Assiette Champenoise – Arnaud Lallement

At the gates of Reims, in the heart of Champagne, we found the L’Assiette Champenoise, a classic French hotel-restaurant, open for more than 40 years, nowadays in the hands of the second generation of the Lallement family.

Arnaud Lallement early traced his future, without any family pressures, from an early age he knew he would become a cook, growing up inside all the magic of a kitchen. He studied, graduated and before joining his fathers brigade, he made sure to learn with some of the main names of the French cuisine of that time, Roger Vergé, Michel Guérard and Alain Chapel – no big deal!

The stars kept coming since 2001 when he fully assumed the leadership of the restaurant, up to 2014, the year he got the so desired third star of the red guide. Arnauld, on his hand, doesn’t wear the title of star-chef at all, it’s easier to find him in the kitchen or in the middle of a champagne vineyard, than in books, tv or magazines. He feels the best in his kitchen, with his clients, and that’s what you expect from a starred chef…

But on with our experience, after being surprised by the modern decoration and the quality of the bedrooms (see here), it was the time to be surprised by the restaurant, at the arrival we are surprised by an entire service brigade, accompanying us to our table, like in a state ceremony, but always with sympathy, smiles and kindness, that many times is a miss in the classic French service.

Immaculate tables, noble materials, a room full of details and a classic Baccarat chandelier, contrasting with the more modern details of the decoration.

After installed, the show starts right away, first with the champagne, Caillez-Lemaire Caillez Reflets Brut – elegant and well-balanced to start the tasting. And secondly, for a series of small snacks arriving at the table.

Crunchy leaves, small tartlets, falafels, beetroot mousse, among others. All very well accomplished, showcasing the technical accuracy and quality of the produce, however, not surprising!

But the surprise was soon to arrive, artisanal bread, prepared with beer and semi-salted Finistere butter, from Brittany. So good, I couldn’t stop eating it along with the entire meal.

The tradition – Potée Champenoise
The potée champenoise is for this region, what the “cozido” is for us Portuguese, a nice stew of pork meats, potato and vegetables. Here Arnauld opens the meal with a homage to his homeland, in a super high standard dish. Pork, cabbage and carrot as the rules dictate, a flawless broth and full of flavour, transformed into an immaculate consomé, a crunch detail. All perfect and comforting, with the pickle and mustard notes bringing a vibrant lightness to the dish. A great start!

Scallops and endives 
These days, scallops are almost mandatory in every restaurant, unfortunately with the majority of them lacking quality! Not the case here though, big, fresh and perfectly cooked, accompanied by the earthy notes of the roasted endives with a crust of spices and paprika tiles. The connecting elements of the dish were a nice scallop mousse and an elegant champagne white wine sauce.  A dish of contrasts, flavour and textures, where France seems to have drunk a bit of inspiration from Morocco.

Harmonizing was a Julien Chopin Blanc de Blancs 2012 Premier Cru Les Originelles, with classic aromatic notes of chardonnay champagne, nice acidity, and a great combination with the notes of the dish.

Benoît Deloffre Beetroot, seaweed and vermouth
When the name of the farmer gets the spotlight in the name of the dish, we know we are before a special product, and so it was! Balance, fat (given by an excellent lardo di colonnata and seaweed butter), sea and earth notes in a perfect marriage, where the product shines.

On the glass, an old acquaintance of ours, the Legras Rosé, with a major structure and complexity of flavours and aromas that went very well with this “earth” dish.

Shrimp and Mushrooms
A small dish once again matching sea and earth notes, with perfectly cooked shrimp, crunchy heads and small mushrooms, all paired with a red wine sauce and freshened by the lime zest. Good, but a few points below the previous dishes.

Accompanying was a Devaux 2008, an excellent millésimé of a great year in the region, still very young, but powerful, balanced and elegant. It will have a great future!

Blue Lobster, a tribute to my father
As a good homage, the lobster dish was the highest moment of dinner, perfect meat and unforgettable sauce! There’s not much more to say, superb!

On the glass there was a Janisson Blanc de Noir Grand Cru, a complex 100% pinot noir, full of aroma richness, from red fruits to citrus. A beautiful champagne!

