Since 2009, Bistro Sixteen82 on Steenberg Farm in Tokai has been the go-to restaurant for a thorough tapas and bistro-style spoil. On any given day of the week and weekend, you’ll find Southern Suburb locals sitting side-by-side with tourists from far-flung origins and tucking into dishes that are not only exquisitely put together and beautiful to behold but also sit-back-in-your-seat-with-your-eyes-closed delicious.
Then, in 2014, Chef Kerry Kilpin joined the Steenberg Farm family, elevating what was already considered the darling of the Cape Town dining scene to truly stratospheric heights. More than mere artistry is Chef Kerry’s almost religious devotion to using seasonal, local, and sustainable ingredients. And so it was a natural step to become the first ambassador for ABALOBI, a small-scale fisher initiative that directly connects chefs and fisher folk from seven different fishing areas on the western and southern Cape coast.
Eliminating the multiple middlemen from the equation means that these fisher folk get a much higher price for the catch (therefore negating the need to overfish) and restaurants get their produce direct and fresh from the ocean. It’s a win-win-win-win situation for the fisher folk, the ocean, the restaurant, and the diner! So it’s little surprise that ABALOBI has spread like wildfire, becoming adopted by more than 100 Western Cape restaurants.
In honour of ABALOBI’s one-year anniversary, we struck out for Bistro Sixteen82 for a highly anticipated lunch of seafood (with a story!)
Succulent seafood starters
Bistro Sixteen82 is a modern, stylish bistro that spills out onto a terraced dining area, where the sky and Constantiaberg Mountains are reflected by a moat of infinity ponds. The manicured lawns beyond unfurl into blazing indigenous gardens, which then lead the eye to the dramatic bordering mountainscape. With the sun out and wind uncharacteristically quiet, we took our seats outside and wasted little time in ordering something to whet our appetites.
To begin with: that time-honoured marriage of surf-and-turf – oysters and bubbly! At Bistro Sixteen82, this translates into a flute of the Steenberg 1682 Chardonnay MCC Brut and fresh Saldanha Bay oysters served naked on a swath of coarse salt crystals with fresh lemon, green and red Tabasco sauce, and shallot vinaigrette for embellishments. Heaven!
Being well acquainted with Chef Kerry’s devotion to fresh, sustainable seafood (and other ingredients), I already knew I was going to try anything and everything seafood on the menu. But then our handsome server, Phumba, threw a massive spanner in the works: “You haven’t seen our specials board yet!”
With that, everything we thought we wanted went out the window and, instead, we ordered two of Chef Kerry’s special seasonal innovations: the pan-fried prawns served in rich prawn and tarragon bisque with a medley of mushroom textures, such as whole baby mushrooms and truly exquisite truffle tortellini, and the yellowtail tartar made with spring onions and slices of cucumber so small and discrete that you would not have noticed their presence were it not for their fresh, vegetal flavours. Also featured on the plate were asparagus, sweet grapes, coriander, chevin mousse, a crispy breadstick, and verjuice coulis. Verjuice (from French for “green juice”) is a juice made from unripe grapes or other unripe fruits that is quite tart and acidic but milder than vinegar.
Whilst waiting for our starters to arrive, we received a flirtatious wink from the kitchen in the form of bite-sized version of the starter we had originally planned on ordering before our attentions were seduced elsewhere by the specials board. It was beautifully flavourful and tender curried baby calamari with baba ghanoush, avocado pulp, soy syrup, and sesame seeds.
The main event
For mains, I ordered the sustainably caught fish (which happened to be the silver fish on the day) with a mushroom and corn croquette, wild rocket, cucumber pickle, and tarragon velouté laced with prawn oil. My “lucky plus one” veered away from seafood in favour of the ricotta gnocchi with English spinach, assorted mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and gorgonzola cream; a decision that’s easy enough to understand when writing out the ingredients (even though she ended up stealing more than a few bites of my fish!)
Our exquisite mains were washed down with a glass (okay, maybe two glasses) of the excellent Steenberg Sphynx Chardonnay 2018, a gold Veritas award winning wine packing ripe yellow apple and citrus blossom aromas supported by a juxtaposition of warm, yet subtle oak spice and elegant, zesty acidity.
An ode to Chef Kerry
There are many things I absolutely love about Chef Kerry Kilpin’s work, nay, artistry, two of which I was reminded of during our meal at Bistro Sixteen82. The first is her devotion to using fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients, which is most evident in her co-operation with ABALOBI. The second is her allegiance to the seasons, which manifests not only in what fresh ingredients are seasonally available but also in the weather’s influence on our appetites.
While we happened to go to Bistro Sixteen82 on a warm, summery day, the recent cold spell had brought on a hankering for richer and more substantial meals than just grilled fish and salad. Chef Kerry doesn’t believe that seafood should take a backseat to red meats during the winter months and so dresses the wonderful fresh produce she receives from the ABALOBI fisher folk in velvety veloutés, rich, flavourful bisques, and woody, earthy, and nutty mushroom and tarragon flavours. The richness is cut by pungent whips of coriander, acidic cherry tomatoes, and peppery wild rocket, as well as by sips of Steenberg’s gorgeous Chardonnay.
I am yet to sit down to a single dish at Steenberg’s Bistro Sixteen82 or her sister restaurant Catharina’s that I have not only enjoyed but have been moved to brag about to friends and family. Chef Kerry’s art is compelling, satisfying, and, hopefully, influential on other chefs throughout Cape Town and further afield.
In honour of a good story
Our delicious meal at Bistro Sixteen82 serves as a reminder that what people love more than a good glass of wine to accompany a meal, is a story. This is exactly what ABALOBI is about. By scanning the QR code set out at every table in the bistro, you can learn the names and read about the story of the fisher folk who were responsible for the fresh seafood on your plate. This connects these small-scale fisher folk (which is what “abalobi” means in Xhosa) with the chefs who love to work with, and the people who love to eat healthy, fresh, and sustainable seafood.
No one cares about the multiple nameless distributers that get in the way of fresh seafood getting to our plates but everyone loves a good story…and a good story that culminates in a great meal is even better!
For more information on ABALOBI visit www.abalobi.org.
Bistro Sixteen82 is open Monday to Sunday, 09:00 to 20:00. For bookings and enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +27 (0) 21 713 2211 For more information on the restaurant, visit www.steenbergfarm.com/bistro1682