Last Friday my brother, Dan, and I were treated to the most delectable dining experience at the Twelve Apostles’ Azure restaurant. This April they launched their brand new “Chef’s Table” degustation, curated by head chef Christo Pretorius. Dan and I were lucky enough to join a table of foodies for their very first event, and what an evening it was. In a nutshell: great food, impeccable wine, a touch of digital, new friends and family; perfection.
Chef’s Table: A Degustation at Azure
A degustation, in my mind, is a journey where a chef tells a story through a number of courses. An opportunity to paint a picture from his point of view. Merriam-Webster says, “the action or an instance of tasting especially in a series of small portions”.
With 6 courses shared among an exclusive table of 12, the Azure degustation showcases the best food, wines and technique, with a touch of digital, that Azure has to offer. And while I don’t know the chef’s personal story, if nothing else, the degustation was proudly South African – and that is our story.
Head Chef Christo Pretorius joined us for each serving, explaining what we could expect, as well as his dessert chef who introduced us to her courses. Gregory Mutambe, the sommelier, explained the wines to us and allowed guests to guess what each wine was. While the galley is too small to fit a table of 12, iPads were placed on the table and we were able to watch the brigade plating up LIVE streamed on Facebook live! I just love it when brands get digital right, what fun!
3 Most Impressive Plates at Azure’s Chef’s Table Degustation
I’m going to start with the top 3 dishes that impressed me the most. All the dishes were amazing, but there’s a difference between plates where you can’t go wrong (your favourites) and dishes that were new/adventurous/impeccable and unmatched in previous meals. So I’d thought I’d start with the ones that have left a lasting impression on me:
Amuse Bouche: 60 °c Saldanha Bay Oyster
As you know I don’t eat seafood, but this mouthful was so well balanced that I have to include it in my most impressive dishes. Seafood may not be “my bag baby”, I don’t mind an oyster from time to time – as long as they’re crispy, cold and have condiments. This oyster was NOTHING like that.
Souveed at 60 °c, the Saldanha Bay Oyster was a delight from the moment it was placed in front of me because it actually looked like quail’s egg on a pea soup! In fact, it was a miso caramel, compressed cucumber, passion fruit gel with wild rice puffs – which added THE most beautiful toasted flavour and texture to the bite. The oyster’s proteins had all broken down so it was super tender with a punch of ocean (but not too much). This was a fun dish to eat.
“Cheese Course”: Boerekaas Biscuit
Now I know it seems crazy to talk a reconstructed cheese course, but the Boerekaas biscuit really did impress me. A play on cheese and fruit, the biscuit was incredibly crumbly. Initially I thought, “Oh, what a silly thing!” But as I ate the biscuit, my mouth heated up the food causing the flavour of the cheese to just develop and develop and develop! A wonderful, rich, cheesy, mature cheddar aroma filling my senses. Offset by the sweetness & acidity of the plum gel and PERFECTLY paired dessert wine, it was balanced to perfection. The plate was finished off with pickled plum, watercress and a toasted macadamia mousse.
My only regret – not paying closer attention to the macadamia mousse, I remembered relying on the incredibly soft (yet full) texture to offset the cheese and plum gel, but I love macadamia so I could have focused more there.
Dessert: Valrhona Manjari
Desserts are usually overrated in my book. They always look WAY better than they taste and I find people are easily satisfied. Death my Chocolate? Usually yawn by chocolate! But being at Azure, I was keen to see what they would present and I was NOT disappointed. NOT ONE BIT! (Or should I say bite?!) From the fine, berry stencil on the plate to the deep, yearning valrhona manjari chocolate (from Madagascar!) and the salty caramel quenelle, I was in HEAVEN! HEAVEN I TELL YOU! The macerated berries offset the deep, creamy textures of the cremeux while the berries provided the necessary acid to cleanse the palate. PERFECTION. Best chocolate dessert I’ve had in Cape Town.
My 2 Favourites at Azure’s Degustation
While the above 3 plates may have impressed me the most, the following 2 dishes are plates that God put on the earth just to make me happy.
Chicken & Ham Terrine
I love a terrine. The end.