Squab Pithivier, spinach caillette and pidgeon jus

Technique, technique, technique! Everything was perfect on this classic French cuisine dish, a dreamlike puff pastry, expected given the work the chef did alongside the master Michel Guérard, meat on point, high-quality foie gras, delicate sauce and all the elements in harmony. Needless to say that by this time my 10th slice of bread was soaking the sauce out of the dish…

To step aside from the champagnes, but remain in the region, we got a red, the Ormes Bérêche et Fils Coteaux Champenois Les Montées 2015, a pinot from champagne, that could easily be a beautiful wine from Burgundy, still very young, but with huge potential and giving much pleasure at the table already.

Cheese selection by Philippe Olivier
A huge cheese selection carefully picked up by Philippe Olivier, for a moment of pure and simple pleasure. And more bread of course…

The dessert was Passion fruit and pistachio that between the well-rehearsed parade of the team and the desire to eat ended up not being photographed… A combination of passion fruit textures, sablé breton, dark meringue and different textures of pistachio. A proposal a bit below the previous dishes, yet, still with a great combo of texture and flavour, with highlight to the passion fruit ice cream.

petit fours

As if we hadn’t eaten enough already, the petit fours arrive at the table, here at the highest level and in great quantity – yes, what you see in the photo was for two – delicious cannelés, marshmallows, bonbons, lemon tart, pâte de fruit and florentines. I just wanted to eat everything…

Harmonizing, as mandatory, was a Ratafia from Champagne, a liquor produced in the region. A great ending!

The service? There aren’t many words to describe it, a very well-rehearsed theatre, with all details meticulously being taken care of. From the time between dishes, the water and wine refills, without forgetting a very important detail, the bread service… Always attentive to my needs!

Final remarks
The L’Assiette Champenoise is nowadays the only three stars of the Champagne region, and one of the greatest visiting cards of the region. For its fantastic hotel, and obviously for the cuisine. Arnaud Lallement has the same target of the great French cuisine masters, excellent product, lots of technique, and of course, unforgettable sauces. This, allied with one of the best cellars in the world, Champagne wise, and the possibility of harmonizing the tasting menus with different champagnes, thus making the best of a trip around the region.
A chef that actually is in his kitchen, a great restaurant, great wines and beautiful service, that’s how you describe L’Assiette Champenoise.

Ps – To captivate the visit of the younger generation to gastronomic restaurants, the chef proposes his menu with harmonization at a special price for people under 35. A remarkable idea!

Assiete Champenoise
Menus from 105€ (Lunch)
40, Avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier, Tinqueux – Reims
+33 (0) 3 26 84 64 64
infos@assiettechampenoise.com

Versão Portuguesa 

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Assiette Champenoise

After Épernay it was time to visit Reims, more precisely the L’Assiette Champenoise.

Here, in this place, there’s one of the best restaurants in France, and where I had one of the best gastronomic experiences (as a Birthday gift)!

This place is also a true family history!

Jean-Pierre and Colette Lallement opened a restaurant, in 1975, in a village called Chalon sur Veles, close to Reims.

But, in 1986, they felt the need to grow and evolve and went to Tinqueux, next to Reims. Transforming an imposing bourgeois house into a restaurant-hotel!

In 1996, Arnaut started working with his father, and in 2001 they won their first star of the Michelin guide, the following came in 2005 and 2014, and remain till today (and very well deserved I must say!).

The modern decor in contrast with the history of the building captivates us right away when looking at the entrance

In 2009, the restaurant and the reception were totally renewed and in 2010, a total renovation of the hotel took place and new suites were created.

All this change was the responsibility of the interiors architect Grégory Guillmain. And we now find a hotel with a contemporary decoration, reminding us of the very disruptive style of Philipe Starck in the use of metal and materials combination. Meaning… amazing!

In 2013, the Assiette was consecrated as a five-star hotel.

As soon as we arrive at the hotel we stand before an imposing bourgeois house! But the reception shows us right away the contemporary vibe that distinguishes the hotel. This combo is perfect, I must confess!

I fell in love with the flowers perfectly aligned.

We were welcomed by an effective team that accompanied us to our bedroom. Transmitting all that I love about the service of a luxury hotel: sympathy, care, and not invasive! Perfect combo!

