The Gem That Is Benguela On Main

1 Benguela on Main Dining Area

I’ve had I Love Foodies for a year (we actually just celebrated the first birthday on Friday), and I’ve been pretty blessed in getting to try some of Cape Town’s most amazing food. We have such a versatile culinary scene and I believe that you can find the best of everything in this city, whether it be simple burgers and fries, sushi, cultural dining, or gourmet goodies. Last week I got to experience the highlight of my foodie journey thus far – and given how much I eat out, me saying this means a lot.

You know those movie scenes when protagonists try a taste of something and the world stands still, butterflies swirl through the sky, and romantic music escalates to its high, all because the food is that good? That’s the kind of highlight I’m talking about. And the source of this culinary beauty explosion is Benguela on Main.

I’ve heard tons about Benguela on Main since their opening at the end of last year, but I never thought of venturing out to Somerset West to try them. Last week they hosted a media dinner to share some of the work they’ve been doing, and presented us with their Chef’s Tasting Menu, a food and wine pairing set menu. This set menu does not come cheap, but Benguela isn’t aiming to be your restaurant down the road. Their aim is to be that special occasion restaurant – and they do it brilliantly. In the words of their sommelier, a lovely French gentleman by the name of Denis Garret: “What we do must be perfect”.

Chef Jean Delport (left) and Sommelier Denis Garret

Chef Jean Delport (left) and Sommelier Denis Garret (right)

The moment you enter Benguela on Main you’re transported to a different world – one of glitz and glamour, brilliantly epitomised by their sparkly gold wall ornaments. It borders on new age kitsch, but Benguela gets the balance just right, verging more on the side of class and sophistication.

After welcoming bubbly in their upstairs tasting lounge (where they have a variety of paired tastings on offer), we took our seats downstairs, ready to be wowed by what chef Jean Delport had prepared. Although, to be honest, I think we had all heard marvellous things but no one really expected what was to come.

2 Benguela on Main Palate Cleanser

The Egg Shell Palate Cleanser

I’ll be a little vague in my descriptions of the food, simply because the Chef doesn’t share all too much. I know we started with a bread platter, and then moved on to enjoy Sichuan Pear, a palate cleanser served in an egg shell, a dish titled Seasons of Pumpkin, and Seared Dorado. From there on we tasted the Beef & Parsnip dish, which came in two acts (Act 1: Salt Rib & Hazelnut; Act II: Fillet, Tongue & Beurre Noisette). Then we had another palate cleanser called The Moscow Mule, after which we enjoyed two dessert courses, one called Pepe Charlot Chevre Frais and the other one titled ‘Chocolate Orange’. I kid you not, that’s literally what the menu looked like.

4 Benguela on Main Seared Dorado

Seared Dorado

4 Benguela on Main Seasons of Pumpkin

Seasons of Pumpkin

5 Benguela on Main Beef Act I

Beef & Parsnip: Act 1

6 Benguela on Main Beef Parsnip Act II

Beef & Parsnip: Act II

Some might be curious to know what exactly each dish is comprised of but I kind of like not knowing. Sure, eating it you can taste various flavours and identify spices and ingredients, but with most of these dishes everything just melded together into this beautiful complementing dish. I took my first bite of the Sichuan Pear and literally had one of those closed-eye-angels-singing-hallelujah movie moments, and I floated through foodie heaven for the rest of the evening.

Of course all of these dishes were paired with wines, and we got to try some world class South African wines, including the Middleburg Chenin Blanc 2013, Benguela Cove Chardonnay 2014, Clive Torr Viognier 2014, Eenzaamheid Cinsault 2015, Iona One Man Band 2014, and the Benguela Cove Noble Late Harvest 2015. Denis, the restaurant’s sommelier, introduced all the wines with tasting notes, making this a remarkable experience.

The Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule

8 Benguela on Main Cheese Dessert

Pepe Charlot Chevre Frais

8 Benguela on Main Chocolate Orange

Chocolate Orange

Even though the restaurant is beautiful, the food is beautiful, and the wine pairing is beautiful, I truly believe that the best part of Benguela on Main is the humility and passion of everyone that works there. The waiters were brilliant, knowledgeable and efficient, Denis the sommelier was passionate about all the wines and a true believer in the quality of what Benguela offers, and Chef Jean Delport, well, at the end of the evening he simply muttered ‘I hope that was all right’, and every heart in that room melted.

Benguela On Main Outside View

Benguela on Main truly is a gem, a one-of-a-kind experience that I believe will rise from strength to strength. I know I started by saying that this place does not come cheap but the experience is 100% worth it. And for those not fully convinced, Benguela on Main is running a winter midweek special on both their two course (R240) and three course (R310) set menus, available from Tuesday to Friday for both lunch and dinner. Both options come with a wine pairing, one glass for the former and two glasses for the latter. The Chef’s Tasting Menu (the one I had), is available at R850 per person with wine or R600 per person without wine. This includes six courses and a complimentary bottle of Benguela Cove wine to take home.

This review has been slightly longer than usual, even though I feel that I’ve said less. But not wanting to drag on about how amazing Benguela on Main is, I’ll send you all straight to their website so you can find out everything you need to know! Bookings are essential, so you can call 087 357 0637 or e-mail to make yours.

Tomorrow we’ll come back down from foodie heaven to talk about cooking at home. Until then, happy munching!

Written by Benike Palfi

Review Date: May 2016

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