La Colombe needs no introduction. It’s one of Cape Town’s foodie masterworks, churning out delicious meal after delicious meal on a train track of perfection, steadily populating the world of Instagram with its undeniably beautiful dishes. La Petite Colombe, the smaller and newer branch established just over a year ago in Franschhoek is no different. It is this spot that I had the pleasure of visiting.
I won’t lie, I was pretty ecstatic about visit La Petite Colombe. Like everyone else on this planet, Instagram food pictures make up a large part of my day, and this spot, and its sister restaurant, pop up all the time. Add in that it has the best reputation with dozens of Cape Town dwellers drooling at the mere mention of the spot, and this here is one super duper excited foodie. So excited, in fact, that I decided to temporarily forget the insane petrol costs (I’ll be back to walking everywhere soon) and venture out to Franschhoek.
Sabine and I arrived at 12:30 on the dot – coz we’re German like that – and were one of the first guests to arrive for lunch. This was nice as I got to take in the space, but it certainly didn’t last long. La Petite Colombe is incredibly popular, and the restaurant filled up fairly quickly, both with local guests and those that have travelled from abroad.
The New Spring Menu
For the past few months, La Petite Colombe has been sporting their Winter Menu, but they’ve just launched their Spring Menu, which is what we got to try. In a nutshell, this is a seven-course set menu, with select options available. The standard is without wine for R425, but you can also have it with the wine pairing for R795. If you’re celebrating an occasion, don’t mind the extra cost, and don’t have to drive anywhere afterwards, I’d definitely recommend the latter as the wines are beautifully paired. Each wine is introduced by a master sommelier, who shares the most astounding stories and histories of the wine – and that alone is worth it! However, you can also very easily go for the former and have the set menu without the wine, and order from their extensive beverage list instead – wine, cocktails, spirits, teas, and coffees, they have it all.
Welcome: Caraway Bread
We started the experience with a welcoming glass of Moreson bubbly, which is generally always a good way to start a weekend lunch. This was followed by the first course of caraway sour dough with home-churned butter, topped with sesame and roasted yeast. I was a little wary of the bread – I would run a million miles to get as far away from caraway as I possibly could – but decided a good foodie has to try it all, and I tucked in. And I’m so glad I did. The caraway wasn’t in the least overpowering, and I found the bread quite pleasant, particularly topped with the rich and creamy butter.
First Starters: Yellowfin Tuna and the Brand New Oyster Dish
From there, we were presented with our wines for the starter courses, followed by the actual courses. Sabine had ordered the yellowfin tuna with aubergine, miso, naartjie, and avocado. This was paired with the Mullineux ‘Old vines’ 2016. As always, I made sure I got to try both the dish and the wine, and both were absolutely beautiful. And if you look at the picture you’ll see that it was just as beautiful to look at! That’s exactly why I posted so many – I couldn’t possibly just choose one!
The Brand New Oyster Dish
I would have gone for the oyster on the menu – with pernod, verjuice, dill, apple, and celery – but Andrew, La Petite Colombe’s manager, suggested I try the brand new oyster dish, which is launching this week. How could I refuse that? That officially made me the first guest to try the brand new oyster dish, which from now on will be my claim to fame. Benike Palfi, foodie and La Petite Colombe’s first Spring Menu 2018 new oyster dish eater. Catchy, right?
I digress. So, the new oyster dish at La Petite Colombe comes with a creamy Saldanha oyster, gazpacho essence (which reminded me of the tomato consommé I had at the President Hotel a few months ago), tomato-infused olive oil, finely chopped red onion, and a jalapeno emulsion to add that little bit of spice. This was paired with the Rousseau (wooded) Sauvignon Blanc, which is without a doubt the most beautiful Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever tasted.
Usually I shy away from Sauvignon Blancs, but this one was beautifully fruity, full of flavour, without that distinct Sauvignon Blanc acidity. And the pairing was divine. The wine brought out the spiciness of the jalapeno, but then dissolved beautifully with the creaminess of the oyster, making it a perfectly well-rounded pairing that I would go back for again and again and again! Which is always saying a lot coz I tend to like my oysters fresh with nothing but lemon!
Gourmand Digression: Glazed Pork with Scallop
From this, we took a slight digression from the Spring Menu and tried one of the dishes from the Gourmand Menu. This menu is what you’d go for if you want more dishes and ‘superior’ ingredients. Think langoustine, scallops, Wagyu, and more. The dish we tried from this menu was the Gochujan-glazed pork. This is served with a scallop, horseradish, and a celeriac and wild garlic consommé. I’m a massive fan of scallops, which aren’t easy to find in Cape Town, so this dish was an automatic winner for me. The celeriac and wild garlic was also beautiful, and every patron in the restaurant could be seen slurping bowls to get the very last drop! This was paired with the Domaine de Dieux Chardonnay 2014, also lovely, but my heart had already been given to the Rousseau Sauvignon Blanc.
Second Starters: Tortellini of Prawn
After this dish – yes, yes, I’m walking you through all of them coz you wouldn’t possibly want to miss a thing – we ventured on to quite a brave dish full of interesting flavours. This was the tortellini of prawn, quail, curried hake veloute, cauliflower, and coriander. This dish was served with the Soxenberg Limited Release 2011. I call it a brave dish as the flavour profiles were definitely varied and combinations like that can very easily end up disastrous – except, of course, if you’re dining at La Petite Colombe, where everything is heavenly. The prawn tortellini was soft and subtle, the quail superbly tender, the curried hake not overpowering, and the cauliflower surprisingly delicious. If I could make my cauliflower taste like that I wouldn’t stop eating it!