The hotel has 33 bedrooms distributed among four floors.

We stayed in a Balcony suite, or should I say home?

Contemporary decor, but cosy – another perfect combination!

With a service bathroom right at the entrance, followed by a living room, elegantly decorated and a small relaxing room, with access to a small terrace with a view to the gardens of the hotel.

A small incorporated closet in the bedroom served its purpose well, and the huge bathroom demonstrated the grandeur of this true luxury hotel bedroom.

The bed, one of the most comfortable I ever felt, and the linen, surely one of the softest. All details were taken into account in this bedroom!

Waiting for us were some tasty religieuses and a bottle of Deutz!

Super approved bedroom! The time had come to see the rest of the hotel!

The decor of this hotel completely filled my measures, I could easily live there!

I’ve never been to a hotel with so many spaces entirely dedicated to relaxation and idleness.

One of the ex libris is the interior pool, warmed to 28 ºC (and for me, it could be much hotter!). This area, all surrounded with glass, allows us to be in perfect tune with the gardens of the hotel, an authentic park, and when we stayed there, they were covered in snow!

However, this is one of the most beautiful places in the hotel, to rest after a visit to Reims, or to read a book, or a champagne glass in the evening.

The charms of the snowy gardens of the hotel 

Speaking of champagne, one of the most vibrant spaces of the hotel is the Le Bar, where it’s possible to have a champagne tasting!

Le Bar

But the true treasure of the hotel is the restaurant! That as I said, has three Michelin stars since 2014, by the hand of Arnaud Lallement.

Here I had the chance to taste one of the best meals of my life and to see a real theatre play, so much was the perfection and synch of the entire team in the room! But João will talk about it in an exclusive article!

Our dinner table

There was no better way to celebrate my 35 years, for sure, than at this hotel, with this comfort and decoration, a familiar environment and with one of the best restaurants in France!

It was the assurance of one very happy birthday, and so it was!

Even more because after an unforgettable dinner, we were surprised with a matching breakfast, a pristine and calm room, great quality produce and much care and love in everything they offer their clients!

Thank you Assiette Champenoise, I can’t wait to go back!

Assiete Champenoise
Bedrooms from 185€
40, Avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier, Tinqueux – Reims
+33 (0) 3 26 84 64 64
infos@assiettechampenoise.com

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Champagne Pol Roger

Our followers know very well of my fascination about “bubbles” and the charm and versatility that good champagne can bring to a moment!

I could name a series of houses and wines I flirt with once in a while, but Pol Roger is my safe haven, for its richness and complexity brilliantly combined with freshness and elegance.

So, when we decided to visit the region of Champagne, there was always a name wandering in my mind, a visit to Pol Roger! Problem? Pol Roger is still one of the few houses not caring about visits or marketing investments, so a visit could only happen by invitation. For sure an obstacle, but who has friends is never alone, and we got a visit scheduled for a long day in this unforgettable house.

History
Pol Roger started like many other wine companies, a small company trading and producing wines for great houses like Moët & Chandon or Perrier Jouët, until its founder – Pol Roger – decided to establish in Épernay, buy his first vineyards and start bottling his own wine.

Pol Roger was always known as the most British of the Champagne houses, on one hand for being one of the first houses betting on that market and working the Brut profile wines, a favourite in England, and on the other for the longlasting relationship established with Sir Winston Churchill, the famous British prime minister who admitted to prefer Champagne above all other beverages, and Pol Roger above all other brands.

‘I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.’
Winston Churchill

The friendship of Churchill and Odette Pol-Roger became effectively the great commercial and institutional mark of the company, from the homage to Churchill after his passing, with all the bottles exported to the UK having a black up until the ’90s, to launching their most exclusive wine in 1984, the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, only produced in years of the highest quality and which blend remains a family secret, always with the idea that each edition of this wine would very much please the British prime minister.

The property
It’s right in the middle of the Avenue de Champagne at Épernay that all the action of Pol Roger takes place, from the beautiful mansion of English influence (of course!), to the warehouses, and the more than 7,5 km of tunnels that extend along the famous avenue and where the millions of bottles rest in their different phases of production.

