Five-course dinner and wines from Excelsior at the fabulous Reverie Social Table.
Reverie Social Table is a brilliant concept in social dining, where for the duration of one evening, the entire restaurant dedicates itself to serving a single table of up to 18 guests. These guests typically consist of singles or couples – some local, many international – which means one thing: you’re going to leave with new friends! By putting all of its guests at one table, Reverie Social Table successfully tears down the walls between people, cultures, and even languages and sends you home with a full belly and a full heart.
Within the sanctity of this small and intimately lit restaurant, electronic distractions such as cell phones are greatly frowned upon – seriously, don’t let executive chef and owner Julia Hattingh catch you on your phone. This is a place to experience truly great food and wine while embarking upon the social adventure that is meeting complete strangers and turning them into partners-in-wine.
Paying homage to excellent Cape wines
Each dinner event at Reverie Social Table features a five-course set menu (dietary requirements are catered for), accompanied by a selection of wines from a local estate. Chef Julia Hattingh ingeniously designs her courses around the wines they are paired with, and frequently includes the wines themselves in their creation. In this way, the limelight is equally split between food and wine, which is just one of the many things I love about Reverie Social Table.
On our night, the wine estate of choice was Excelsior from the lush Robertson Wine Valley. The first wine of the evening – our official welcome to Reverie Social Table – was the Excelsior Sauvignon Blanc 2017, a gorgeous and grassy yellow-green colour with a complex nose of ripe fig, passion fruit, and grapefruit.
We were the earliest to arrive, and so we admired the paintings on the wall: yet another facet of this restaurant’s unique offering.
Every few months, Julia selects a new local artist to showcase and transforms the walls of her restaurant into a mini-gallery for them. One particular abstract piece called “After Birth” rather successfully served as an icebreaker for the evening as we – together with the first couple to arrive – puzzled over its potential grim interpretations.
Food and wine pairings
As each new person or couple arrived, glasses of the Sauvignon Blanc were distributed, and greetings exchanged. Finally, with everyone present and acquaintances made, we took our seats to begin our five-course dining experience. First up was miso-roasted aubergine crowned with crunchy hori rice crisps and a herb salad of mint and basil, served with a swath of smoky baba ghanoush, labne, naartjie-braised turnip, and bright orange blobs of nectarine gel. This was paired with Excelsior’s peachy and creamy 2017 Chardonnay.
Ernest Reyneke, Sales and Marketing Manager of Excelsior, attended the evening to guide us through the estate’s beautiful range of wines, which I enjoyed all the more because we had tourists in our mix and it’s always a pleasure to see foreigners savouring our beautiful local wines.
The second course, which was my favourite, was a flaky fillet of curry-rubbed hake served swimming in a delicious pickled fish broth and accompanied with hake roe parfait, biryani croquette, and sweet corn, shallot and dried apricot sambal. The wine pairing was the Excelsior Viognier 2017, a complex and full-bodied, yet elegant white featuring notes of green apple, orange blossom, peach, and marmalade.
The third dish consisted of two succulent and pink slices of five-spiced lamb and a rolled, slow-braised lamb belly stuffed with mushrooms. On the side: sautéed Asian greens and golden sweet potato purée. For this course, Excelsior cracked open its reserve range: the majestically rich, chocolaty, and smoothly seductive Evanthuis Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.
Excelsior is both a wine estate and a stud farm, where some of the country’s finest racehorses have been bred and reared. This particular wine was named after Evanthuis, a Hackney racehorse that was imported to the farm in 1913 and who went on to become a champion in Britain, America, and South Africa. What the wine bottle label doesn’t say is that Evanthuis was allegedly a tremendously feisty horse with a monstrous temper on him, so much so that he sent two handlers to an early grave!
The penultimate course – the cheese course – featured a dollop of whipped Karoo sunset cheese with an absolutely gorgeous sun-dried tomato and olive waffle served on slashes of smoky honey. This was paired with Excelsior’s San Louis Shiraz 2015, another stunning reserve wine named in honour of one of the most famous thoroughbred racehorses ever bred on Excelsior. His story is one of near-tragedy:
“In 1979 San Louis fell ill, stopped eating and grew tremendously weak. His grave was dug, but as he was being led to it, the decision was made to try and treat him for a little longer. Seven months later he had recovered completely. On 7 February 1981, San Louis won the 1600m Guineas horse race, one of South Africa’s most prestigious races.”
Dessert, the grand finale, was a revelation: the most delicious and creamy panna cotta flavoured with none other than rosemary (I can’t sing its praises enough), served with olive oil sponge, blackberry and plum compote, raspberry powder, and cocoa sorbet. The final wine of the evening was the Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon from the estate’s classic range.
Each dish chef Julia Hattingh put in front of us was a smorgasbord of ingredients and elements, all of which knitted together in the most wonderful kind of culinary jigsaw puzzle, forming a complete picture of beautiful flavours, colours, and textures.
A true and original dining experience
An evening of fine dining and beautiful wines can send you home full and merry, but the social element of meeting new people from all over the world and enjoying food and wine with them tops up the love tank in the most atavistic way. We are social creatures, and mealtimes are intended to be social. In this way, Reverie Social Table is a true and original dining experience and an ode to the necessity for human connection.
In an era in which the news is saturated with stories of terrible social disharmony, Julia has created an oasis that – as dramatic as this may sound – rekindles one’s faith in humankind’s ability to just get along. And with great food and wine thrown into the mix, you’ve got a bulletproof trifecta for having a good time.
The Reverie Social Table food and wine pairing experience with Excelsior Wines are from Wednesday – Saturday evenings until 12 May 2018.
Reverie Social Table
226 A Lower Main Road, Observatory, Cape Town
Phone: 079 060 6971