Au revoir, La Tête: Cape eatery is Covid-19's latest fine-dining casualty

Steve Steinfeld mourns the loss of yet another celebrated restaurant, and urges you to book a table before it closes for good

27 January 2021 - 10:16
By Steve Steinfeld
La Tête's chef patron Giles Edwards.
Image: Supplied/La Tête La Tête's chef patron Giles Edwards.

La Tête, chef Giles Edward’s famed farm-to-fork restaurant in Cape Town, is the latest casualty of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent government mandated lockdown regulations.

Edwards took to Instagram to announce that the award-wining eatery on Bree Street will close shop at the end of the first week of February, saying: “Despite great determination to see ourselves through this prohibitive time, we can honestly say we have tried every avenue to no avail.” 

A pioneer of nose-to-tail cooking, Edwards cut his teeth at the Michelin-starred St Johns in London and brought something truly unique to our food scene.

In my opinion, La Tête will always be remembered as somewhat of an enigma: unlike many of SA’s other top fine-dining restaurants, it isn’t situated on a fancy wine farm nor are the dishes intricately plated. The space is stark and the white acoustic pin board lining the walls is as far as the décor goes. The menus, changing daily, are printed on A4 paper. 

However, that is what made it so special: against this unassuming backdrop, the most wonderful flavours came to life. It’s here where many of us who have dedicated our lives to the humble art of eating found comfort in the purity and intensity of the (seemingly) most simple of dishes. 

There’s an unbelievable honesty about everything that arrives at the table at La Tête. It’s this honesty that set this eatery apart and will make it so sorely missed.

Reminiscing, I think back to the dishes I enjoyed best. 

There were the staples: the chicken liver parfait; asparagus and butter; mussels, leek and bacon; and, of course, the madeleines — no meal at La Tête would be complete without the glorious shell-like sponge cakes, hot out the oven and ready to be dunked into homemade crème anglaise.

The salad of crispy duck and radishes was so texturally intriguing that I still salivate at the mere thought of it. Then there was the lamb broth: a simple soup with the most unbelievable depth of flavour to be lapped up with freshly baked bread. 

La Tête's famous madeleines.
Image: Supplied/La Tête La Tête's famous madeleines.
Asparagus and butter is one of the deceptively simple but oh-so-delicious staples on La Tête's menu.
Image: Supplied/La Tête Asparagus and butter is one of the deceptively simple but oh-so-delicious staples on La Tête's menu.

The crispy pig tails, chicken hearts and lamb brains enthralled the more adventurous diners among us, but whether your went for the daring or the tame, all of La Tête's dishes were an exercise in the sheer beauty of simplicity. Nothing was disguised. It was what it was — and it all tasted magnificent. 

While La Tête is not the first eatery to shut its doors as a result of the current crisis, nor sadly is it likely to be the last, it's closure is a great loss to the industry. I for one am terribly sad to see it go. 

La Tête is open Monday to Saturday from noon to 8pm. The last service will take place on February 6. Call 021 418 1299 for bookings.