Fine food, wine, and company. Lapo’s Kitchen is a relatively recent addition to the burgeoning social dining scene in Cape Town. Located at the Josephine Mill a stone’s throw from Newlands stadium, you can expect a satiating food, wine, and social experience that spans from early evening until well into the night, and quite possibly midnight if the conversation is really good. More than these three rather essential ingredients, however, is Chef Lapo Magni’s sustainable and ethical food philosophy… because if there’s anything better than eating delicious food, it’s knowing that your indulgence is supporting local communities and sustainable and ethical farming practices!
Fresh, local, sustainable
Chef Lapo, who won the Italian version of Masterchef, La Terra dei Cuochi (land of the chefs) in 2013, grew up in Florence, Italy where he learned to cook under the watchful tutelage of Mama Magni. Bringing his delicious brand to South Africa, Chef Lapo cooks with a conscience and places quality, freshness, and sustainability as his highest priority, working closely with small scale, local farmers to stock his pantry.
Organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs and ethically raised and harvested meats are the order of the day in Lapo’s Kitchen. And whatever inspiring ingredient he happens to stumble upon is likely to end up on the plate that evening. This explains in part why Lapo’s Kitchen doesn’t really have a menu: you just never know what the day will bring!
“This morning I was visiting some of the local farms in Philippi where I get my ingredients, and the zucchini (baby marrow) was particularly good: fresh, organic, and beautiful in colour and flavour,” explained Chef Lapo during his presentation of the first course. “And so I decided to make a zucchini carpaccio for you tonight. Sometimes you come across really beautiful produce and you, last minute, decide you want to make something from it. That’s why menus don’t go down very well here.”
The meal may have been the product of last-minute inspiration but it was turned out as though it had been several months in the making.
Zucchini carpaccio and tomato risotto
Lapo’s Kitchen consists of a single, romantically lit room, which spills out onto a generous veranda area. The kitchen is open for all to see and many guests watch as Chef Lapo compiles and puts the finishing touches on his dishes right before they’re rolled out to the table. After a good hour of introductions and mingling with the people with whom we would be sharing a table for the evening, we arranged ourselves elbow to elbow around the large table dining table and commenced our feast.
The first of the five courses was a zucchini carpaccio: thin slivers of fresh baby marrow marinated in extra virgin olive oil and scattered with crispy capers, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and piquant micro herbs. This was paired with the Lozärn Chardonnay 2018: 80% wooded and citrusy notes well balanced by decadent butterscotch.
Next was a velvety tomato risotto made from whole tomatoes sourced from Doornbosch farm in Bonnievale, the same farm from which Lozärn’s wines originate. The risotto presented as rich and creamy and yet didn’t contain a drop of dairy, according to Chef Lapo. Rather, he created a passata – a tomato purée made “the hard way” – using whole tomatoes, which he quartered and cooked for six to eight hours until reduced and caramelized. Some butter, basil, and a blender later, you’ve got a fragrant, flavourful, and velvety tomato purée for the risotto. The dish was then liberally seasoned with black pepper and Parmigiano cheese, and served with a verdant crown of micro basil.
Carménère, Lozärn, and Lozärn’s Carménère
The wine pairing for the risotto was South Africa’s first ever Carménère rosé, and an award-winning one at that! Carménère is a red grape varietal that originates from the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France. It has traditionally been used for blending purposes, similar to Petit Verdot, and this, coupled with its waning popularity in France has lead to Carménère being considered “the lost child of Bordeaux”. France’s loss, however, is the New World’s gain because Carménère does fabulously well in South America (and North America by import) and now, thanks to Lozärn, South Africa.
Butternut soup, pork belly, and Florentine flatbread
The third course was another exquisitely velvety creation: flavourful butternut soup laced with goat’s cheese cream, dusted with powdered beetroot, and paired with my favourite wine of the evening, the Lozärn Shiraz 2016. Crafted in the New World style, their Shiraz’s intense bright red fruit flavours are underscored by great sultry depth and a powerful tannic backbone.
After a lemon sorbet to reset and reboot the palate we were treated to the night’s crescendo: a slice of whey-fed, pasture-raised pork belly, cooked porchetta style and smothered in a cognac, orange juice, and trimmed rib sauce.
Last but certainly not least was a classic celebration of Florence heritage: Florentine flatbread flavoured with anise and packed with whole grapes, some of which burst and infuse the cake with their juices and some of which remain whole. The cake was swathed in a bitter, rich espresso reduction and topped with a decadent white chocolate sauce. Bellissimo!
The final two wines for the evening were the single varietal Carménère 2017 (red cherries and mocha) and Kay’s Legacy 2016, a Bordeaux-style blend bursting with dark stone fruit aromas.
A warm atmosphere of shared enjoyment
Chef Lapo quite clearly favours simplicity and quality of ingredients over any kind of gastronomical wizardry. His dishes are cleverly constructed yet elegantly simple: an edible sonnet to the key ingredients they feature. Additionally, the feast is progressive in nature in that each course, while entirely satisfying on its own, is designed to please, tease, and heighten anticipation for the next course.
Every course was lovingly presented by Chef Lapo, and each wine by Lozärn wine-maker Salóme Buys-Vermeulen, which really heightened our enjoyment. Together, the sometimes-unapproachable barriers between kitchen, cellar, and dining room were torn down, creating a warm atmosphere of friendship and the shared enjoyment of beautiful food and wine.
To booking or make an enquiry, please email email@example.com or call +27 (0)76 199 9189.
Lozärn www.lozarn.co.za or call +27 (0)23 616 2972.