Savoy Cabbage is an institution. Opened in 1998, this is one restaurant that has hardly skipped a beat in its 15 years, as its plethora of accolades and awards contests.
Known for its simple and innovative menu which – assembled from only the freshest ingredients – is constantly being reinvented by Chef Peter Pankhurst to stay ahead of the trend, the long-standing establishment has consistently garnered rave reviews from critics both local and international.
Housed in one of Cape Town’s oldest inner-city spaces, the ‘industrial chic’ architecture of the L-shaped restaurant, with its exposed ducting and crumbling brick walls, cantilevered balconies and contemporary artworks, has a sophisticated international feel which contributes towards creating a sleek, yet warm and inviting atmosphere within. Much of this is due to owner Caroline Bagley, who exudes those very same affections, giving us a gracious greeting on arrival and a subtle visit every now and then throughout the evening to make sure everything was up to standard.
Bagley’s passion for her business and her love of good food shines through in the way she describes some of the restaurant’s signature dishes, such as the seasonal and ever-popular tomato tart or the chicken liver parfait with port-soaked figs. I couldn’t resist her explanation of the house-smoked Norwegian salmon, which is cured in their own kitchens and served on a buckwheat pancake with ruby grapefruit jelly and keta caviar. It was a great choice as a starter – packing a punch that left me begging for more.
Using only organic and free-range ingredients wherever possible, Chef Peter aims to create a simple yet inventive menu of ‘sophisticated peasant food’. Savoy Cabbage also specialises in offal and unusual delicacies, and as such has become a mecca for those who prefer to eat ‘off the beaten track’, with dishes such as pan-fried sweetbreads in a carrot and orange sauce, or fennel-dusted warthog steeped in brine to make it wonderfully tender.
After much deliberation, I opted for the pickled lamb fillet with sautéed potatoes, mushrooms and a grainy mustard sauce. Tender, juicy and bursting with flavour, the very first mouthful of this dish melted me into a memory of one of those deliciously long, lazy Sunday lunches round a farmhouse kitchen table. My partner’s choice of Karan beef tartare topped with the tiniest quail’s egg with celery, parmesan and truffle oil mayonnaise – inspired texture combinations perfectly matched by a symphony of flavours – would have been right at home in any of New York’s finest eating establishments.
Dessert of a passion fruit pannacotta with berry compote was as light as a cloud, but with a delightful wake-up zing. In contrast the chocolate orange marquise with coffee sauce was nothing short of decadence on a plate.
A well-thought out and diverse wine list accompanies the distinctive menu, with an array of fine wines, champagnes, dessert wines and whiskies to cater for every dish and taste.
Outstanding service from beautifully-spoken and knowledgeable waiters who appear exactly when you need adds to an overall experience of pure pleasure. Savoy Cabbage gave us the perfect evening – a culinary magic carpet ride which I look forward to experiencing again and again.
by Mia Russell
Savoy Cabbage Restaurant and Champagne Bar can be found at 101 Hout Street, Cape Town. It is open for lunch Monday to Friday, for dinner Monday to Saturday and is closed on Sundays. Savoy Cabbage supports Streetsmart, Wolanani and Home of Hope.