Exactly five small steps off the busy sidewalk of Main Road in Sea Point will land you in a quiet, serene, space where so many dreams were realised. Amid the hustle and bustle of the city, whose spirit has only recently been reawakened after many long and lonely months of lockdown, is a gem of an establishment that simultaneously takes you back in time, and intrigues you with it’s forward-thinking gastronomical experience. I say ‘experience’ because between the food and wine, your palate visits a quaint village in the French countryside.
As you step into the courtyard, the street falls silent and you’re immediately transported to France. The Tudor-style house has a winning aura. It was home to the Mayor of Cape Town Edward Mauerberger who held office from 1977–1979 and later realised the dreams of Gerrit Bruwer – who turned what he calls the Mayor’s Lady into La Mouette.
The integrity of the building has been maintained throughout the years and a tall fountain stands in the centre of the courtyard. There are wide arches at the entrance, bronzed glass windows, and large spacious rooms which make for ideal socially-distanced dinners. The decor is simple and unfussy, with fireplaces to warm up diners.
I was most excited about the new chef, Neill Anthony, who joined La Mouette in August to shake up the menu after a decade-long legacy of French-inspired cuisine with seasonal South African influences.
With the reopening of the restaurant is a promise of new beginnings, and a showcase of Spring flavours in the shape of a 5-course tasting menu.
“There’s an art to each and every one of Chef Neill’s tasting menus. From the first bite to the final morsel, each course has been designed to take you on a culinary adventure. In keeping with the season of spring, every ingredient has been carefully sourced to give you the very best tastes of spring, so you can enjoy the freshest flavours in the most exquisite combinations,” reads a statement from the restaurant.
Delicately flavoured canapés of chicken liver parfait were piped into a savoury Cornetto cone and even though I am not a fan of liver, it was morerish. The accompanying truffle mac-and-cheese was predictable, in a good way – any dish with the word truffle gets my vote.
Yellowtail tartare with a rich fennel mousse, a sweet radish salad and deep Tom Yum vinaigrette was the next course. It was meticulously plated. I wouldn’t expect any less from Anthony, he has a reputation of being a perfectionist and it shows in his creations.
The roasted butternut and parmesan soup with caramelised apples landed on our table next. Each spoonful felt like it was soothing me from the inside out, there is something very medicinal about the perfect mesh of ingredients – and this dish has it. It is a light dish, even though butternut soup is anything but.
For the main course, I opted for the line fish with courgette, pearl barley, grapefruit and a touch of basil. It was a magnificently prepared piece of fish with a perfect crust on the one side, and the delicate meat peeling off on the other. The colour spectrum on the plate was impressive, but the taste was the real winner. Barley is not an ingredient many chefs use, and when used properly it adds so much personality to the mix.
A little conversation later, gushing over the food of course, and it is my favourite course – dessert. On the Spring menu, the end course is a mango parfait with coconut sorbet and coconut crumb. Each element was lovely on its own but it felt like it needed something a little extra to pull it together in a more cohesive way. The parfait was frozen, as was the sorbet, so it felt like eating two types of ice cream, a little sauce would have gone a long way.
I was most impressed by the waiters who are very knowledgeable on the wine offerings and handpicked exactly what I wanted when I opted for a red wine. There is also very little contact without gloves when moving food from the kitchen to the table, and the menus are QR code activated – as is the guest registration – so you don’t have to touch pens or devices unnecessarily. In a COVID-19 world, this is of the utmost importance.
La Mouette is a special place, and very reasonably priced if you consider the trip around the world the food takes you on. It is has a legacy of being a space where food dreams are explored, new heights are conquered and there is no doubt that Chef Anthony has already made his mark here. I mostly love the unexpected location, you really wouldn’t expect to find a serene restaurant on that very corner, yet there it is, waiting to fulfil your culinary dreams.
* The cost of the 5- course Spring special tasting menu is R350pp and if you pair it with wines, the cost is R650pp.
Contact: 021 433 0856
Address: 78 Regent Road