Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Degustation dinner launch at Azure Restaurant, The Twelve Apostles, Cape Town

Food for Fanatical Foodies: A Degustation Menu at Azure Restaurant at The Twelve Apostles Hotel
From the 5th of May and on every first Friday of the month thereafter, The Twelve Apostles Hotel is offering you the chance of experiencing a six course degustation menu. Limited to between six and 12 guests, you will have the experience of eating at the Chef's Table in Azure restaurant. Hosted by Chef Christo Pretorius who is ably accompanied by Head Sommelier and co-host, Gregory Mutambe, a six-course surprise menu - all about textures and flavours, will be prepared especially for the guests. Each dish will be paired with a selection of South Africa’s best wines, chosen by Gregory. The cost to book an exclusive place at the Chef’s Table is R2150 per person - price includes meal, wine/tea pairing, water and gratuity. We think that this might also suit the corporate market when they need to entertain overseas guests
We were invited last week, along with other members of the media, to sample the food and wine that will be on the Degustation menu. This complex meal with excellent fine wines, all served in Riedel glasses, was quite a tour de force.
We were welcomed with Avondale's Armilla MCC 2009 Blanc de Blancs from organically grown Chardonnay. This Biodynamic farm on the edge of Paarl produces some excellent wines. This was crisp and long, with hints of apple, citrus and nuts, with a fine mousse and very sophisticated, just right for the occasion.
Gifts on the table were chocolates and everyone was presented with an Azure apron signed by the staff
The lovely table setting with lots of fresh flowers
We chatted with Joanne Hayes, PRO for Red Carnation Hotels, and the other guests while waiting for latecomers
On another table, very, very happy customers with the Grilled Seafood Platter for two, a huge selection of seafood . You will find the details on the À La Carte menu
Head Sommelier Gregory Mutambe tells us that the wines will be a surprise, all from his cellar; he has selected them to go with each course and will reveal them to us as we drink them
The menu
The Amuse was a succulent sous vide Saldanha Bay oyster, gently poached in 60⁰C water, served with an oyster mayonnaise, miso caramel, compressed cucumber, passion fruit and wild rice puffs. Lynne was served with dish without the oyster. The miso caramel was very good
With the next course we were served Le Lude's Rosé NV MCC from Franschhoek which is clean and sparkling with hints of richness and strawberries on the nose, full of berries on the lean palate
It had been paired with a Chicken and Ham terrine with herbs, slight smokiness, so well made, still with good texture on both meats and held together with aspic, dressed with pickled shiitake mushrooms, tarragon mayonnaise, a honey mustard emulsion, compressed Granny Smith apple, a cured egg yolk and topped with micro greens. So great to be served a good terrine. We don't get enough of them in South Africa; if well executed they can be delicious, as this was. The wine pairing was faultless
John's dish, sans the shiitake mushrooms
Then a demonstration of roast and raw cauliflower. Some had been curried Cape Malay style, was dressed with a Cauliflower crème, plump pickled sultanas, and rather strangely topped, with grated aged parmesan cheese, which did add some savoury umami to quite a sweet spicy dish. This was served with an onion dhaltjie (a small deep fried chick pea flour savoury donut with onion, also known as a chilli bite or an onion bhajji).
We guessed what the next wine was, both the cultivar and the region to Greg's amazement, but then it is one of our favourites, Creation's 2016 Viognier, perfect with spicy food. Its aromatic peaches and nice warmth are lovely
The third course of citrus and vanilla cured Norwegian salmon with a yoghurt coconut curd flavoured with molasses, roasted hazelnuts - unusual but good with the fish, fennel fronds, pickled beetroot and stem ginger and lemongrass. Still not convinced about vanilla with savoury food, we find it masks the food's flavour and makes you think of sweet dessert. Apparently local trout is a problem at the moment with the drought, which is why they used imported salmon. Chef likes to use only local produce
We knew the wine pairing was a Chardonnay of great provenance, but we did not guess it correctly as we thought it from a cool area like Hemel en Aarde or Elgin. Indeed it was great, the elegant Meerlust 2014 from Stellenbosch, served in Riedel Montrachet glasses, was weighty, full, with some beautiful oaking. the clean lemon lime Chardonnay flavours shining through, silky and intense but not blousy or over ripe, as warmer areas can sometimes be
Time for a pause and a palate cleanser. This is one of the signatures of Azure restaurant. A green apple pear sorbet with a dry ice fountain
Onward into the meat zone. A perfectly pink loin of venison served pulled venison, so rich, accompanied by parmesan gnocchi, roast butternut puree, squash custard, confit baby leeks, a seed crumble and a shiny maple and coffee jus. Its richness nearly defeated several of us but it was a well made dish. Sommelier Greg served us the Hannibal 2014 from Bouchard Finlayson, made by Cellarmaster Peter Finlayson (the farm is owned by the Tollman family). It has the perfume of Pinot Noir's fresh cherries and the spice cranberries and cherries of the Sangiovese and other grapes that go into this extraordinarily good blend of many layers and surprises. The blend is 33% Sangiovese, 22% Pinot noir, 18% Shiraz, 17%n Nebbiolo, 6% Mourvédre, 4% Barbera.
Time for a savoury cheese course before the dessert. Boerenkaas (farmers cheese) Biscuit made by Gina Marziani the pastry chef. This was served with pickled plums, a plum gel and watercress with a toasted macadamia mousse. The wine served was Boplaas NV Cape Tawny, a port style wine, made by Margaux Nel from Tinta Barocca, Touriga Nacional and Souzao
The 12 Apostles team who so generously cooked, served and entertained us. Gina Marziani, pastry chef; William "Bwana" Chintu, waiter; Hilton Ruch, F&B Manager; Gregory Mutambe, Head Sommelier; Christo Pretorius, Executive Chef; Michael Nel, General Manager

Time for dessert. Another rich and indulgent course: a Valrhona Chocolate crémeux, with gingerbread, a salty dulcey crème rocher on top, macerated berries and tiny vanilla meringue kisses, again perfectly matched with Peter Bayly's Cape Vintage port (we recognised it, but then we have had quite a lot of this lovely port, having occupied the stand next to Peter's at the Biscuit Mill market for several years). The port is spicy, full, layered and full of red and black berry fruit, a great match for chocolate. It wins competitions and is so well respected in the industry. Thank you Greg for showing us your favourite wines, we loved them
Another courses: Mignardises (petit fours) served with coffee. Tiny macarons, fruit jellies and chocolate enrobed raisins, nuts and marshmallow
You do need to book for this very special meal well in advance. This Chef's Table is not served in the kitchen but in a special area of the very chic Azure restaurant. Contact them on 021 437 9000 or restaurants@12apostles.co.za. They do also have a seasonal à La Carte Menu or try the innovative ‘Taste of the Earth’ vegetarian and ‘Taste of the Sea’ pescetarian four-course tasting menus

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