Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, so it’s always surprising to me when a restaurant doesn’t highlight one of the many mesmerising views. But if the views don’t matter and the food is the real attraction – like it is with the new Urchin Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency in the CBD – you know you’ll be in for a treat.
After all, too many restaurants rely on Cape Town’s beauty to get away with exorbitant prices coupled with average food and often shoddy service. That’s not to say that you can’t find restaurants that “do it all” – Cape Town has some of the best restaurants in the world, after all, and many of them hit that trio of price point, quality, and views perfectly.
But, sometimes, entering a foodie cave as one does when visiting Urchin Restaurant is just what you need to escape from the world out there and deep-dive into a culinary extravaganza that will take you on a journey in and of itself.
Welcome To Urchin Restaurant
By now, you will have gathered that Urchin Restaurant won’t offer you the best views in the city.
Situated on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, one level up from the equally cave-like 126 Cafe and Kitchen, Urchin welcomes you into a seemingly open space, elegantly partitioned into smaller dining areas, all overlooking the giant bar and semi-open-plan kitchen space.
There is a slight mish-mash in table styles and seating, but all elements are drawn together through an emphasis on equal colouring, highlighting gentle beiges, greys, and browns.
Windows are covered with light curtaining to let the last of the evening sun in – equally beige and gentle, depending on the season – while obstructing views of Bo-Kaap’s Wale Street below.
Chances are you could see Table Mountain and Lion’s Head peak out from behind, but the focus at Urchin is on Chef Gerard van Staden’s menu.
So, what is this menu all about?
The Urchin Restaurant Menu and Pricing
Urchin Restaurant is popularly advertised as offering an “elemental ocean dining experience”, which is perhaps true on some level.
The restaurant boasts an à la carte menu, with seafood-inspired starters, Urchin signature sushi, smaller seafood dishes, and larger mains and signature dishes that range from Langoustine Ravioli to Salmon Trout and Malay-inspired Kingklip.
The restaurant also offers a tasting menu that takes diners through a variety of flavours, and Chef Gerard van Staden is known to create custom menus like he did when we visited for our Urchin review.
You’ll likely find something on the menu, even if you’re not a seafood fan, with vegetarian-focused dishes like Chestnut Mushrooms and Sweet Potato Gnocchi or heartier meat dishes like a Saddle of Karoo Lamb and Rib-Eye Steak.
You will not, however, find something on the menu if you’re looking for a quick, affordable bite to eat. While on par with other fine dining restaurants around and a competitively-priced tasting menu, individual items on the à la carte menu average at around R350 a dish.
This is very well-priced if you’re visiting Cape Town from overseas – and to be expected considering the restaurant is located in a top hotel – but if you’re visiting Urchin for the first time and you’re a Cape Town local, I’d recommend opting for the tasting menu instead.
It’ll give you much better bang for your buck and a more well-rounded experience.
I would, however, highly recommend you do the wine pairing. The restaurant’s sommelier, Richard, is one of the most delightful sommeliers I’ve ever encountered, with excellent recommendations, and the wine pairing we enjoyed was top-notch.
So, let’s take you through the menu for the evening.
The I Love Foodies x Urchin Restaurant Review
As alluded to above, Chef Gerard van Staden created a custom tasting menu for us to enjoy for our review, though dishes are drawn from the standard à la carte menu and can be enjoyed by all.
Here’s a quick overview of the 6-course tasting menu:
- Amuse bouche: Lobster capellini with lemongrass butter sauce, served with the Delaire Graff Rose Cabernet Franc 2022
- Starter: Hot and sour shrimp and tomato soup with Asian vegetables, soft herbs, noddles, and lemon, paired with the Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2022
- Entree: Salmon with roast cauliflower, sweet potato dumplings, and Asian glaze, served with the Holden Manz White Blend 2020
- Palate Cleanser: Granadilla sorbet
- Mains: Rib-eye steak with toast brioche and salsa verde, paired with the Holden Manz Visionaire 2017
- Dessert: Raspberry mousse with paper-leaf meringue and raspberry coulis, served with the Maia Pinot Noir 2021 (chilled)
The wine pairings for each course were fantastic.
The wines themselves were excellent, of course, but the pairings worked really well for each, with the wines really bringing out the flavours of the dishes.
If I had to choose a favourite wine of the evening, it would probably be the Cederberg Chenin Blanc, closely followed by the Holden Manz Visionaire. I’ve always been a Holden Manz fan, so I may be slightly biased with that one, but this was my first time trying the Cederberg wine, and it was delightful.
