Aubergine opened its doors in 1996 and I’ve been hearing about great meals people have had there pretty much ever since. Yet for some reason we’d never managed to try it. This week it was time to remedy that.
It’s a stylish place with a sophisticated feel while at the same time feeling welcoming and friendly. Owner and chef Harald Bresselschmidt serves up fantastic food with a mix of European and Asian influences.
His menu changes regularly and makes the most of local, seasonal ingredients. There’s an a la carte as well as a degustation menu and you can pick and choose from both of them (treating the degustation one as a la carte if you wish) which means there’s a lot of tricky decision-making ahead. I changed my mind constantly in the time I was pondering the menu! Luckily it seemed all the dishes were good…so not that much need to stress then. Here’s what we enjoyed.
The classic start to fine dining is the amuse bouche “on the chef”. Tonight we were served up a delicious morsel of a risotto ball on a beetroot coulis topped with crispy Parma ham.
Starters were exotic concotions and combinations like this amazing Duo of veal. Pearls of veal sweetbreads and marinated vitello paired with white anchovies, broccoli, almond and basil salad. The freshness and zestiness of the anchovies cut through the richness of the veal to create the perfect mouthful.
I seem to be on a mission to sample scallops this year, so couldn’t resist the seared scallops with lardo, orange tomatoes, baby spinach and tarragon mustard sauce. It arrived looking stunning and topped with foam. The sauce was sublime, love tarragon mustard.
The duck starter appeared like a piece of art on a plate. Duck breast, hoisin sauce, grilled cucumber, enoki radish and tatsoi salad. Beautiful
The aubergine souffle is one of Harald’s signature dishes (for obvious reasons)! It’s filled with marinated chevre and served with oven braised tomatoes, mizuna coulis and Grana cheese tuille. While it’s hard to make an aubergine souffle look that beautiful I would imagine, it had a perfectly soft texture and a mix of delicate flavours and melted in the mouth.
My brother never seems to be able to resist the foie gras on the menu
And so, well satisfied with all our choices we waited with anticipation for our mains. First up was the crayfish special which was served with a parcel of cabbage-wrapped foie gras. Properly indulgent.
The East Meets West dish summarised Harald’s two strongest influences. A prawn tamarind curry meets smoked linefish (today it was sole) on a bed of beluga lentils.
As well as eating a lot of scallops, I’m tucking into the kingklip at every opportunity. It seems to be particularly stunning this year and tonight’s was no exception. It was paired with a sweet potato and celeriac galette and prickly pear sauce. Beautiful chunky flakes of sweet fish and a light and zesty sauce.
The lamb loin and aubergine strudel is the second signature dish. A really clever idea, it comes with rhubarb-rosemary sauce and a red onion compote.
The dessert menu was just as tempting and couldn’t be resisted. This is the chocolate fondant with cherries marinated in Cape Ruby with rhubarb ice-cream.
And then there’s the fabulous cheese. This is a variation of handmade cheese from the German and Austrian Alps. The best cheeseboard I’ve had in a long time and substantial, too – certainly enough to share between two or even three.
Or how about a creme brule with two flavours. A long boat of a dessert that cleverly changed flavour halfway through!
This is definitely special-occasion cuisine. The dishes are all so cleverly conceived of and a joy to behold (as these stunning pictures prove) and to eat and there’s an amazingly extensive wine list. Okay, it’s not a cheap night out but, hey, we all deserve to treat ourselves from time to time. Next time you’ve got something big to celebrate book at table at Aubergine. You’ll love it.
Aubergine is at 39 Barnett Street, Gardens, Cape Town