Talented chef Luke Dale-Roberts is wowing critics from around the world at La Colombe, a gourmet restaurant in the heart of the Cape’s vineyards.
Set in the Constantia Wine Valley on the outskirts of Cape Town, La Colombe (meaning ‘the dove’) coos as temptingly as its namesake. Getting there takes visitors on a picturesque journey through the green vineyards of Constantia Uitsig, the historic 17th century Cape Dutch estate which has become a gastronomic destination.
La Colombe is renowned for its discreet ambience, classic sauces and reductions, seasonal menu, tastes and textures, an award-winning wine list, and elegant plating on bespoke arty crockery made by local artists to match signature dishes. Diners can also enjoy Constantia Uitsig’s own wines grown in the surrounding vineyards – its acclaimed Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, and Muscat dessert wine. This chic country restaurant is light and airy with floral and salmon pink tones, a covered veranda, and light sun-splashed views of a courtyard garden. Smart servers announce the day’s menu chalked up on blackboards like well-rehearsed actors delivering their lines. The ducks in the pond quack approvingly as the rich, yeasty aroma of freshly-baked breads to go with crudités waft across from the open kitchen.
After cooking in the culinary capitals of Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, the passionate young English chef puts a subtle Asian spin on a classic French culinary treatment of South African ingredients. He says, “I am influenced by the places I have worked in terms of technique, presentation, and adaptation of style. I want to combine the culinary techniques of the East with the subtlety of contemporary French cuisine.”
Luke’s ‘elements’ menu is a radical departure from conventional menus. When I ask Dale-Roberts what inspires him at work in the kitchen every day, he says it is the natural landscape of the vineyards, the mountain, and the forest of Constantia Wine Valley.
“I am inspired by the seasons – the weather when I come to work in the morning, the colour of the leaves on the vines, the produce. I draw inspiration from many sources: nature, a new ingredient, or the weather. I enjoy working with fine South African ingredients such as venison, lamb, and fish. Springbok has quite a subtle flavour for game so it needs a nice rich sauce. We need to keep pushing the limits of our creativity.”