Meet the Chefs
This concludes the starter portions of the set menu at La Petite Colombe. From here there is an optional extra called ‘Meet the Chefs’ (R70), where you literally get to do just that. You’re taken to the kitchen-side of the restaurant and presented with a special dish (we got a rendition of Eggs and Soldiers with foie gras), which you get to enjoy while you’re introduced to the chefs and the kitchen space.
We joined a family of Brits for the Meet the Chefs experience. They seemed pretty excited at the Eggs and Soldiers dish. Sabine and I had never tried it before, but the fancy introduction to it certainly was very satisfactory. And, of course, foie gras, imported from France, is always a winner. Perhaps just because it reminds me of beautiful Paris days sitting on the footsteps of Montmartre enjoying foie gras on toast. Unfortunately I have an ethical problem with the production of foie gras so it’s not something I’d support whole-heartedly, but it is a delicious occasional treat.
Palate Cleanser: Mojito Sorbet
After all the excitement we got to sit back down, rest for a few minutes, and enjoy a palate cleanser: Mojito sorbet on lime skin. This was definitely well-timed, and afterwards I felt ready to tackle the mains!
The Main Act: Chalmar Fillet
There are two mains available on the Spring Menu. The first is a seared linefish with parsnip, squid, mussel, leeks, and chorizo. This comes paired with a Rickety Bridge Semillion 2015. The second is a Chalmar fillet with Jerusalem artichoke, brisket, bone marrow, and a sherry and black pepper café au lait. This is paired with the Rijk’s Private Cellar Pinotage 2004.
Usually Sabine and I try to order different dishes so there’s more to write about, but this time we both eyed the fillet. Sabine loves her steak, and I’m oddly fond of bone marrow and tend to gravitate towards dishes served with that! It was a great choice. The fillet was beautiful, served medium rare (but they’ll make it more well-done if you wish), with a delectable assortment of fresh flavours and rich creaminess, held in check perfectly by the Pinotage.
First Desserts: Goat’s Cheese and Chocolate
Before the mains I felt pretty good, like I could eat another six portions and be a happy chappy. But after the mains I was reaching a very comfortable level of satiety. But there were still two courses of dessert to come, so I put on my professional foodie hat and soldiered on. I make it sound hard. It really wasn’t. I happily soldiered on.
For dessert, Sabine and I decided to order both options and share. When it comes to dessert, this is generally the best choice. Coz, honestly, how could anyone ever choose? We had the Foxenberg goat’s cheese with goats milk caramel, jouign amann, guava ice cream, and tamarind. This was served with the Miles Mossop ‘Kika’ 2017. It was a very sweet dessert wine, almost honey-ish, but I absolutely loved it. It also went beautifully with the goat’s cheese. The latter was presented in a beautiful mousse, almost cheesecake-like, and very, very palatable – even for someone who’s not generally a fan of goat’s cheese (like me).
Our other dessert was the Valrhona Itakuja cremeux, with flavours of pineapple, mango, macadamia, passion fruit, and lemongrass. This was paired with the Thelema Late Harvet Semillon 2014, a beautiful dessert wine to accompany a very fresh and fruity dessert. I loved both the goat’s cheese and the chocolate dessert. But, if I had to choose one, I’d probably go for the chocolate.
Second Dessert: La Petite Colombe Treasures
Ok, now I was full. But there was only one more course to go: the La Petite Colombe treasures. This was the coolest thing. They literally serve you a little treasure box, filled with cocoa nibs to represent “the dirt”, upon which rest two chocolate macarons and two golden nuggets (white chocolates shaped and coloured like gold nuggets). Sabs and I both ordered a flat white, and leaned back to enjoy the last little nibbles and caffeine. The golden nuggets are filled with little treasures of popping candy, which for some reason I absolutely loved. Popping candy is great when you don’t expect it. It surprises you and fills you with that happy childish feeling, which always makes me giggle. And now I’ve spoiled it for you coz you’ll be expecting it – but, who knows, maybe they’ll surprise you too with something else!
And that was it. The end of a beautiful lunch at La Petite Colombe. It’s not really a lunch though – more like a whole-day experience. We arrived at 12:30 and walked out probably just after 16:00. That’s one long lunch. Afterwards we walked around Franschhoek for forty minutes or so, easing back into the real world, and then headed back to Cape Town. Don’t worry, I didn’t actually drink all of the wine. Everyone knows I’m a lightweight of note so my wine drinking tends to be a very gentle wine sipping.
Head Chef John Norris-Rogers
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that this was a divinely beautiful experience. Head Chef John Norris-Rogers definitely knows what he’s doing. The dishes were beautiful in complexity, texture, flavour, presentation, and wine pairing, and there was absolutely nothing lacking. They equaled the exceptional dishes we had at Foxcroft earlier this year, and, strangely, also reminded me ever so slightly of Chef Jean Delport’s masterful dishes at Benguela on Main before he moved over to the UK, simply because he equals Chef Jean’s brilliance.
You’ll Love La Petite Colombe
The food was brilliant, the service was brilliant, the management was brilliant (thank you Andrew), and I’m one very impressed foodie. I’ll certainly be recommending La Petite Colombe to every Tom, Dick, and Harry (and Jane) that I cross paths with. And, of course, to all of you! Take the drive, spoil yourself, and give this a try – you won’t regret it!
You’ll get all the info on La Petite Colombe below. Booking is an absolute must. Enjoy!
Much foodie love.
La Petite Colombe
Address: Le Quartier Français Hotel, Franschhoek
Opening Times: Daily; Lunch (from 12:30) and Dinner (from 18:30)
Call: +27 21 202 3395
Article Date: September 2018
All information correct at time of publication. We do not accept any liability caused by errors, including, but not limited to, changes in price, menu, opening times, address, or other contact details.