French Fireside Dining at La Mouette

The Tudor house at 78 Regent Road is somewhat of an anomaly. Flanked by sleek malls and shops, it seems a little otherworldly, almost as if it’s mushroomed up overnight and might disappear again as soon as the clock strikes 12.

Fortunately, this is not the case, and while what awaits inside is indeed a magical experience (that also incidentally features a lot of mushrooms), it’s in no danger of vanishing soon. The national monument is home to La Mouette, a French-flavoured, locally-owned restaurant favourited by Sea Points locals and those travelling from afar.

The ambiance
Stepping through the cobbled courtyard, replete with tinkling fountain and fairy lights (perfect for al-fresco style dining on sunnier days), we made our way inside, where not one, but two fireplaces warmed the cosy, dimly-lit downstairs interior. Art, available for purchase, adorns the high burgundy walls of each room, the wooden staircase leading upstairs to further dining rooms that can also be sectioned off for a more private dining affair.

We shuffled up to enjoy the heat radiating from the impressive hearth and enjoyed a glass of Miss Molly Bubbly before settling down to feast, feeling relaxed and at ease in the transformed home.

The food
With three different set menus to choose from at dinner, La Mouette caters to those in search of a full culinary journey, as well as those looking for a smaller, 3-course meal. As we were a passionate table of foodies, we opted for the 6-course autumn menu paired with wine.

Chef-patron, Henry Vigar, is famed for his La Mouette croquettes served with parmesan aioli and for good reason! These oozy, golden morsels made for mouthwatering starters. Tiny tuna tartare tacos accompanied the cheesy bites – a nod to the South African inflexion on the menu that changes according to what is most fresh and locally available.

A tart goat’s curd served in a glass that made it look like an arty terrarium was followed by a truly magnificent edible bird’s nest that was as fun as it was delicious to eat. Crispy glass noodles and pickled mushrooms hid a liquid butternut and coconut centre that, once broken, softened the noodles that soaked up the goodness. In fact, all the plating at La Mouette is done as if for a magazine, so beautiful are the dishes to behold.

My fourth course, wild mushrooms with hazelnut pasta, chestnut purée, and brioche crumble, was truffley perfection – a sentiment shared by my partner who ordered the lamb neck that came bejewelled with pomegranates and served on a smoked aubergine purée.

The line fish, sometimes a tricky dish to get right, was a triumph. Served with braised fennel, burnt orange, pine nuts and cucumber gremolata; it was light, full of flavour and flawlessly seared, the fish not overpowered by any starches or heavy sauces.

We ordered all four of the desserts between the four of us and declared the Melting Ferrero Rocher the favourite. Served with a bit of theatre, our attentive waitress poured the chocolate sauce over the salted hazelnut oil parfait before we attacked it with vigour. A cheeseboard and complimentary caramel macaroons ended the evening off with a flourish.

The wine
I’m so glad that I listened to Mari, La Mouette’s co-owner, when she encouraged us to try the wine pairings as they were outstanding. While the dishes might be French inspired, the wines all hail from the Cape. Each pairing was so thoughtfully done, inventive and appropriate for each dish. The cultivars that La Mouette carefully select are boutique and lesser-known which makes each pairing feel like an exciting discovery, even for locals. Be sure to take notes of your favourites and hunt them down afterwards.

La Mouette Winter Special
While we chose the 6-course menu, La Mouette is running a wondrous winter special in which diners can enjoy 4 courses with a carafe of wine for just R295 per person. I’d recommend booking a spot before this flash in the pan disappears.

Bookings
Call + 27 21 433 0856 or email reservations@lamouette.co.za or book on the reservations page of their website.

Blog post by: Tarah Darge

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