Why the Chef s Menu at La Colombe is worth it

Winona Griggs

A Taste Adventure: Exploring Chef’s Menu at La Colombe

Imagine this: a tempting spread of charcuterie before you, each with its own exquisite pairing. The waiter wheels out a wooden trolley adorned with a delightful array of flavors, ready to indulge your taste buds. You’re given the opportunity to select two delectable options to adorn your plump, sweet potato and sourdough bread, right in the heart of your table.

As I sit down, I’m faced with a tantalizing decision. My first choice is the salmon gravlax, impeccably cured with a delicate blend of sugar and salt. The dish is then garnished with freshly chopped dill, coming together in perfect harmony. Accompanying this masterpiece is a sumptuous salmon mousse, a lusciously smooth and indulgent treat. Adding to the allure is a playful apple and cucumber jelly, carefully shaped like a vibrant apple.

My second selection is equally captivating. The duck breast, meticulously cured for six hours, has been aged for an impressive 21 days, resulting in a depth of flavors that is truly extraordinary. The texture is sublime, boasting a perfect balance of tenderness and succulence.

Picture: Lisa Daubermann

When my husband and I first set foot in La Colombe, everything there amazed us – the kitchen, the service, and the impeccable attention to detail. It all ran like clockwork. At that time, Chef James Gaag had been working there for about six years. But before that, he took a detour in his career and went to the UK for a short stint. At Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, he had the privilege to work alongside the legendary French chef Raymond Blanc. The restaurant was an absolute marvel, gaining two Michelin stars as soon as it opened its doors in 1984, and those stars remained firmly in place ever since.

Walking into Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, James couldn’t help but be awestruck by its picturesque surroundings. The restaurant was nestled amidst stunning gardens, adorned with flowerbeds and orchards. The experience left an indelible mark on James, as he witnessed Raymond’s exacting management style and the way he ran his kitchen with discipline and respect. It was a transformative experience, equipping James with invaluable skills and a profound understanding of what it takes to excel in the culinary world.

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When I entered La Colombe, it felt like stepping into a different world. The staff greeted me with warm smiles and treated me with such respect, addressing me as “Ma’am” or “Sir.” As they led me to my table, I couldn’t help but admire the restaurant’s design. With its glass-fronted walls, the whole place was bathed in natural light, and I had a breathtaking view of the surrounding forest at Silvermist Estate. The atmosphere was cozy, with just a few tables spread out, giving each one plenty of space for privacy. And the attention to detail was incredible.

Before we even sat down, our waiter kindly offered to take our coats and even provided a stool for my handbag. Throughout the meal, he went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable. Every time we excused ourselves to use the restroom, we would come back to find our napkins neatly refolded and our chairs pulled out for us.

It was an experience unlike any other. And to top it all off, I couldn’t resist taking a picture to capture the magical atmosphere. As I posted it on social media, I couldn’t help but think that if you appreciate attention to detail and exceptional service, then you’ll absolutely love La Colombe.

Picture: Lauren Mulligan/backintoday/Instagram

For this special occasion, I’m going all out and choosing the 11-course Chef’s Menu with caviar and truffles, accompanied by the Iconic Wine Flight. This isn’t your typical fine-dining experience, it’s a culinary adventure that draws inspiration from around the world.

James, the chef and owner, has a unique background with a mother from Zimbabwe and a father from Germany. Growing up in Germany, he developed a passion for food and incorporated influences from his recent travels to India, Italy, Mexico, and Peru into his menu.

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The real challenge lies in achieving the perfect balance of flavors. Each dish must delicately blend sweet, sour, and spicy elements to ensure no single flavor overpowers the rest. Additionally, the timing and portion sizes of each course are crucial since there are a total of 11 to savor.

I’m at a restaurant, and the waiter just brought us a dish called Tuna ‘La Colombe’. She started by showing us how to make a marinade with crispy shallots, coriander, confit lemon, spring onion, garlic, and jalapeño for a little kick. She combined these ingredients with James’s Secret Sauce, which is a secret because only he knows what’s in it. Then, she told us to lift our tuna cans – even the label says La Colombe – and underneath was a smoked salsa verde with seared tuna, chipotle mayo, and lime.

There’s also a special event today called International Drink Chenin Day, and to celebrate, the sommelier opened a huge bottle of 1947 chenin blanc.

Let me start by saying, if you’re a food enthusiast like me, then you’re in for a treat! I recently had the pleasure of dining at a fabulous restaurant that is known for its extraordinary dishes and creative presentation. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

First, let’s talk about the starters. There were so many incredible options to choose from, but a few standouts really caught my attention. One of them was the scallops that practically melted in my mouth. They were cooked to perfection and packed with flavor. Another standout was the pork jowl with curried bay leaves. The combination of the different flavors was simply divine.

Now, onto the main course. I couldn’t resist trying James’s mom’s bolognese, which had been refined for this fine dining experience. It was made with Karoo lamb and celeriac, and let me tell you, it was outstanding. The flavors were so rich and the dish was perfectly balanced.

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But it didn’t stop there. The cheese and honey course was truly unique. The plates were shaped like honeycombs and adorned with edible flowers. The star of the show was the super-melty raclette cheese. It was paired with smoked Stanford, pickled pear puree, and pickled onion and quince butter. The combination of flavors was a true delight, especially when spread on crackers.

And finally, the dessert. My absolute favorite was the Jerusalem artichoke mousse. It was served with sponge cake and ice cream, and topped with a rich, chocolate and hazelnut crumb. To add even more excitement, there were three different twills – carrot and orange, cacao nib, and caramel-chocolate. It was a dessert lover’s dream come true.

Overall, my dining experience at this restaurant was nothing short of extraordinary. The combination of innovative flavors, stunning presentation, and impeccable execution made it a meal to remember. If you’re in search of a truly unique culinary experience, look no further. This restaurant has it all.

Picture: Lisa Daubermann

If you’re willing to spend R1 795 per person for the Chef’s Menu at La Colombe, that’s before adding caviar, truffles, and a wine pairing. It’s not something most South Africans can afford on a regular basis, but is it worth it for a special occasion? I found myself spending six hours at La Colombe, savoring every bite of this incredibly well-prepared culinary journey. It wasn’t just a meal; it was an experience I’ll remember for a long time.

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If you want to find out more travel news, get inspired, or find helpful guides, you can follow us on social media. Tag us if you want to be featured!

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