Let’s take a moment to consider the humble side dish. It’s very name relegates it to secondary status; an afterthought – something you can as easily have or not have. After our visit to Botanicum Café & Grill last week, I feel strongly that the side dish should be recognised and praised.
Well, one side dish in particular: spinach.
The “new” restaurant – Marc Botes, formerly of Chalk & Cork in Kloof Street, took over the former Greens, former Bootlegger space at High Constantia in March this year – has a menu crammed with people-pleasing favourites, and a spectacular wine list.
When it comes to the wine, you are in excellent hands: Botes discovered his passion for wine almost two decades ago, while working for a Constantia vineyard. Since then, he has honed his wine knowledge both locally and overseas. In 2004, while studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Botes ran the wine portfolio for two of Gordon Ramsay’s London restaurants, before joining one of the godfathers of London’s culinary renaissance, acclaimed French chef Pierre Koffmann, as general manager and sommelier for the opening of Koffmann’s.
The wines here are always special, says Botes, and the list will change frequently (it won’t get laminated), with bottle prices beginning at R175. There is a mixture of some well-known, reliable choices as well as the more unusual. “I’ve done it in the same style as Chalk & Cork – fun stuff, and the high end wines only have a small mark up,” says Botes, who doesn’t believe in having R900 bottles standing around gathering dust.
“The ethos is if you come in here and you have a glass of Chenin, chances are it will be something different when you come back a few weeks later.”
The interior of the restaurant has been infused with light, mirrors and greenery; the outside terrace is going to be The Place to be in summer. Inside scoop – a bottomless bubbly brunch is going to be introduced in the next few weeks. Such offers are irresistible to me, and I always consider them a bar which must be bested. Because of people like me, there will be terms and conditions, but I admit they are reasonable.
The food style at Botanicum is something Botes describes as “modern European” and the menu is inspired by the six years he spent at Ramsay’s Boxwood Café in London. Breakfast is served until noon, and the menu has lovely little snacks to be enjoyed with a glass of wine any time of the day, as well as sandwiches and wraps, starters, main courses, classics, burgers and grills…and amazing pizzas.
Made in a wood fire with 48-hour fermented sourdough in the style of southern Italy, means the fermentation process takes place outside your belly beforehand so you won’t feel full and bloated. My friend, the Divine Lady D, confirmed this later after she’d had the one with bacon, avo and feta.
A fabulous pizza special is available Mondays to Fridays from 12pm (lunch and dinner) – R250 for two pizzas and a bottle of house wine.
But about that spinach…after my very traditional Caesar salad, selected from the main course section of the menu, but restrained to starter size by not adding any extras, I ordered the chicken with chimichurri. Trying hard to get back on the low-carb wagon (I even picked the croutons out of my salad), I opted for the creamed spinach on the side. Despite not being able to finish the meal (leftovers for later FTW), I inhaled that vegetable. It’s a pretty common sight in this category, but there is clearly some sorcery going on here because it was hands down the best I’ve ever had (and that includes the readymade ones from the supermarkets).
Divine Lady D had the brulee cheese cake topped with lemongrass ice cream for dessert (I had a glass of red wine, the Buitenverwachting Meifort) and it blissed her out. I took some sneaky pics of her while her eyes were closed but am observing the bestie code by not publishing them here.
* Botanicum is easy and comfortable – the vibe, the service and the food – and a great place for locals and also worth the drive if you live outside the immediate area.
Find it at 6 High Constantia Centre, Constantia Main Road, Constantia. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Call 021 794 7843; or visit bcgcapetown.com for more information.