Spring is on the way and I couldn’t be more keen for Cape Town to wake from its chilly hibernation. September sees the city germinate with new activities to entertain both tourists and locals alike. Yet, one project has already started to bloom ahead of season, right in the heart of the Mother city.
SYN, meaning great expansion/moving forward, is a new culinary experience from Chef Rikku Ó’Donnchü (Best Global Head Chef at The World Luxury Restaurant Awards 2019) and Chef Warwick King, formally of Gate at Quoin Rock.
With flavour as their core focus, guests can enjoy an immersive and entertaining dining experience centered around art and science. We were fortunate enough to visit on SYN’s opening night and enjoy their whimsical and delicious full course menu.
Short review: yes it was awesome, entertaining and delicious. Long review: here’s what happened down the foodie rabbit hole:
1. Pots & Fossils
This was a charming way to start the meal. Parsley embedded crisps arrived on a little stick tree with an olive tapenade soil (I’m not going to try describe everything because it’s too complicated to get right!). Use the crisps and baby veg to dip into the savory mousse beneath the soil or pick up their slender spoon to get into the pot’s corders.
2. Holy Smoke
This was one of my favourite dishes from the Gate offering – which I always feel slightly guilty to confess because I feel obliged to rave about the most expensive ingredients or generous plates.
But the flavours and creativity of Holy Smoke honestly just makes me smile. Lift the lid on the ashtray and reveal the smoking pot of “ash”. The balance of textures is so soft they’re almost fluffy; the flavours so punchy it’s a surprise.
3. The Last Ice Cap
I was wary when I first saw this dish online as it reminded me of a plastic bottle that had washed up on the beach – nothing enticing about that! Yet I was pleasantly surprised at how fresh and bright the dish was when it arrived at our table.
While I don’t like to eat seafood, scallops is the exception and this is one of the best. The crust on the scallop coupled with white chocolate shavings is pure heaven. Less of an oyster fan, the rest of the table had little more to say than yes nods and thumbs up signs for them.
This crazy little creation is named after a fictional character and has 3 main ingredients – octopus, curry and jalapeños – and it’s as weird as the name sounds. It’s the first course that breaks your brain a little bit, which results in a lot of contemplation long after the dishes have been washed and packed away.
To have something so unexpected really elevates the dining experience and gives the diner more than just something tasty in the moment. Does this unusual combination of flavours work though? Yep, but it’ll keep you wondering about it for quite some time after the meal…
5. It’s Black & White
After a friend (who is in no way a fussy eater) expressed her hate for cauliflower, it’s drawn my particular attention to the vegetable and I’ve come to realise that it’s one of my favourites. Puree, roasted, microwaved (lol), raw or in pearls, foamed and blackened like SYN, it’s on my top 5. Paired with parmesan, I could eat 3 plates of this cheese and cauli combination.
6. The Golden Egg
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love liver and those who don’t. Your enjoyment of this dish lies entirely within your position of the liver-love-ometer.
3/4 of us (at the table) aren’t big on liver so we were neither here nor there about this dish (although I do really like the garlic banana bread – so strange, so good). Dean, on the other hand, absolutely LOVES liver and ate any that were going spare! So this is one for the liver heads. (Crack open the egg and enjoy with your soldier.)
7. Tsukuba Mountain
Considering so many people find cooking dinner every night a bit of a pain, it’s funny how constructing and cooking your own dinner in a posh restaurant can be so much fun!
Named after a Japanese mountain, this is a self-build ramen bowl that incorporates frying your own pork on a piping hot stone and using a syringe that instantly cooks your noodles in the hot broth. This is a hands on dish that gets everyone involved around the table and is a lot of fun.
8. The Other Bits of Sushi
The second most entertaining dish of the night for 2 main reasons: 1) Chef Rikku dazzled us with his smoke and dry ice box before creating “not” sushi lollipops at the table. 2) Everyone had the giggles because this dish divided everyone again with some loving it (Claire ate 3) and some not liking (me, I don’t like seaweed). Personal taste aside, everyone was most entertained.
9. We Blue It
This is a blue cheese course that I was wary of because I’m not a massive stinky cheese fan, but it was absolutely delicious and if I hadn’t started being so full, I definitely would have eaten the whole thing.
The soft buttery crumb of the biscuit against the salty, cheesy centre is beautifully balanced and doesn’t scream BLUEEEE for conservative eaters like myself. Like a savoury ice cream sandwich, it really was super delicious and I encourage everyone else who is a bit afraid of blue cheese to absolutely try it.
10. Porcini Garden
Having watched a number of Great British Bakeoff contestants create “gardens”, which are always favorably received but which, quite frankly, look like a train wreck on TV; this was another dish I was underestimating.
A dessert nothing short of channeling Enid Blyton, arrived with the most charming meringue mushrooms and chocolate soil. But the best part was the sage green “mousse” tucked underneath it all. It was absolutely delicious and picture perfect. How adorable?
11 & 12. Who Blew a Raspberry?
And would it really be Chef Rikku if the night didn’t end with an edible helium balloon? No. Who Blew a Raspberry is essentially a 3 part dessert containing:
- A helium filled, edible balloon arrives at the table, which you need to eat quickly as they don’t last (mine got stuck on my arm haha).
- The menu, which is on your table when you arrive for the evening.
- Fillings of chocolate, caramel and pineapple.
Fillings? Yep, you turn your menu into a taco, fill it with the 3 components and eat it!
I must make mention of our server, Rufus, from Etiquette – a Cape Town based Front of House training program that specialises in the training of silver service waiters. We had personable service and excellent wine (not all of which I had heard of) from the sommelier as well as informative, professional service from the greater FOH team.
Book at SYN
SYN is a combination of imagination, flavour and fun, and will keep you entertained, full and delighted throughout the night.
They have a number of course options, which can be enjoyed with the official pairing or order by the glass as you see fit.
Course Options and Pricing
- 3 Course Tasting Menu: R390.
- 6 Course Tasting Menu: R790 | R1290 with wine pairing.
- 12 Course Tasting Menu: R1490 | R2990 with wine pairing.
- 3 Course Ramen Special: Tuesday to Saturday for R390.
Vegetarian option available on pre-order (must be noted with booking).
Thank you to the SYN crew for such an amazing night. I think everyone had been feeling a little worn down by the winter chill and this certainly warmed our hearts.
Be sure to make your reservation at SYN because they move to their new location in a few weeks’ time.
SYN Pop Restaurant Details
- Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00 – 14:00.
- Tuesday to Saturday: 18:00 – midnight.
Bookings and T’s & C’s
To book call 0027 60 392 2234 or e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- 50% deposit required to secure all reservations.
- No refunds for cancellations within 48 hours.
- No children under 10 (no children’s menu available).
- 12.5% discretionary service charge to be added to all tables.
- Menu items may contain allergens.
Where to Find SYN
Find SYN at 47 Bree Street (3rd floor), Cape Town CBD (above Villa 47).