Belly of the Beast's ever-changing tasting menus delight Capetonians
With a set five-course tasting menu that changes by the day, and is served to just 20 diners each evening, this Cape restaurant experience is not to be missed, writes Kit Heatcock
Belly of the Beast is the name of an exciting new East City dining concept. Chefs Neil Swart and Anouchka Horn crowd-funded after selling their popular Welgemoed restaurant, Arugula, to bring their idea to life: a set five-course tasting menu, changing by the day, served to just 20 diners each evening. It’s all about sustainable, seasonal eating, the name referencing its no-waste, ethically-raised meat approach.
Once a bike shop on Harrington Street (opposite Lefty’s) the interior is now cool industrial chic, polished concrete floors, dark walls and an open kitchen boasting a wood oven, which Neil uses for everything possible, from sour-dough rolls to fire-roasting aubergines for the smokey baba ganoush that accompanied our bread course.
The chalk board is brief, announcing today’s menu simply as gemsbok tataki, curried offal, hake, pork belly and sago. The creativity brought to each dish is revealed as Neil and Anouchka present the dishes to each table, first the gemsbok, tender slices with corn salsa, corn crisps and smoked chilli mayo.
Neil has a masterly touch with the curried offal, the reality not in the least scary, delicate succulent lamb offal in a creamy spiced sauce on basmati rice topped with crispy onions and tomato salsa, it’s one of the highlights.
Something as unglamorous as beer-battered hake becomes a series of perfect mouthfuls
Something as unglamorous as beer-battered hake becomes a series of perfect mouthfuls, crispy batter, melting fish contrasted by tomato jam and charred lemon hollandaise, shining a new light on this homely dish.
Then, after a luscious palate cleanser, there’s a beautiful slow-braised pork belly with a touch of anise, sauce charcutier and charred cabbage.
It’s heart-warming food served in elegant portions, excellent bistro food with an added dimension, skillfully cooked but unpretentious and accessible. This is somewhere for Capetonians to claim as their own.
Having spent the meal wondering how a dessert of sago could live up to the rest of the meal, I watched as Anoushka created such a beautiful plating that it defies the pudding label: topped by hazelnuts, a sago slice rests on deep brown caramel, with a waft of meringue, vanilla pod ice cream and a drizzle of mint oil, an unusual and satisfying finale, followed by an extra sweet treat to complete this well-balanced seasonal feast of flavour.
It’s a convivial dining experience that has all the sense of occasion of fine-dining without the frills.
This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za