Food & wine pairing with serious creative flair at Cape Town's ON19
One wine cultivar. One hero ingredient. Five exceptional courses. Kit Heathcock was suitably impressed by the chef's prowess during one of ON19's monthly wine-pairing dinners
The stunning view was the most striking feature as we entered ON19 restaurant at the top of the Westin Hotel. Sunset was long gone on the April evening when we attended the Shiraz- and fynbos-themed dinner, but the twinkling lights of the V&A Waterfront and ribbons of city traffic far below were mesmerising.
Regular monthly dinner events here explore a single wine cultivar and one distinctive ingredient, becoming a highlight of the hotel’s flagship restaurant, and we were looking forward to seeing what new head chef Stephan Mandes had dreamed up for us on the fynbos front.
With a background at renowned names such as Restaurant Jardine, De Grendel and the Mount Nelson, as well as winning The Ultimate Braai Master in 2014, chef Stephen has had plenty of experience on the fine side of creative dining.
For the fynbos theme, he was inspired to bring in homely flavours from his Cape Town childhood, such as sour fig, smoked snoek and spekboom.
Six excellent wine farms were represented, the wine poured with a generous hand throughout the evening. We started with a lovely cool climate Syrah 2012 from Elgin Vintners, followed by an elegant Corder 2014 from Elgin Valley, which accompanied a puffed kingklip amuse-bouche.
The wine that stole the show for us was the intense Ormonde Chip off the Old Block Shiraz from Darling. This was paired with an innovative sour fig salami, a thinly pressed paste of the fruit which showcased its sweet, salty character, plus a flowery hibiscus vinaigrette mellowing the saltiness and piquancy of the seed-crusted chèvre.
A subtle Cape Malay influence came through in the herb and spice sweetness and honeybush gastrique of the intermediate snoek-en-patat course paired with Lammershoek’s The Innocent.
Chef Stephen added interest to a classic springbok dish with acidic num num lifting a savoury chocolate jus, along with a classic Shiraz from Meerendal.
Finally, we tasted the almost gluhwein spiciness of La Vierge Anthelia, a well-chosen foil to the apple cobbler dessert that concluded the gastronomic experience.
• The next dinner on Friday, 29 June, embraces coffee and Pinotage, promising intriguing combinations such as espresso-poached kingklip and moerkoffie with rabbit and bacon lardons.