This past Sunday, my friend Joe and I took up the Taste of Cape Town chow down challenge and came out grinning from ear to ear.  Even though every year I complain about this event working out to be way too expensive, I always return… why? Cause it’s just plain awesome. :)

R80 got you an entry ticket and a free tasting glass.  Then you had to buy “crowns” – the Taste of CT currency which gets you yummy food, drinks and treats.   Crowns set you back R120 for 24 or R60 for 12 = so that worked out to R5 per crown.  Your average main taster plate was about 6 – 8 crowns  (that’s R30 – R40), with starters and desserts being around the 4 – 5 crown range.  But trust me, you burn through those crowns faster than lightning.   One booklet of 24 is never enough.  You always end up at least needing another 12 (as a minimum).

OK, so let me kick off with some of the restaurants featured at this year’s event…

My prize for “best of show” would definitely go to the Signal restaurant at the Cape Grace.  Their 3 course offering was absolute perfection.

From left to right above you have:

  • Grilled prawn, green risotto with a spiced mango foam
  • Sous-vide ostrich, spiced gooseberry pickle, almond crumble
  • Hazelnut dacquoise, cardamon caramel, Nyangbo ganache & banana ice cream

I’m now totally set on saving up to have a big splurge dinner there (hopefully soon).  They’re a bit pricey, but if these little samples are anything to go by, it will be worth every single cent.

The runner-up restaurant for me would be  Il Leone.  They had quite a different take – nothing too fancy, just hearty Italian style dishes bursting with flavour.

From left to right above:

  • Vitello porcini veal escalopes topped with fresh porcini mushrooms
  • Penne with porcini mushrooms

We first tried the veal and then did a bit of a walk about, but it was just too good, so we went back to try their prawn pasta dish.  Sadly they had already sold out of that one, but they replaced it with a beautifully simple penne dish which still rocked my world.

Other places we tried but weren’t that impressed was first the Savour restaurant at the 15 On Orange hotel.  We tried their “star anise-spiced duck breast with fennel mousse and plum jelly, served with candied fennel, toasted almonds and an aniseed reduction”:

From that impressive description I was expecting a burst of flavours.  But even though there were so many interesting elements on that plate, it just tasted terribly bland.   A huge disappointment.

The 2nd was the Taj Hotel offerings.  I had read online the night before that this was a “must try”  – so based on that, we decided to give all 4 their dishes a bash.

From left to right above:

  • Cottage cheese fritters with tamarind chutney
  • Pounded lamb kebabs with yoghurt centre & mint chutney
  • Spicy battered fish with Bishop’s weed
  • Crispy calamari with chilli pepper and Dijonnaise

The first 3 was from their Bombay Brasserie restaurant and the calamari was from their Mint restaurant.  I found the Bombay dishes very average.  I enjoyed the calamari, it was very very crispy which I kinda liked, but Joe didn’t like it that much.  I must admit that if you ate a bigger plate of it, the roof of your mouth would probably have been raw. ;)

Joe was also really drawn to the “meat stand” where he picked up some super sticky & messy pork ribs:

I only tried one piece and I had sauce all over my face… but they were pretty damn tasty, I have to admit.

On the drinking front, I spotted my little friend, Mr Fluffy, and I immediately knew that I would finally be able to try the much talked about Swartskaap from HermanuspietersfonteinAnd I can honestly say that it is a truly beautiful red wine…  Very happy I got to sample it.  I also tried their flagship Arnoldus wine which was very smooth & enjoyable as well.  Don’t remember who Mr Fluffy is?  Well let me refresh your memory:

Ta da!!!

Other interesting new drink options included JimmyJagga, a new wine cooler product from KWV which comes in 3 flavours: white wine lemon, rosé melon and red wine plum.

And also this super potent very berry cocktail whipped up by the guys from Gordon’s Gin:

Sjoe… after that one we needed a little “nap time” on the grass.  We chose the back of the Jagermeister truck (of course… haha).

After a bit of chill time, we figured some sugar was needed to kick-start our systems again.  Luckily we stumbled upon Sugar Coated Raindrops and their evil cupcakes:

Mine was rose & lemon and Joe’s was a classic vanilla. So yum!

Other things I quite fancied was Falksalt‘s Red chilli & Citron salt flakes:

The spicy kick-in-the-nuts gem that is Garlic Man’s Garlic sauce (which can be purchased at most Fruit & Veg stores):
And then these beautiful luxury gift sets from the range by Kalk Bay Foods:

From top to bottom: Salts from all over the world, a selection of fine teas & lots of yummy spices.  With mother’s day coming up, I think this is the perfect gift for the woman who gave you life people…  maybe get all 3.

So yeah – it was a very successful day.  We ate, we drank, we laughed and we left with pot bellies!

This is seriously such a great way to see what Cape Town has to offer.  You’re exposed to restaurants and products which you would likely not have tried otherwise and I think that’s really cool.  I just wish they would waive or reduce the entrance fee… that gives you more money to spend on crowns. :)

Can’t wait for next year…