Guiding us was the always excellent and enlightening Pierre-Samuel Reyne  (in charge of the company’s exports), from the notes of the first orders in the name of Winston Churchill in 1908, to the family photos, to the recovered bottles from the historic collapse of the cellars that almost took the company to bankruptcy, in 1900. Everything breathes history combined with a certain Noblesse oblige!

Getting to know the world of champagne production is not visiting a palace, its elegant offices or its historic documents. Knowing the true essence of the production a visit to its impressive tunnels, where the famous remueurs,  keep doing the manual remuage till today, in every bottle produced by the company – a unique case among the great houses, proving the posture and philosophy of the company.

Pascal, the master Remueur, whose ryhtm no one can keep up with

Philosophy 
Pol Roger is a synonym of elegance and subtlely, in their wines, in their relationship with the world and their clients. There’s no relation between the company and the media, no big investments in marketing, or a strong connection to parties or celebrities – with exception for the British Royal Family, that usually celebrates with Pol Roger.

 A style defined in the beginning of the company and which their descendents respect like no other, even with the arrival of Dominique Petit, the current cellar chef, in 1999; with more than 20 years of experience at Krug, the style and absense of wood kept unchanged, with a stronger bet in improving the production, the jubilation of fruit and of course, the harmonious elegance that charecterizes the wines of Pol Roger.

 

The wines 
Arriving at the historic tasting room, where days before the family had reunited to decide the final touches of another blend, we had a piece of history of the company waiting for us, the wines, and a Portuguese flag, a clear demonstration of respect and of the art of welcoming their guests!

Pol Roger cuvée Brut Réserve
A blend of three equal parts of Pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay of around 30 different crus, combined with 25% of reserve wines. It stages in bottle for four years before going to the market, resulting in one of the most interesting wines of its segment. An attractive nose, with fruit, flowers and a delicate touch of brioche, that indicates immediatly what we are tasting. In the mouth, a combination of jam fruits, honey notes and the long but subtle touch of orange peel to elevate the tasting. A “starter” champagne that never, never, disappoints!

Pol Roger cuvée Pure Extra Brut
A similar blend to the Brut Réserve, but without dosage, an exercise to showcase the style of the house in a wine close to its natural state. To the nose arrives a delicate combination of citrus and yeast, enhanced by a certain complexity of floral aromas. In the mouth the sensation is chilling, with the great acidity being perfectly matched with the structure of the wine. A wine you can’t stop drinking, especially if the company is right – It should be mandatory in every seafood restaurant!

Pol Roger vintage 2012 Blanc de Blancs
The vintage Pol Roger are the wines that gave name to the house, for their personality and longevity. The Blanc de Blancs is, as the name indicates, made exclusively of Chardonnay, in this case just Grands Crus from the Côte des Blancs regionA wine with small production, that staged for 7 years before heading to the market. The nose reveals dried fruits combined with peach, and a citrus side, exotic, very interesting. In the mouth, the wine is direct, showing a complex side allied to a vibrant youth, with citrus flavor and unforgetable acidity. Elegance is for sure the middle name of this wine!

Pol Roger vintage 2009
The Vintage 2009 was created with the usual blend of the house vintage’s, with 60% of Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, and grapes from Grand Cru and Premiers Cru from Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs. This wine staged 8 years in the cellars of the Avenue de Champagne before bringing us a very live and persistent bubble, and to the nose, the richness and elegance of white fruit nicely paired with some bakery notes. A delicate and elegant wine in the mouth – yes, the word elegant again – with the mousse, the acidity and structure filling the mouth like few others. A  great wine, and one of the best quality/price ratios in the world of vintage champagne.

Pol Roger Vintage 2009 Rosé
The Vintage 2009 is created in a fairly different process of a classic rosé. To the classic vintage wine basis, they add 15% of red Pinot Noir, before the second fermentation in the bottle. The salmony pink captivates our interest and its red fruits aroma, brioche, and some spices, tell us that yes! we are looking at a great wine. In the mouth, the freshness, structure and complexity of flavors win the title…

Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2008
The cúvee prestige of Pol Roger,created in homage to its more famous embassador. A wine prepared with only Grand Cru grapes, from wines that already produced during Churchill’s time. An exact blend, despite dominated by the pinot noir, is one of the greatest secrets of the family, that only produces this specific wine when they can find what Churchill loved so much about these wines, body, volume and harmony. The aromas of the wine change with the temperature, starting for revealing white fruit and bakery, then dried fruits and some orange. In the mouth, the balance of hardiness and elegance conquers the taster quite easily, with citrus and bakery being the most dominant flavors. If 2008 was a great year for champagne, the cúvee Winston Churchill is for sure one of its most surprising examples! A great wine!

