I love a bit of friendly competition and I love food. So combining the two can only be a good time. When my friend and I went to La Mouette the other night and each had one of their tasting menus, and created the “My Menu is Better than Yours” competition. Best competition ever.
La Mouette is found on Regent Road, Seapoint in a beautiful double storey house. It is run by English Chef, Henry Vigar and his wife Mari Vermaak. When they found the house they immediately fell in love with it. As Mari seated us at our cute corner table next to a roaring fire, she rubs her hand against the wall and says, “This is like our second home. Is there any better place to work? We mixed the paint ourselves and varnished the doors. It really is home.”
Every month La Mouette creates 2 new tasting menus (with the option of vegetarian), a 6-course for R150 without wine and R300 with, and an 8-course at R240 without wine and R480 with.
ROUND 1: The Bloody Mary vs. Nothing
Well, the 8-course wins this round by forfeit as there was no competition. A spiced tomato jelly, with celery, black pepper and pale tomato foam. An interesting start to the meal. The contrasting textures were fabulous and the jelly, which tasted like solid tomato juice, was wonderfully spicy. 8-Course WINS!
ROUND 2: Truffle & Cheese Croquettes vs. Onion Bhaji and Potato Samoosa
So now that the 6-course decided to come to the party, the competition was on. Croquettes are small, fried “dumplings”, for lack of a better word and they were served with a smoky tomato aioli. Crispy and golden on the outside, you bit into them and truffle-infused cheese oozed into your mouth. When dipped in the cool aioli, it was a flavour sensation which left me struggling to share.
The onion Bhaji, or onion fritters, were light and crisp and the perfectly curried potato samoosa, was rich with wonderfully authentic flavours. When dipped in the yogurt and spiced tomato chutney, the combination of flavours made the dish and the sprinkle of spring onion on top, added an extra depth which I thoroughly enjoyed. This said, the croquettes were just too magnificent for their own good. 8-Course WINS!
ROUND 3: Pea & Mint Soup vs. Coconut Broth
My pea and mint soup was a beautiful shade of pale green, drizzled with emerald green mint infused oil. The goat’s cheese was like a little surprise at the bottom of the teacup, which melted deliciously through the soup as you ate. The cumin gave it an oddly Moroccan feel, and the crisp bread, or lavoche, was baked to perfection. A homely soup, just delicious.
The coconut broth was fresh, spicy and fragrant with butternut, spring onion and black sesame seeds and chilli. Butternut soup isn’t usually a favourite of mine, but the butternut was so subtle allowing the coconut to be the master of this dish. It was an easy decision, 6-course WINS!
ROUND 4: Grilled Tuna Nicoise vs. Tuna Tartare
When we sat down for dinner, the waiter suggested that we have all our tuna and meat cooked to medium rare. Although I am more of a rare kinda gal, I agreed with him since I was sure that they knew what they were talking about. I was slightly disappointed when my tuna came and I realised that it wasn’t even medium-rare, but rather cooked through. Don’t be confused, these photos were sent to me, and weren’t the photos from the night, I wish mine had been like that. In the salad were confit potatoes, green beans and sauce vierge, which is olive oil and lemon juice with chopped tomato, basil, capers and parsley. It could have done with a pinch more salt, but when all the elements were eaten together, it was light and refreshing.
The tuna tartare was served with toast, a creamy avo puree, pickled cucumbers and spiced tomato jelly. The dish was absolutely beautiful to look at and each element was made to perfection. The fish wasn’t fishy at all, and was seasoned beautifully. This course was a tough call, but I will give the Nicoise salad the benefit of the doubt and say that if it had been cooked properly, it would have been fantastic, so 8-course WINS!
Round 5: Beef Sirloin vs. Free-Range Chicken
Like the tuna, my beef was a bit overcooked and since sirloin at the best of times is a tough meat, it was quite dry. The rest of the dish made up for it, since it was served with a braised oxtail, carrots, potato gnocchi and a delicious smoked aubergine puree. This hearty and rich main course was beautifully presented and it was a great pity the sirloin wasn’t rarer.
The chicken was served with wilted baby spinach, crushed new potatoes and sauce vierge. It was succulent and tender, the potatoes and spinach were cooked perfectly and I really enjoyed the lightness of the course since we had been eating so much. I can easily say that the 6-course WINS!
ROUND 6: Sunny Side Up vs. Strawberries & Cream
When the sunny side up was placed in front of me, I beamed like a small child. It looked just like a fried egg in my bowl. The “yolk” was a sphere of apricot sauce, which when prodded with a spoon, actually ran just like the yolk of an egg. The “white” of the egg was yogurt foam and the dish was sprinkled with coriander cress. The textures and flavours were interesting and dynamic, eating it was an experience in itself.
The strawberries and cream was actually a shot glass of vanilla panacotta, topped with strawberry foam and fresh strawberries. The panacotta was smooth and creamy, just the way it should be. While the sunny side up won the ingenuity and presentation award, the panacotta was just too good not to award, so therefore, 6-course WINS!
ROUND 7: Strawberry Cheesecake vs. The Cappuccino
When the strawberry cheesecake arrived, I honestly felt like I was being fed something that a kid had designed. It was cute and bright and fun and I was surprised how different looking it was from the rest of the courses. And then I had a bite and I understood. It was absolutely incredible. Shortbread, baby marshmallows and jelly with a crème fraiche sorbet, it was outta this world.
The cappuccino was actually coffee ice cream topped with milk foam and served with warm doughnuts. The ice cream was smooth and creamy and the foam was a fun touch. The doughnuts were amazing, I wanted, no, needed more. Both these desserts were phenomenal, but I gotta hand it to the cheesecake, 8-course WINS!
ROUND 8: Kimberly Peppercorn Cheddar vs. Nothing
Although it is lovely to end off a meal with a cheese, in this case I was so incredibly full, that the effect was lost on me. The cheese was delicious and the quince paste which it was served with was sweet and silky. 8-course WINS!
It was a tight race but the 8-course managed to win. I will admit that having two extra courses gave it an unfair advantage. The truth of the matter is, both the tasting menus are equally wonderful. I wouldn’t really be able to suggest one over the other. What I can suggest is doing what we did, get both and share all 14 plates. It is so, very, incredibly, ridiculously worth it.
PS: You can also book the upstairs dining room, bar and lounge for functions, it’s gorgeous and affordable.
PPS: Don’t go there wearing skin-tight clothing, 14 plates later, and you need to loosen that belt a notch.