Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lunch at Leeto, Strandloper Boutique Hotel, Paternoster

One of our best chefs, but largely unrecognised and unsung, Garth Almazan, who was at Catharina's Restaurant at Steenberg for many years, had left and we heard that he was opening a restaurant in Paternoster at the Strandloper Boutique Hotel. We had this on our list of things to do when we were there on holiday and were absolutely delighted when their PR agent invited us to visit and sample the food. And we were not disappointed. Garth is a very good chef
The food is why you go to restaurants, but ambience is that little bit extra that can add so much to the experience. Leeto was, for Lynne, the perfect seaside restaurant. It is modern white, with clean lines, bright and open. It lets in the sea, the beach and the sky. The furniture is minimal but comfortable. They have not tried to go too formulaic and beachy. Just very relaxed. We particularly liked the tables with their unvarnished wooden cross-beam legs and the comfortable chairs. And the views
It is the perfect place for a small beach wedding or celebration. The hotel has 13 double rooms and the restaurant can cope with 40 to 50 covers
The bar is open. Garth told us he was used to having quite a large number of restaurant staff at his previous job; here they just have four, all friendly and well trained. He also has two experienced chefs. Most of the staff have come from the 12 Apostles Hotel, where Garth worked many years go. They are attentive but not obtrusive. Garth's wife Cecile is the manager
Chef Garth Almazan is loving the West Coast life. He offered us a glass each of the Pierre Jordaan Belle Rosé Brut from Cabrière and came and sat and chatted to us for a while until it was time for us to order and he to cook
The menu is short but concise, something for every taste, and we loved the fact that you can also order starters as mains. And the wine list is good, with mostly local wineries. We ordered a bottle of Tierhoek Chenin Blanc 2014 which is from Piekenierskloof. We have known Tierhoek owner Shelley Sandell and winemaker Roger Burton for many years and really respect what they do
They serve only sustainable fresh fish. Garth also buys and grows seasonal foods, locally where possible
And should you care to come in our secret season, winter, when the West Coast is fresh and lively with winter storms and bright champagne days, they have a fire to warm the restaurant and thick glass sliding doors to encapsulate and insulate, but still allow you to drink in that view
Table settings are nicely simple and the glassware is good
We were offered any table we wanted at the front and chose a sheltered one with a great view. Hotel and other guests can sit on the deck beneath and enjoy drinks there
Their own beach area, with access to the main strand. The owner of Strandloper Boutique Hotel has also bought the land to the right of the restaurant, so that the area close to the restaurant will not be built on and the hotel overlooked
The South Easter came up every afternoon while we were on the West Coast and the sailboarders were having lots of fun in the surf. No wind reached the restaurant
From the deck
Here comes our starter
Our waitress Justine, opening the Tierhoek for us. It was the perfect match for the food that was to follow, full of grassy, warm hay notes on the nose with peaches and citrus on the palate
Lynne decided to try the West Coast Mussels in a rich curried broth as her starter. Mussels are one of the star foods of this area. They were briefly cooked, incredibly fresh and the warm curry sauce had just enough heat for Lynne, who has a medium tolerance level while John can chew fire and raw chillies with impunity. The star was the tiny crisp potato samoosas perched on top. More please Chef Almazan! Would make a very good Vegetarian course with a dipping sauce

John plumped for the Seafood risotto, full of tender calamari and prawns, topped with coriander sprouts and crisp crumbs for texture. The rice was cooked perfectly and had some masala, cream and, for richness, dill and chives to add some herb notes to the dish. Delicious
The beach is superb and seems to go on for miles and miles, good for long walks
 And whales and dolphins at the right time of the year
Time for the main courses. Lynne chose to have the Seafood risotto as her main, but in a starter portion and found it just as delicious as John had and very satisfying. John chose the Kudu loin and he says it was the best he has ever had. Lightly seared and perfectly pink inside and very tender, with a very good flavour. Served on a bed of parsnip purée, with spinach and roast potatoes, good sundried tomatoes (and that is saying something because we both usually do not like these dried and often sharp, ill-treated tomatoes). There is green basil oil and good crisp sweet potato crisps topping off a great dish
And then after a small pause to reflect, it was time for dessert. Lynne chose the lemon posset, not something you see often on menus in SA. It is creamy, almost a set panacotta, with good fresh lemon flavours, served with dots of berry compote, mini brandy snaps, blueberries and cape gooseberries and a pathway of crisp crumbs. Light and refreshing
John said he was expected to continue his reputation as the house chocoholic, so he ordered the Chocolate Delice, rich, creamy and decadent, on a bed of chocolate soil, accompanied by some strawberries, salted caramel sauce, nut brittle, a cocoa tuile and some very good coffee ice cream, quite a tour de force. We followed lunch with two very good double espressos, often hard to find
Cecile Almazan came to see if we had enjoyed lunch. Yes definitely
And then it was off to the beach to walk some of the lunch off and then back to St Helena Bay - only 20 minutes away - for a nap! This is a view of both the restaurant and part of the hotel. The front rooms share the same sea views
Now this is what coastal holidays are all about. We shall return

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