A perfect birthday for Cíntia, that started with a visit and tasting session at Pol Roger

After an amazing tasting, it was time to a short trip to the center of Épernay for a lunch where the classic French cuisine was queen, and where we put the tasting aside and really enjoyed the vintages of Pol Roger.

Lastly, and before a trip to another small champagne paradise, we visited some of Pol Roger’s vineyeards right in the hillside of Épernay, and found a unique and unforgettable scenery!

Winter is coming!

Thank you Pol Roger and thank you Pierre for this perfect day!

Pol Roger
Visits are not possible, but the wines are around every great shop in the world! 
polroger@polroger.fr

Portuguese Version

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Champagne de Venoge – Les Suits du 33

At the beginning of 2019, we went to Paris once again, the city that fulfils our soul (and our stomachs as well!).

But this time we didn’t want to just see Paris and decided to go to a region that captivated our interest a long time ago – Champagne (why would that be???)!

We started by Épernay, at the charming Avenue de Champagne in the beautiful Venoge property!

Back in 1837, Henri-Marc de Venoge left Switzerland to settle in Champagne where he founded the Venoge & Cie with his son Joseph.

A year later, Henri-Marc eternalized a remarkable moment to the Champagne marketing, creating the first illustrated label.

Henri-Marc de Venoge

After that, the house became famous for creating labels to other important references of the region, as well as for adopting the initials “cordon blue” in homage to the Venoge river and the knight’s order of Saint-Esprit, the most famous of the French monarchy.

At the offices of Venoge we can see different labels created by the company throughout the centuries

The L’Hôtel de Venoge, Unesco World Heritage, saw its construction finished in 1900, marking the dynamism the region was going through right from the XIX century, which translated into a property with elegance and luxury perfectly mixed with the imposing street it is inserted in.

Obviously we didn’t stay in the main house, we just had the privilege of a guided tour with the most friendly of the hosts, Noé Boinard. A passionate young man, passionate for champagne, travels and life! An excellent companion to our visit where we were able to see every corner of the Venoge family history, like the first labels and the cellar where the most precious good is kept- the champagne.

We ended in the mythical Louis XV room tasting the champagnes Venoge. And what an elegant scenario to end our visit to L’Hôtel de Venoge!

Near the house there is a more recently transformed space, a building with deluxe bedrooms and an apartment, Les Suites du 33, an allusion to the door number at Avenue Champagne.

We stayed in one of the rooms.

Very similar to a luxury hotel bedroom, ours was constituted of a living room with kitchenette equipped with all you could need, from a fridge to a coffee machine. Besides this area, there was the bedroom itself, with a very comfortable bed and an elegant bathroom. The decoration of the room keeps the same elegance of the main house, but obviously less classic.

The apartment is perfect for a family trip, or a friends trip, being that it has three rooms.

Next to this building, is the  L’ Écurie. A renovated space, on the former stable, is now a bar and a store.

There we had an excellent breakfast and relaxed a bit from the cold and the snow felt outside!

The problem of travelling around Europe in January is that you get a lot of cold weather!

The gardens couldn’t display all their enchantment because of all the white! But obviously snow has its charms!

And that gives us a reason to get back to Épernay and the elegant Venoge – see all its magic in the sun, during spring or autumn!

