Out of season, Cape Town is a wonderful place to visit. It’s not so crowded, infinitely less hot and windy, and the prices have dropped, too.
Each month at the five-star Cape Grace hotel, which sits on the edge of the harbour at the V&A Waterfront, executive chef Malika van Reenen whips up a new fabulous five-course tasting menu – one for meat-eaters and another for vegetarians, so no-one feels left out.
The dishes come paired with carefully selected wines from one of the region’s top vineyards. This month is Eagles’ Nest vineyard in Constantia, a mere 30 minutes away from the hotel. Cape Town, how I love thee.
Before we get into the wine, we kick off with a Sidecar cocktail by the fire at the cosy Bascule bar, which sits below deck, and houses more than 500 whiskeys from around the world – one of the largest collections in the Southern Hemisphere. If whiskey is your thing, the hotel has recently launched a special whiskey tasting menu, where guests can sample whiskeys from around the world together with appetisers, and receive an in-depth description about each one as they go.
For us, it’s up to Signal – the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, named after nearby Signal Hill – to sample what Malika van Reenen has in store for us. With the mountains as a backdrop, and the boats bobbing in the harbour in front, I can think of no better place to be. Surprisingly, for a Friday night, the restaurant is fairly quiet. It feels like we’ve found a secret hideaway here.
Van Reenen’s menu marries flavours and influences from Cape Town’s rich cultural heritage – African, Dutch, Malay, British, French. For our first course, we enjoy a fresh and fruity tomato salad with tomato sorbet, which comes paired with a very pleasant Little Eagle rosé. This is followed by a saffron-scented coconut broth and a 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. Then there’s curried cauliflower and a superb 2014 Viognier (our favourite wine of the evening), a palate-cleanser of apple sorbet and cucumber jelly, followed by a creamy noodle dish served with a fruity Shiraz.
Then the mood veers towards autumn, with comforting gnocchi and a 2011 Merlot, finishing off with a not-too-sweet almond cake and spiced banana mascarpone. As with all good tasting menus, nothing feels too heavy or overbearing, and the dishes follow logically on and arrive perfectly spaced. We never feel rushed or left wanting.
The service at Signal is some of the best I’ve experienced in the city so far, and our sommelier, Brian, was a delight to listen to. His knowledge and descriptions of the wine were a real treat.
The Cape Grace has a loyal following. In both decor and ambience it resembles a luxury ship moored in the harbour – with maritime-themed interior, seafaring murals and antiques. Even if you’re not staying here for, an evening at Signal should be on your hit list during any visit to the Mother City.
Signal at The Cape Grace Hotel, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, W Quay Rd, Cape Town, South Africa. The monthly wine-pairing menu costs from 780 Rand, including wine (495 excluding wine). To book, call + 27 21 410 7080. For more information, visit www.capegrace.com.