens can be made to order, alternatively you can find her wonderful works of art at any of the locations listed here. Enjoy!

Available at: the Green living store at Wellness Warehouse in Cape Town, Kloof Street | Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay | Through private orders via info@thegardencanvas.co.za

Magical Beans

Beans, beans, beans! Oh how I love you coffee beans, you small dark wonders, you make me so very happy. If you are a coffee fiend like me, then you will understand how important GOOD coffee is. The green coffee bean, that tiny little bean, so small and insignificant, when roasted to perfection, freshly ground and placed in the hands of a master barista, is then transformed into the magical elixir of life. The quality of the bean, therefore, plays a very big part in the overall coffee experience. If you are in Cape Town, and you know anything about Captonians, you will know that these folk adore their coffee – its one of the things I love about this city – and they know where to get it, how to make it, and how to drink it.

I had it on good authority that Deluxe Coffee works, a coffee roaster whose coffee beans are widespread through the coffee shops of Cape Town, really know what they are doing when it comes to making the stuff. A small and dark coffee shop with a scattering of stools and chairs, with walls covered in some very interesting art, and which is almost impossible to find unless you know where it is (it’s hidden down a little backstreet next to the Mandela Rhodes building). So after much waiting and wondering, I finally made it there for a cup of their amazing coffee, unsure of what to expect and quitely hopeful that they would meet expectations. Boy, do these guys really live up to their name; it is Deluxe coffee, and they know how to make it Work! I had the latte and it was purrrrfect, the coffee rich, dark and made with loving perfectionism, still hot and topped with insanely creamy milk and the finest foam! Ooooh what a coffee it was.

If you are in town and want an incredible cup of coffee , THIS is the place to be.

Deluxe Coffee Works | 25 Church Street, Cape Town | www.deluxecoffeeworks.co.za | Mon – Fri 07:00 – 17:00, Sat 09:30 – 14:00 | +27 (0) 72 569 9579

 

The REAL Cake Boss

There’s something to be said for the art of cake making; although so many get it wrong, there are those select few who have an artistic talent for creating baked perfection. Wedding cakes, in particular, are an art all of their own. I’ve been craving some ridiculously indulgent sweet things recently, which is odd because I am not normally a fan of cakes; I don’t mind the odd cupcake, and I absolutely love a good chocolate, but cakes have never really been a feature in my diet. At the moment however, I will eat anything – pies, cake, donuts, cupcakes, tarts… any sort of sweet, baked confectionery item I can lay my paws on – and so I have been searching for the prefect cake… or cupcake.

The designer cakes pictured above come from the immensely talented Maggie Austin LaBaugh, of Washington DC. Her designs are quite simply breathtaking, and they pack a mountain of flavour to boot. She has worked in some of the world’s finest french restaurants and trained with the very best pastry chefs, earning herself the much deserved status as Master Patissier. Her background as a classical ballet dancer serves as infinite inspiration in her perfectly balanced, delicately decorated, breathtakingly beautiful masterpieces. Honestly, have you ever seen anything like it? She is no ordinary baker, she is an artist (said with poor French accent), and a damned fine one at that. I stand in awe, and salute you for your contribution to the world of cake.

If, like me, you enjoy good chocolate cake, or just good chocolate, you might want to check out these awesome creations from the talented folk at choccywoccydoodah (they have several stores in London and Brighton.