But on to the wines, the reason we are here! I’ll leave some notes about them by João:

de Venoge Cordon Blue Brut
A surprising “gamma starter”, with an excellent price/quality ratio for the region. A wine in which the Pinot Noir associates with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, to create a slightly golden combo, of good aromatic complexity, floating between the white fruits, apple, and the buttery notes of brioche. In the mouth, the combo reveals a lot of elegance and complexity with a long bubble and creamy. It reveals a great capacity of ageing.

de Venoge Princes Blanc de Blancs
A homage created in 1864 for Princes d’Orange, that lasts until today as one of the key lines of the house Venoge. A 100% chardonnay, made with Grand cru and Premiers cru grapes, characterized by a strong minerality and crunchiness, bringing us dry and scented notes of flowers, apple and citrus. In the mouth, it keeps the freshness and the notes, allied to the usual flavours of peach jam of the chardonnay. Another keeper!

de Venoge Princes Blanc de Noirs
From the same line, the Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Noir, an excellence wine, full of freshness and great aromatic richness. Very fruity on the nose, focused in fresh red fruits aromas, following the same line in the mouth, complex, with good minerality, very unique. A beautiful wine!

See you soon Champagne and de Venoge!

Thank you Noé for all the care!
Champagne de Venoge – Les Suites du 33
Bedrooms from 215€
33 Avenue de Champagne – Épernay
+33 (0)6 75 81 08 01
adv@champagnedevenoge.com

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Ekhaya bush villa

Located in Hoedspruit, very close to Kruger Park, there’s a place that makes you feel part of a big family.

That place is Ekhaya bush villa, and its team has the main goal of assuring hospitality and transmitting the true traditions of South Africa to its guests.

With just six rooms, it is very cozy! There’s also a living and dining room common to all guests, making of the safari experience an even bigger moment of sharing and knowledge.

As soon as we arrived at Ekhaya we had the chance to meet and talk with a very friendly American couple, in their sixties, who have been there for two days and confessed us their passion for travels! At dinner, we met the other guests of this soulful African house and ended up our stay becoming friends with an Australian couple.

This is the stay at Ekhaya, a family home where everybody lives in harmony!

The meals are prepared by the nice team that welcomes the guests and takes care of the house. Traditional African food, that all guests have together while getting to know each other!

At Ekhaya there’s also a pool and an environment that invites relaxation, in that typical African charm.

During our stay at this South African home, you have lots of activities that quickly become the best experiences of your life. A safari around Kruger Park to see the Big Five, a day tour to Blyde Canyon and its magnificent landscapes, visiting the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center, that as the name indicates takes care of and protects endangered species, or take a boat ride around Blyde Dam and observing the most magnificent Canyon in the world (being that is the third-largest in the world!).

   And when we decided to end our stay, the entire team presented us with a very cheerful goodbye song, warming our hearts, making us want to return!

For us, its strategic location next to Hoedspruit airport was fantastic for a night of rest before a flight marathon for our return.

For those seeking refuge near Kruger Park, Ekhaya is a great option!

Ekhaya Bush Villa
Bedrooms from 120€
374 Kierrieklapper StreetHoedspruit

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&Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge

How do you write about the best experience of your life?

It’s been months since I experienced what I consider to be the most authentic and exciting moment of my life… those 31 seconds of the most profound and provocative look I ever felt!

No, I’m not talking about an affair, not everything in life is about sex… sometimes life is about the moment when human nature intersects wild life and the most intense exchange of glances between a human and a leopard happens! But we’ll get to that!

We chose November to discover another continent other than Asia, it was the month we adventured into Africa, discovering Cape Town and got a reminder about the Portuguese influence around the world, and it was the month to see that our species is so much more insignificant than I already thought.

Writing about this moment took a while because it’s hard to put into words what you experience in the jungle! The true jungle, where species live in perfect harmony and where we homo sapiens “almost” don’t interfere.

Seems like the perfect world, doesn’t it? The most harmful animal of all to not interfere in anything?! It’s the moment we are not on top of the food chain again!

Yes, I write about luxury hotels, and obviously this article will always be about that! About a natural reserve called &Beyond Ngala, but this article is much more than that. It’s the experience of a life time! (so far, at least!).

But first, let me talk about the importance of the natural reserves chain &Beyond spread around the world.

&Beyond was created in 1991 in the attempt to accompany the increasing demand for ecoturism and wild life experiences, and in the hope that all this demand could have a response in the business area that would put wild life in first place, with a sustainable economic basis.

And so &Beyond was born and spread around Africa, assuring the preservation and protection of areas and species, but also the work, that translated into benefits to the entire community.

Yes, you can say that a stay at these lodges is super expensive! But you think these things are paid off with what? Making your dream come true and building a better world for all the species costs money. So reevalute what you think you know!

