Elegant and classic with a contemporary twist at best define what Savoy Cabbage is. The spurt of fine restaurants with world class caliber make Cape Town a fantastic dining destination and without a doubt, Savoy Cabbage as one of the oldest fine dining restaurants contributes to what the local dining scene is today.
We hopped into the taxi and told the driver we were headed to Savoy Cabbage. Wondering if we should tell him the cross streets where the restaurant is located, I asked the taxi driver if he knew where Savoy Cabbage was. He promptly replied, Yes I know Savoy Cabbage. Tucked away in a quiet and dim one-way street that is narrow enough to be a lane, the taxi turned onto Hout Street that was devoid of any other night activity and suddenly we had arrived. The restaurant is mysteriously tucked inside a historic building where old and unfinished red bricks line the walls which add to the charming and rustic character of the place. At the entrance were a wooden door followed by a grill door which might look a little intimidating at first but the friendly waitstaff saw us arriving and promptly greeted us at the door as we stepped in.
The menu which changes daily focuses on contemporary cuisine and is driven by seasonal ingredients so I am sure that if we were to return a second time, it would be a new dining experience altogether. If there was something we underestimated about South Africa, it would be their food portions. Sure, the U.S. is known to super size food items and having relatively bigger portions than you would find elsewhere, say in Asia or Europe. What we did not expect was that the food portions in South Africa were actually comparable to the U.S.
When we go out to eat, T and I frequently share a couple of starters before indulging in our individual main course. We had set out to do that same dining ritual that evening at Savoy Cabbage. We perused the menu and almost every item jumped out at us. Everything looked so good we wanted them all. Food in South Africa are heavily driven by the quality of meat and seafood. Game meat especially has a big presence in the cuisine. Alas, we decided on three starters before our main courses.
As the starter items began appearing on our table, we saw that the portion of each starter dish could have come off as a main course in itself. While it is common practice for each diner to have his or her own starter (we just like to share our starters but that's just us) and main course, we wondered how would anyone not leave being so stuffed.
The wonderful thing about the team at Savoy Cabbage is that they do not confine the cuisine to within just a style. Seemingly European and South African driven by seasonal ingredients, the menu that night also drew Japanese and Scottish inspiration. One of the starters we got was the Japanese-inspired soy and yuzu glazed mackerel. The skin of the fish was prepared to a perfect crisp with a dark caramel charred color. The flavor of the skin was clearly intense although they could probably go a little easier on the soy marinade on the skin. The fish itself however was very moist and the flavor perfectly well balanced.
The beef tartare that was served with quail egg, parmesan, celery, and truffle oil was well balanced without being overpowered with flavors so as to not overshadow the taste of the fresh rare beef.
Invoking the Scottish inspiration was the haggis which was a savory pudding made from sheep offal i.e. heart, liver, tongue. We have heard so much about haggis as a traditional Scottish food and ironically we tried it for the first time in Cape Town. It certainly was an interesting dish and if anyone had any qualms about eating sheep offal, the haggis was certainly very well prepared as the savory taste was very good. We were also given a shot of Wee Dram whiskey that we were supposed to drink with the haggis.
Going along with the popularity of game meat consumption in South Africa, we decided to order that for our main courses. T had the warthog loin served with red onion marmalade and apricot and vanilla sauce. The warthog loin was tender without making the entire dish seem too heavy especially when our stomachs were already almost filled with the starters' portions.
My rare gemsbok loin was excellent to say the least. I could taste the pureness of the meat with every bite that was made even better with my glass of red wine. I also really liked the way the gemsbok loin was presented without having too much going on on the plate but instead focusing on the meat itself which really was the star here. I was almost reaching the limit of my stomach halfway through my main course. It was so good I wanted to keep going but alas, I had to leave space for dessert.
There is always space in the stomach for dessert. Again, the portion of the apricot fruit souffle and apricot sorbet exceeded expectations but we were smart to have shared it. The souffle was perfectly soft and airy and still warm from the oven which was greatly complemented with the cold sorbet.
The one thing that puzzled us that evening was why Savoy Cabbage did not have a busier night when we were there. The food was excellent and the service was nothing short of professional. Given Savoy Cabbage's caliber and reputation, we expected it to be bustling on a Friday night but instead the restaurant was only half filled lending it a quiet atmosphere. Perhaps everyone else was at the pub watching the Rugby World Cup that night.
101 Hout Street
Cape Town 8000
2009 Andrew Harper Award Restaurant of the Year
CNN "Hot Spot" for Cape Town
2002 Wine Magazine Top 100 Restaurants
2001 Wine Magazine Top 100 Restaurants
2000 Wine Magazine Top 100 Restaurants