This winter, Cavalli’s Executive Chef Michael Deg pays homage to the ultimate cooking collaborator – FIRE – with a five-course winter menu that features the refined smoking and grilling techniques he has mastered throughout his career. And with the stunning restaurant at Cavalli in Somerset West as our lunchtime venue, our experience was as much a feast for the stomach as it was for the eyes.
Within minutes of sitting at our table, which had been placed right in front of a gorgeous wood fire, we were served flutes of Cavalli’s Capriole Méthode Cap Classique – their maiden vintage of bubbles – and appetisers of chickpea falafel, smoked aioli, and smoky chicken liver parfait (see the theme here?). We also had three different breads to choose from: potato and rosemary buns, gluten-free bread with caraway seeds, and a decadent focaccia laden with feta, all accompanied by smoked paprika baba ghanoush, olive tapenade, and honey butter.
With appetites whet, Chef Michael Deg himself emerged from the kitchen to meet with us and bestow upon us a treat of fresh Saldanah Bay oysters, half of which had been dressed with Asian slaw, sesame seeds, and teriyaki sauce, and the other half served naked with lemon and salt. At this stage, I was seriously wondering how Chef Michael planned to ramp up the performance; I mean, does it get any better than fresh oysters and bubbles?
A trio of dishes
Apparently, it does! What followed was a succession of courses, each lip-smackingly delicious and each served with its own wine from Cavalli estate:
A beer-battered Saldanah Bay oyster perched on a bed of crispy, frilly green leaves paired with the Cavalli Pink Pony 2015 (a fruity, fresh rosé made from Grenache grapes).
A spiced pork dumpling served in a rich pool of umami broth, radish, bean sprouts, and spring onion paired with the crisp and fruity Cavalli Filly Chenin Blanc 2017, a new addition to the Cavalli wine family.
Grilled Eland loin and a spiced Eland samosa served with garlicky Tzatziki, bok choy leaves, and a creamy laksa sauce. This was perfectly married with Cavalli’s flagship red, the Warlord 2016, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.
A Tasting of Cavalli’s Wine Ranges
Much to our pleasure, the restaurant manager generously took it upon himself to take us on a sweeping journey through Cavalli Estate’s wines. And so, throughout the course of our ridiculously indulgent lunch, we were also able to sample the estate’s beautiful and elegant Vendetta 2016 (Viognier / Verdelho – a Portuguese varietal grown on the estate); the rich and creamy Cremelo 2015, a Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Verdelho blend (flagship white), and the powerful Colt Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. Yes, all of their wines are named in honour of the horses bred on Cavalli, which is also a stud farm.
A sweet ending
Finally, dessert! For this, Cavalli’s pastry chef Ruby paid us a personal visit with a gift of what subsequently landed itself a rightful place in my top 10 desserts of all time. Ruby said it was a malva-inspired date and toffee pudding, suspended in coconut custard, but I know what it really was: witchcraft.
This was followed by a decadent, fire-kissed banana and pistachio cake and a peanut tuille-capped dollop of pistachio crème. And just when we began to mourn the conclusion of such an extravagant and delectable lunch, we were brought a plate of petit fours.
Inner caveman and woman
Using fire to cook food is a return to the roots for humankind because it’s how we have prepared our meals for tens of thousands of years. It also provided us with essential protection, warmth, and functioned as a social centre point for our families. It still does for many cultures around the world. Fire tugs at the strings of our consciousness that have remained primitive and atavistic, which explains why we find the smell, sound, and sight of fire so mesmerising. It’s also why it’s so satisfying to use to prepare a meal.
From the hiss of grilling meat and the bright flashes of cooking fires from Cavalli’s open kitchen to the sultry, smoky flavours of the paprika baba ghanoush and Eland loin… Chef Michael Deg has created a consistent food theme that delights the senses and makes a direct appeal to one’s atavistic self. With the restaurant’s log fire, the estate’s outstanding repertoire of wines, and the flawless, attentive service accompanying the experience, you and your inner caveman/woman are guaranteed to leave Cavalli warmed to your core and food (and possibly wine) drunk!
Phone Cavalli to make a booking on 021 855 3218; www.cavallistud.com