www.eatout.co.za congratulate themselves as being the only restaurant guide you’ll ever need! Well I think that may be the case in South Africa but it wouldn’t be much good on the streets of London or New York so let’s just say it’s the only restaurant guide you’ll ever need in South Africa! Their annual best places to eat list is a comprehensive testimony to the diverse culinary talents across this country and lists 1000 eateries with the bests ones getting full page coverage and interviews with the chefs. Many of the best restaurants are to be found (as in France and the USA) in the wine producing areas and therefore inaccessible to me on this trip (no car).
At number 7 on the list is Aubergine. Familiar with the restaurant of the same name in London I contemplated whether this Aubergine was named after the London Aubergine or vice versa? I decided to Google – “Aubergine Restaurant” to see whether I could find out. Interestingly there seems to be an Aubergine Restaurant in every major city of the world, in fact Google came up with 3.5 million suggestions for the name, too many for me to trawl through so perhaps I will never know.
Aubergine can be found tucked away in a small side street near the Mount Nelson Hotel, considered to be Cape Town’s favourite hotel. Aubergine's restaurant is modern looking with much wood and glass. A courtyard to one side offers diners an al fresco experience although on my visit it was far too cold to consider.
At R180 (£16.00) for a two course lunch I was surprised to be the ONLY diner that lunchtime. Having recently bought a small Toblerone and pack of ginger biscuits at the local supermarket for R52 (£4.50), it was even more baffling. The very pleasant and professional Maitre D’ said that the restaurant filled most evenings but lunch was always more of a lottery. “Same in most places” I thought to myself. Veal Kidneys with balsamic braised lentils and morel foam caught my eye, as did the fish of the day with waterblommetjies and braised tomato with crustacean sauce. “What are waterblommetjies?” I hear you ask. They are a cape delicacy and only found around here at this time of year. They are the shoots of an edible water lily and can be compared to crunchy watercress with less pepper I guess. Great for adding texture to a dish without adding calories!
The meal was certainly above average with kidneys and fish both in tip top condition and readiness for the table. Either my taste buds are on the wane or it just wasn’t there but I didn’t get any of the promised morel foam flavour on my starter. Perhaps they aren’t as strong as the European morel?
I didn’t take wine although the wine list looks fabulous, including some interesting dessert wines, (my favourites), and by the glass which is always a bonus to smaller parties such as my own!
Would I return to Aubergine? Yes I would. I thought it unpretentious, excellent value for money and meeting the expectations of being one of the best restaurants in South Africa. Whether it deserves the No 7 spot I won't know as on this trip there will be no going around benchmarking the other top restaurants in this massive country.
Maybe next time?