Over the last few months, I read and heard about this club slash restaurant slash bar, which opened up in Cape Town, called “The Reserve”. I heard it was fancy. I heard it was pretentious. I heard that it was extravagant. I heard that only the rich and famous went there. I heard so much and promptly decided that I didn’t like it.
It was mainly because I was bitter. I hadn’t looked at the menu because I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to afford it, but then one day a friend showed it to me and I realised two things:
- It’s not as expensive as I had imagined.
- Even if it was, it’s worth it.
The Reserve is in the old Standard Bank building. On the one side is a gorgeous nightclub, in the middle is a beautiful and extravagant restaurant and in the back, a cosy cigar lounge with an enormous fireplace. A lot of the features, such as the iron windows, arches and even one of the oldest working lifts in South Africa, are original or have been restored, giving the building an historic and regal appearance and feel.
As you can read in their (very pretentious, I must admit) online description, the Head Chef, Alex has cooked around the world and served the likes of Bono and Bruce Willis, so there is no way that the menu itself could disappoint. We just hoped that the food matched our ENORMOUS expectations.
We shared three starters. Calamari Diavola (R75). A spicy tomato-based sauce, with grilled baby marrow, black olives and calamari tubes, ring and heads. I am not over exaggerating here, when I say that this was undoubtedly the best calamari I have ever eaten. Every piece was succulent and tender, which is not easy to accomplish when you are cooking different sized pieces for one dish.
Next up, beetroot Carpaccio (R60) topped with apple, fennel, feta, pine nuts and rocket. I hate fennel. H.A.T.E. But this just… worked. The beetroot was cooked perfectly so it wasn’t too hard or too soft. It was sweet without being overpowering and was the perfect base for the creamy feta, the peppery rocket, the crunch of the apple and pine nuts and even the “liquoricey” flavour of the fennel. The starter I was looking forward to least, was amazing.
Finally, a duo of salmon -fresh and smoked- tartare (R100), with green lentils, fresh herbs and a salad of mixed, dressed greens, served with bruschetta. Who would have thought that tartare and lentils went together? I thought the lentils would either dry out the tartare mixture or make it “mushy” and mask the flavour of the fish, but it didn’t. It was lovely, although not as lovely as the calamari.
We also shared three mains. Linguine Farouk (R100) is a huge dish of pasta, with a huge portion of scallops, prawns, calamari and mussels tossed in a creamy curried sauce. For only R100 this dish is practically a bargain, because they aren’t shy on either the portion-size and the delicious flavour. The bowl was a lot deeper then it looks.
Then we had Grilled Kingklip (R140) with a lentil taboule, topped with avocado salsa and dressed with Salsa Verde. Tabloule is an Arabic dish, traditionally made using bulgur wheat, mint, parsley, onion, garlic, lemon juice, oil and salt. This version also had lentils, fresh herbs, cucumber, tomato, onion and peppers. It was a thick and succulent piece of fish, grilled beautifully with the creamy avo salsa complimenting it well. The Salsa Verde, an Italian sauce, with herbs, garlic, olive oil, capers and anchovies. Although there were a lot of big flavours on the plate, they were balanced well.
Finally we had a lovely, simple Beef Fillet (R170) with mixed vegetables and a port and truffle jus (which literally means “with juice”, referring to the meat’s own juices). We weren’t asked how we wanted our fillet done so it was a little over done for my liking, as I like meat rare, but nonetheless, it wasn’t tough and was extremely well flavoured. Now look at the photo. Think it’s small? Well, it was a 3/4 portion, so it is normally a lot bigger.
Now incredibly full, we shared one dessert: Chocolate Fondant (R65) with a caramel centre, served with homemade vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis. There is always that nervous moment when you put spoon into a fondant in case the centre doesn’t ooze, well this centre oozed enough for all the bad centres I have ever encountered, to be forgotten. It. Was. Perfect. See that photo? ‘Nuff said.
I will be honest. The food isn’t cheap, but at the same time, it also isn’t over the top. Of course you could choose to have R130 Fois Gras, R120 Crayfish salad, R180 Crusted Tuna, a R180 Beef Fillet, a R70 Belvedere Coup Colonel followed by a swig of the R35, 500 Dom Pérignon, but that’s up to you. There are also more affordable options. Paying R60 for a starter and between R100 and R140 for mains, is not too shabby.
The food is fantastic, the venue, superb, the staff are wonderful and after dinner, you can go dance off the extra calories at the club. Even if it is just to spoil yourself, you need to go to The Reserve. Like, now.
PS. The Chef, Alex, well he is beautiful. And has an English accent. We wanted to marry him.