A taste odyssey in Franschoek

Private Property South Africa
Kit Heathcock

La Petite Colombe spreads its wings, bringing new culinary adventures to Franschhoek

When you step into the sunny section of Le Quartier Francais that is now La Petite Colombe, you know you'll have an extraordinary food experience.

The team is friendly and relaxed, confident of living up to the high expectations that come with being the sister restaurant to the much-acclaimed La Colombe. Chef proprietors, Scot Kirton and James Gaag, have entrusted the kitchen to young head chef, John Norris-Rogers, who is loving the challenge of training up a new team in the La Colombe manner and has created a stunning first tasting menu infused with the zest and freshness of spring.

La petite Colombe by Claire Gunn food plate

Starting with West Coast oysters in a lush Champagne velouté with green apple tang, accompanied by a beautifully fruity MCC from Stony Brook; then an amuse-bouche, two intense mouthfuls encapsulating local flavours of Cape Malay pickled fish and snoek paté, the eight courses that follow are a gem of diverse elements, complex and playful, and exquisitely complemented with expert wine pairings.

Every dish is impeccable, but personal highlights include the springbok tataki with chicken parfait, rum-braised pineapple and a light Jerusalem artichoke purée and spuma with a touch of orange. And the citrus-glazed kingklip illustrates the La Colombe genius of unexpected flavour combinations; the simply grilled linefish bridges winter and spring on velvety vanilla-infused parsnip purée, asparagus velouté touched with true, the smokiness of pancetta complementing fresh green asparagus and courgette flower.

La petite Colombe by Claire Gunn food plate

Andrew Cook, sommelier, does a fine job of telling the stories behind each pairing, conjuring up seventh generation family vineyards, the varied landscapes of the Cape and big wines made in small quantities. As he pours us a deep violet monster of a wine, the Black Elephant Vintners “The Back Roads” Petite Syrah 2015, of which only one barrel was made, his joy of discovery is infectious.

La petite Colombe by Claire Gunn food plate

He bought all 400 bottles for La Petite Colombe reserving the wine for the pairing menu, where it's the perfect accompaniment to the seared Wagyu, braised brisket, sweetbread, gremolata and mellow onion soubise. While the gourmand menu and wine pairing is the ultimate in culinary adventures and an absolute delight from start to finish, the more a¬ffordable winter special also offers a fabulous foodie experience of four courses (plus delectable extras) at weekday lunches until the end of October – well worth taking French leave for!

La petite Colombe by Claire Gunn food plate

This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.

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