Blonde Ambition / Hg2 RESTAURANT REVIEW

He’s been holding out for a while, but Hg2 Cape Town author, Keith Bain, has been studiously test-driving the Mother City’s youngest eateries, uncovering new favourites along the way. He recently ventured into the hot-damp (and, briefly, rain-soaked) night to see if he could learn how many blondes it takes to change a light bulb. Instead he discovered a restaurant where he’d eat in the dark if he had to. And where the service is as seductive and drool-worthy as the spot-on cuisine.
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“It’s fah-king hot,” announces D, who earned her a place at the table with her love of food, hazardous preoccupation with wine, and tendency to speak her mind.  I’ve booked dinner on what must be the balmiest night of the year. “But our waiter…” she whispers flirtatiously into my ear, “…is even hotter.”

D has virtually tripped over her own tongue on eyeing the dish waiting on us. Even a blind nun would agree: serving us is the ultimate poster boy for eating out—100 per cent Adonis. He’s on the ball, too, executing his duties with panache, making honest recommendations and giving all his guests just the right kind of attention. Perhaps not quite as much attention as D would like.

D’s already had a busy day of back-to-back ‘meetings’, wine industry code for ‘drinking sessions’, so dinner feels like the extension of a party. Between swigs of complimentary bubbles and slices of fresh-baked cheese and onion bread, we tuck into a mini-platter of tasting-size nibbles. Not the usual predictable bullshit—instead our Adonis has brought finger-licking morsels like droëwors (dried sausage—a South African favourite) and meatballs in a delicious sauce.

D needs time alone to ponder the starters, so I go for a wander around the restaurant with Adonis. Blonde (Tel: 021 462 5793; www.blondedining.co.za) consists of multiple rooms, spread over two floors of vintage real estate on Hatfield Street; it’s intimate, uncluttered, and pared down, suggesting that full respect goes to the food on your plate—and the dashing creature serving it.

By the time we return, D seems even more perplexed: butter-poached crayfish tail? Roasted foie gras with beetroot and onion chutney? Or beef carpaccio scented with lime and chilli? A quandary.

I’ve already pumped Adonis for his favourites, and end up ordering two salads: salmon sashimi done in a tangy, sesame dressing (sublime) and smoked buffalo mozzarella with roast baby onions, sweet vine tomatoes, and balsamic reduction.

D is slightly annoyed at me for stealing the sashimi salad—she’d secretly been considering that, but we had agreed not to double up. She relents, though, when she discovers the roast tomato tarte tartin—it comes with a goats’ feta farmed in the Drakensberg region of KwaZulu-Natal.

If haggling over starters had caused a bit of a furore, the task of settling on D’s main results in virtual pandemonium as she scans the list of brasserie-style dishes: pan-fried ostrich (with butternut and ginger purée); rump basted in ginger and oyster; crispy duck; twenty-four hour lamb shank…. Too many must-try options.

I take the path of least resistance and, once again, put my faith in Adonis. Without thinking twice, I order a fishy main. D and I argue briefly about the emptying seas, the plight of tuna, and the evils of the entire fishing industry. In protest, she orders the truffle-infused fillet despite Adonis’ suggestion to go with the deboned lamb ribs. She’s adamant, though, and finds herself faced with the most popular dish on the menu.

It’s a worthy choice. The fillet—which lies in truffle oil for 48 hours—is extremely rich, and accompanied by deep-fried risotto balls and a truffle velouté; it’s a good choice for the super-hungry, and best accompanied by one of the rather extravagantly-priced reds on Blonde’s high-end wine list. My seared salmon (definitely not endangered) is bang on the money and disappears from my plate quickly.

D sucks down an after-meal cigarette on the streetside patio; in the background water spills from the mouth of four-headed stone lion. Some of the waiters are already on their way home. Adonis brings out a large dollop of homemade vanilla bean ice-cream. It’s the perfect antidote to the hot night air. D eyes my dessert enviously, but she’s too satiated to try anything more.

“Are you sure you won’t have anything else?” Adonis asks her. She stares deeply into his eyes and shakes her head unconvincingly.

“Fah-king hot,” she whimpers as Adonis heads back inside to prepare our bill. All along, she’s been dreaming of something sweet to finish the meal… but he obviously isn’t on the menu.

P.S. Okay, I’ll admit it: It turns out they are having a bit of a blonde moment at Blonde…for the rest of the month, in fact. Everything’s half-price till they close for an extended rest and a tiny refurb. Rush.

In case you’re wondering, the Adonis in question introduced himself to our table as Rob. Despite D’s opinion to the contrary, he is not a Greek god, but definitely a very disarming waiter.

Read the full review of Blonde here

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Hg2 | A Hedonist's Guide is a luxury city guide series coveted by travellers who value both style and substance when it comes to soaking up a city. Irreverent, inspired, and, above all, intelligent.

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