Formally the house of Margot Janse’s The Tasting Room, La Petite Colombe – headed by young chef, John Norris-Rogers, under the helm of chef proprietors, Scot Kirton and James Gaag, offers diners a refined French/Asian experience akin to its accolated big sister, La Colombe.
But while the two restaurants share an affinity for flavours, the menu of the newer establishment is quite different – good news for those who may have it in mind to patron both venues. Each plate on the full 9-course menu a chapter in a story that is full of delicate delight.
The gourmand event begins with sweet potato bread that one breaks off into delicate lobes, lashing the steaming inside with the whipped pork fat crumbed with lemon and herb. While tempting, it is inadvisable to polish off the entire helping, in anticipation of leaving room for the eight courses to follow.
A poached west-coast oyster is next – ensconced in a ceramic shell and topped with bubbles of sago, fronds of dill and a champagne foam that dazzles the palate and eye in equal measure.
The thinnest slivers of Asian-style tuna, dotted with tangy bursts of miso, kalamansi and the smallest of edible flowers cover a base of aubergine, creating an umami depth of flavour I couldn’t get enough of. This is just the third course.
A lollipop of quail is fourth in line, served with plump langoustines, a smoked mussel veloute, bright green bakchoi and corn, topped off with a playful crunch of popcorn that adds an element of whimsy to an otherwise elegant dish.
Here my partner and I parted ways. He elected the beef, served in tataki and tartar form while I opted for the Jerusalem artichoke mousse. Both dishes came topped with a luminous dehydrated pistachio sponge cake that added a satisfying crunch to our mains – equally rich in flavour, texture and invention. Vegetarians certainly don’t lose out.
With glasses in hand, we were summoned to the chef’s table up front for the ‘Meet the Chefs’ course. While a little intimidating, catching a glimpse of the talented team that produces the fine dishes is fascinating.
Done ogling the inner-workings of the gleaming kitchen, we turned our attention to the orbs in front of us, that when opened, revealed a tiny portion of ramen noodles, scrolls of pork and the yellow pop of a perfectly poached quail’s egg. To this, our chef attendee poured a measure of celeriac broth from a glass teapot, inviting us to stir and slurp our dish with the aid of precise tweezers made to grip the miniature noodles.
As if magicked from a chapter in Alice in Wonderland, a small vial replete with cork stopper awaited us back at our table, where our waiter explained that we were to uncork and pour the kombucha contents into our very welcomed palate cleanser – a zingy mouthful that revived our gusto with icy awakening.
Perhaps my favourite dish – a citrus-glazed kingklip with pebbles of toasted buckwheat, a swirl of vanilla and smoked parsnip and a scattering of bright courgette flowers followed, my partner most impressed with the sticky lamb dish – the rib smoked at our table where Chef John popped over for a quick chat.
When opting for the Gourmand experience, there are two dessert courses. The first is a savoury cheese course with asiago and a Japanese cheesecake, working together to create a surprisingly light combo with refreshing pear and nutty pecan elements. The second is a soft pink guava mousse with fleeting notes of lime and rich white Valrhona chocolate that I scraped clean.
With a final flourish, a wooden chest arrived with the coffees. In it, an array of bonbons nestled on cacao nibs resembled jewels. Golden hunks of white chocolate hide popping candy, while the dark chocolate and raspberry truffles end a meal that is a sensory exaltation in every way.
Where La Colombe in Constantia pays homage to their region with wines from around Constantiaberg, La Petite Colombe sources their vino from far and wide, exposing their guests to rare finds from both the Franschhoek region and beyond. Each pairing is thoughtfully considered and carefully explained by the waitron on hand, but should you feel like ordering something specific by the carafe or bottle, there’s that option too. We loved the Morena Brut Method Cap Classique, the Black Elephant Viognier – exclusively available from the restaurant, as well as the Miles Mossop ‘Kika’ that mirrored the guava notes in our dessert with symbiotic precision.
A bright garden of lemon trees rustles in the breeze wafting in from the open sliding doors and soft light from the slatted wooden terrace dances on the tables as if one was sitting at the patio of a friend. Colours are neutral and refined, the food providing enough excitement and artistry to hold your attention. It’s hushed and elegant without feeling stuffy – inviting one to recline in the comfy chairs around the crisp white tables of this so named “little dove” that feels like a firm Franschhoek favourite already.
Visit La Petite Colombe
Address: Le Quartier Français Hotel, Franschhoek
Cnr Huguenot St. and Berg St.
Book online by visiting their website or call +27 21 202 3395.
Blog post by: Tarah Darge