Ironically, I’m actually not usually a fan of two meats, but I do love a terrine if it is well balanced. This terrine had a honey mustard emulsion (classic combo), tarragon mayo, which added a touch of brightness to the usual ‘stodgy mayo’, and pickled shitake mushrooms. The compressed granny smith and micro herb salad added freshness to the plate. There was a cured egg yolk, but I’m not too sure where (didn’t really pick that up), which is fine as I’m not big into eggs anyway. Tender, smokey meat offset by the acid of the vinaigrette, micro herbs and smooth mayo, this plate was a great starter.
Loin of Venison
This is my perfect meal: something braised, something fried and a veg. Here we enjoyed a loin of venison and venison osso buco (I love an osso buco too!), accompanied by parmesan gnocchi, roast butternut puree and squash custard – which I couldn’t place at the time, but that was RIDICULOUSLY smooth and creamy. I loved the custard and, again, wish I’d paid more attention to it.
The seed crumble added a touch of crunch, which was great, and the maple and coffee jus offset the tenderness of the venison. The chef came around and poured the jus, hot and fresh from the pot so you can’t actually see it in this image (taken before). A splash of green was added with the confit baby leeks, which were delicious green vegetables are my favourite).
A Touch of Fun with a Kiwi Palate Cleanser
Azure always presents a little touch of dry ice fun at their dinner parties and this degustation was no different. I loved the kiwi sorbet, although I wouldn’t have minded it a little less sweet. Dan loved it exactly the way it was though – either way, a perfect palate cleanser and a touch of theatre at the dinner table never goes amiss in my book.
What Were the 3 Remaining Dishes?
Now let me start by being perfectly clear here: these dishes are all amazing BUT, they’re just not to my taste. I don’t love curry and I don’t love seafood.
I know the girls across the table will be KILLING me for saying the roasted cauliflower wasn’t super amazing, because they were all falling apart over it – and good for them! It’s a great play on street food and the chef did nail it. PERFECTLY cooked onion dhaltjies, deep aged Parmesan, pickled sultanas, Malay spice dressing and cauliflower creme, the roast cauliflower was fantastic! – But just not to my taste 🙂
Citrus Cured Salmon
Next was the Norwegian salmon. Tender and beautifully presented with pickled ginger and a molasses curd, good, but seafood’s not for me. No meal can have 5 plates of red meat so this definitely balanced out the ‘journey’ of the meal. The toasted hazelnuts and quenelle were spectacular and they really worked super well with the pickled beetroot.
Tiny pastries and treats, these included macarons (not a fan, don’t shoot me female population!) and rocky road type chocolate bites, served with tea or coffee. This plate was charming BUT! I was too full to try them. Yes people! You have found a gourmet meal that will leave you full without question.
How to Book Your Seat at the Next Degustation
From the Twelve Apostles, “Starting on the 5 May 2017, the hotel will be holding these culinary events on the first Friday of every month, in the award-winning Azure restaurant. Executive Chef Christo Pretorius’ menu will incorporate a variety of sampling portions…as well as several of Christo’s signature dishes.
Hosted by Chef Christo and ably accompanied by Head Sommelier and co-host, Gregory Mutambe, the six-course ‘surprise’ will be prepared specially for guests… and paired with a selection of South Africa’s best wines, chosen by Gregory.
“These events are for all those fanatical foodies out there who truly appreciate the sensation of tasting a variety of food at a single sitting….Our menus will present a wonderful combination of flavours and textures and we guarantee a great night out.”
– Chef Christo Pretorius
Space is limited to between six and 12 guests. The cost to book an exclusive place at the Chef’s Table is R2150 per person – price includes meal, wine/tea pairing, water and gratuity.
For more information and to book, please contact Restaurant Reservations on 021 437 9029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everything about the evening was perfection; every single course entertained the palate and is, for SURE, the best food and wine pairing I’ve had in the mother city. I was really impressed with the balance and portion of the wines – not too much not too little either.
Seats are limited so don’t wait, this is something special that you won’t want to miss out out.
Thank you to Jo and Azure for having us on this special occasion.
Well done to the team for their great work.