Amuse Bouche: The Lobster
Even though my menu stated that we were having the lobster capellini, I actually think we were served a take of the lobster ravioli.
I’m not complaining – this dish was excellent.
The dish combined the sophistication of lobster as you’d expect it with a very generously-filled lobster ravioli and a slight Cape Malay influence, blending elegance with a touch of “Cape Town” that definitely left me wanting more.
This was easily one of the best dishes of the evening and one I’d definitely recommend trying.
Starter: Shrimp & Tomato Soup
This Urchin take on a tom yum soup was very Asian-style, which is great if you’re a fan of Asian flavours but probably not the best bet if you’re after something a little more approachable.
Even though it comes with all the complexities of tom yum, as you’d expect, the soup itself is rather simple.
Delightful and perfectly positioned on the tasting menu, but I probably wouldn’t order this as a stand-alone dish in a finer establishment like Urchin.
While the lobster dish was one of the best of the evening, the salmon entrée was, without a doubt, the highlight of the night.
The salmon was very much on the rare side, which I personally love, but it’d be worth asking for a little more time on the heat if gently seared isn’t your preference.
It was served with a delicious Asian glaze, adding a world of flavour, and topped with a parmesan crisp (yum), salsa, and pineapple vinaigrette.
The whole shebang was served on rounds of roast cauliflower and sweet potato gnocchi, both of which were absolutely divine.
The Asian flavours of the salmon were quite pronounced but matched so well with the more classic flavours of the gnocchi and cauliflower, and the whole dish came together beautifully.
Add in the accompanying Holden Manz White Blend, and this was definitely the winner of the evening.
Palate Cleanser: Granadilla
I couldn’t refrain myself from calling this a “lolly to make you jolly”, but Urchin’s granadilla palate cleanser definitely has one up on the granadilla lollies you can buy on any of Clifton’s beaches.
Perfectly tart and perfectly delicious.
The dish also came with mango chips, which were delightful, and a meringue base, which we’ll encounter again in the dessert.
Mains: Rib-eye Steak
I’m usually a fillet girl, but this rib-eye steak was excellently done – soft, tender, and full of flavour.
I wasn’t too much of a fan of the accompanying toast brioche, which I personally felt cheapened the dish a bit, or the very overpowering salsa verde.
I did like the potato fondant and the overnight oven-dried tomatoes, though, which I felt matched the steak much better.
For me, the dish would have been complete with just these.
The meringue we encountered in the granadilla palate cleanser re-appeared for the raspberry mouse, a beautifully constructed dish encompassing a dollop of delicious mousse with raspberry meringue petals, surrounded by raspberry pearls and freeze-dried raspberry “snakes”.
The mousse itself was delicious, as were the pop-in-your-mouth pearls and tangy snakes, though the meringue was a tad too sweet for me.
I’ve never been a fan of overly sweet desserts, and impressing me with a well-balanced dessert option is one of life’s many challenges.
For most people, the meringue will be perfect. I would have preferred the mousse on its own – with the little pearls and dried goodness.
Service At Urchin
All throughout the dining experience, we were looked after really well.
Service at Urchin Restaurant is astounding, with everyone from the hostesses at the hotel to the waitstaff, sommelier Richard, and, of course, Chef Gerard himself ensuring that your experience at Urchin will be an unforgettable one.
The Urchin: Final Verdict
Overall, we really enjoyed our experience at Urchin Restaurant.
What stood out the most was the beautiful combination of fine dining elements with overall hearty dishes that went easy on the pizzazz and focused more on well-rounded flavours and well-sized portions that will leave you happy and satiated.
That said, the price point may not quite match the experience, and I personally think a slight reduction in prices of the à la carte menu would be a wise decision.
On the tasting menu side, the restaurant can’t quite compare to the finesse and showmanship of some of the best Cape Town fine dining restaurants, but I’d suggest that this isn’t what Urchin is trying to do.
The heartier approach to finer dishes with inspirations drawn from all around the world is certainly unique, and if you’re after something a little different, you can’t go wrong at Urchin.
Urchin Restaurant Contact Details
Since Urchin Restaurant is only open in the evenings and quite frequented by hotel guests, we’d highly recommend making a reservation – especially if you’re keen to experience the tasting menu.
You’ll find all of the details below.
Address: The Hyatt Regency, 126 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town
Call: +27 21 214 1234
Written by Benike Palfi
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Article Date: March 2023
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