Food and wine pairing at La Colombe
Organised by Restaurant magazine, the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 800 international restaurant industry experts. In 2010, Constantia establishment La Colombe under chef Luke Dale Roberts was voted best in South Africa and took an impressive 12th place overall. Later in the year, Dale Roberts left.
How to maintain the reputation of the restaurant without living too much in his predecessor’s shadow must be the key question on the mind of La Colombe’s new chef Scot Kirton. Dinner on Saturday as guests of the restaurant provided an opportunity for Kirton to strut his stuff.
Kirton worked under Dale Roberts and the food remains as sophisticated as ever. However, Kirton seems less inclined to adopt Asian techniques and ingredients than Dale Roberts and has a more classical sensibility. Consequently, while Dale Roberts’s cooking tends to be quite cerebral and demanding, Kirton’s is ever so slightly more wholesome and conventionally satisfying.
Kirton presented us with the six-course gourmand menu, each dish paired with a different wine (R750 per person). So often food and wine combinations in South Africa go no further than Chardonnay with fish, Cabernet Sauvignon with steak, but Kirton and his team have obviously applied a lot of thought as to which wine to match with what dish and the results are extremely rewarding.
And so Alaskan crab salad with Reyneke Reserve White 2009; pan fried foie gras and quail with Cederberg Buketraubbe 2011; scallops and confit pork belly with Lismore Viognier 2009; sous vide fillet of veal with Vriesenhof Pinotage 2006; and rose and coconut panna cotta with Constantia Uitsig Red Muscat d”Alexandrie.
The above laundry list does the experience no justice. Kirton’s crab salad with Reyneke Reserve White 2009 was truly inspired. The salad contains cucumber, fresh orange, cherry tomato and red onion alongside shredded crab and comes with a honey mustard and orange dressing, asparagus and truffle mousse, soft-boiled quail egg, horseradish foam, dashi mirin jellies and kataifi crisps (the last two items beyond my limited foodie knowledge but delicious, even so).
As a dish on its own, very crafty. Light and flavourful, not at all exaggerated despite how exotic those ingredients appear, adventurous and yet simultaneously entirely satisfying. With the wine, sublime. Reyneke Reserve White is from Sauvignon Blanc but is barrel matured so a broad flavour spectrum from lime through granadilla through to more secondary, savoury notes. There’s also plenty of palate weight as well as good line of acidity making it a great “food wine”.
Here was pairing which worked on so many levels: the citrus elements of the wine playing off against the crab and the richness of the egg while complementing the freshness of the orange, tomato and onion while the wine’s leesy aspect worked a bomb with the asparagus and truffle mousse.
Some pairings were ultimately not quite as successful (the Lismore Viognier 2009 worked well with scallops but ultimately didn’t have the grunt to stand up to the pork belly, for instance) but always provocative.
For those who believe wine is an essential part of fine dining, then La Colombe can’t be recommended highly enough.
For more information and reservations visit La Colombe’s website here.