Salsify
Photo: Justin Patrick

Legendary Cape Town Chef Luke Dale Roberts Opens New Restaurant at Camps Bay’s Roundhouse

Chef Luke Dale Roberts is a man who needs little introduction. Think The Test Kitchen, The Shortmarket Club, and The Potluck Club. He is a master of ingeniously innovative gastronomy sans snobbery, and his name is practically synonymous with fine dining. In October 2018, this indomitable chef expanded his mighty empire to include Salsify at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay. Standing proudly by his side is Chef Ryan Cole, his protégé and head chef from The Test Kitchen.

Markus Fiedler, Chef Ryan Cole and Luke Dale Roberts
General Manager Markus Fiedler, Chef Ryan Cole and Luke Dale Roberts | Photo: Andy Lund

The Roundhouse, which used to be the hunting lodge of Sir Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of the Cape between 1814 and 1826, is an institution of the seaside suburb of Camps Bay. For years, it has been the “special occasion” restaurant people take friends, colleagues, family, and lovers to spend an evening on the receiving end of exceptional food, wine, and service. With Chefs Luke Dale Roberts and Ryan Cole taking over the reins of this fine establishment, the goal has not only been to maintain this standard and expectation but to update and amplify it.

Salsify at Roundhouse
Photo: Justin Patrick

Hors d’oeuvres in the graffiti room

On the evening of the unveiling of Salsify, guests were welcomed with a drink and the opportunity to spend a leisurely hour exploring the revamped space, which is truly something unexpected. With a glass of the delicious Charles Fox Reserve Rosé Brut in hand, we took up residence in the astounding graffiti room, where a clutch of colourful armchairs and concrete walls emblazoned with politically-inflamed graffiti offered an intimate yet edgy feel. This captivating room is the collaborative effort of Chef Luke’s wife and design partner Sandalene and international street artist Louis de Villiers, who also goes by the rather macabre pseudonym Skull Boy.

Salsify gin and tonic
Salsify gin and tonic with cherry bitters | Photo: Justin Patrick

Deliciously ensconced in our plush thrones, a steady stream of smartly dressed servers brought us delicately assembled bites of lamb leg tartar, celeriac and parmesan, and beetroot and sweet mustard hors d’oeuvres. From here, it was rather entertaining watching guests’ faces light up with intrigue as they filed into this space via the spectacular atrium, with its Otto du Plessis bronze sculpture Salsify, the restaurant’s guardian and muse.

Salsify at Roundhouse
Photo: Justin Patrick

The main event

As diverting as we found the reimagined Roundhouse interior to be, we were ultimately here for the food, for which Chefs Luke Dale Roberts and Ryan Cole have earned a stratospheric reputation. And so it was with much anticipation that I planted myself at a table glittering with stainless steel cutlery and crystal glasses and awaited the main event.

Salsify Food
Fire roasted asparagus, sunflower hollandaise, sunflower pesto | Photo: Justin Patrick

For starters, spring minestrone soup with octopus, a fresh oyster, and sea herbs. Fresh, gentle, fragrant, and vividly coloured, I couldn’t imagine a more suitable culinary metaphor for springtime at the ocean. This was followed by slices of spice-fired tuna, smoked tomato, and lemon atchar, embellished with a crispy chickpea whirl. The main meal was a medallion of aged beef sirloin served with onion gravy, greens, tiny turnips, and an earthy porcini pudding. And the final courses (pre-desserts and desserts) were roasted pineapple, coconut cake, and goat’s kefir ice, and a strawberry scone with blueberry jam and champagne jelly.

Salsify Scone
Strawberry scone, raspberry and MCC jelly, blueberry jam, apple mint frozen yogurt | Photo: Justin Patrick

The culinary theme at Salsify is open to interpretation; however, to me, it places simplicity and elegance above all. Rather than distract guests with a cacophony of food flavours, combinations, and complexities, Chefs Luke and Ryan create dishes that are honest and harmoniously balanced. There is a gentle interplay of flavours and textures that allows every ingredient to be honoured and the result is a mouth experience that is as gentle, compelling, and deeply satisfying as a Jane Austin love story.

Salsify linefish
Ethically caught linefish, peas, beans, mussels | Photo: Justin Patrick

Wine, glorious wine

Each dish was brilliantly paired with wines from around the Western Cape – and when I say brilliantly, I intend no hyperbole. We went on a journey that began with the exquisitely genteel Migliarina Grey Matters Pinot Gris 2017 to the clear favourite: the divine Paul Cluver Estate Pinot Noir 2017. Sommelier Nash Kanyangarara did an incredible job of marrying each dish with a wine that was not only its suitable partner but its soul mate. Additionally, each new wine was served in a fresh glass, the shape of which was tailored to enhance its bouquet. Spectacular attention to detail!

Another gem in the crown

The name Salsify (Sal-suh-fee), a rather misunderstood and ugly root vegetable, belies the fact that the new restaurant is indeed another gem in Chef Luke Dale Roberts’ culinary crown. From the moment you enter, you are treated to a feast, first for the eyes and then for the stomach. Personally, I found my mind fairly nourished, too, after the graffiti’s intellectually stimulating messages and the wine-fuelled conversation around the dinner table.

“We’re ready for something new, and we think the city is ready too”, says Luke.

Salsify at The Roundhouse is situated at Round House Road, Camps Bay. For more information call 021 010 6444 or visit the website www.salsify.co.za. Reservations are online only and commence one month in advance from 08:30 am.