Their motto? “Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife and Care of the People!”

Nowadays you can find this motto spread around Africa, Asia and South America. And is certain that where &Beyond is, that place is sacred, a place where nature and all its species live in perfect harmony!

We arrived at the Hoedspruit airport in a very warm afternoon.

The adventure started right at the airport, the most charismatic and comic airport of all time! The pictures speak for themselves!

This was the waiting room between flights!

Waiting for us was a friendly member of the &Beyond staff.

We made the trip to the hotel with 4 other people who were also staying at the hotel.

The trip was marked by the presence of two of the Big Five (the Big Five are, as the name indicates, the five animals not to miss – elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion) – the elephant and the buffalo!

A gathering group of elephants, just after leaving the airport

We weren’t even in the hotel and we’ve already seen two?? The motto was set to perfection!
We arrived at &Beyond Ngala. An authentic oasis in the middle of the jungle, a mix of rudimentary with luxury details, a mix of authenticity with magic!

We were welcomed by a group of people devoid of preciousness, with an authentic speach, giving us fresh water and invinting us to rest a bit while signing a document! Without check-in, all the information was already there, previously taken care of in order not to bother the guest anymore during the stay! And what was that paper we had to sign?!

I didn’t even read it… I already knew what it was… An informed consent, the dinamic of our behaviour in order to respect the wild life, the way we had to accept we are visitors and have to respect our surroundings. And also the fact that if anything goes wrong, it can really go wrong! Yes, you can be attacked and die. And either you understand the risk and sign off or you won’t go on the safaris! Signed the paper and we were assigned an employee to accompany us to our room and whom we needed to call if we needed to leave our room at night! Yes, we’re in a reserve in the middle of the jungle, there’s no fence around the hotel. Scared? Don’t be! The adrenaline of being there and thinking about it is indescribable!

Along the path to the room we saw a bambi (An impala I mean!).

Somewhere in the path to our room 

There are 21 rooms in the lodge, four of them more specific for families, yes, children are welcome.

Our room was constituted by the bedroom itself, a small closet, a service bathroom and the real bathroom, all in glass, with an exterior shower and a garden space, reminding us we were in the middle of the savannah, with some animals keeping us company!

The bedroom also had a balcony with a sofa, allowing us to have some interesting conversations with some squirrels that kept trying to enter our room!

On the first day, we just changed clothes and went to the bar for refreshments and off to the first safari of our lifes!

One of the beautiful bar areas of the lodge

We were included in a group of four more people, two couples, who revealed to be great a company in this journey. We were introduced to Shaun and Tom – the Ranger and the Tracker, who guided us and taught us the works of the wildlife and who were the key to success of all this experience.

The 40 degrees felt got better on the jeep (the jeeps are open and you are so close to the jungle that is at the same scary and fascinating).

Bambis everywhere! The species with the most elements, nature has the gift of perfection, once these are the food for several other species!

Kudu

Wildebeest

At the end of that afternoon we had the chance to see a female leopard trying to hunt an impala, and Shaun told us that if we were lucky we might meet its family, two already big babies and the Male, with whom I was to have the most disturbing glance of my life and the most sexy growl!

Preparing for the hunt

There are safaris at sunrise and at sunset, ensuring a greater probablilty of seeing the animals, because during the day is so hot you can’t spot most of them. Mostly because the main river of the reserve is completly dry.

Timbavati river, completely dry 

To finish that day, the jeep stopped in a safe open park to drink a gin and have a bite to eat. And what an amazing moment – enjoying the sunset in the middle of the savannah, without preciosnesses, fears, completly free…

I always think I love the maximum exponent of luxury, but in these moments I realize nothing is more perfect and gives me more pleasure than the feeling of something pure and genuine… On that day we enjoyed the jungle at night, while deciding to return from our little rest it was already dark and it was exciting  to make the way back just with the lights of the jeep and a big flashlight to show us our path… there’s no other lights around there! Living in a city you can’t really understand what is true darkness. Just the stars and the moon to light up the night. It’s magical!

At the reserve, all days have the same dinamic, getting up at 4h (our assigned member of the staff wakes us up, in case the alarm clock isn’t enought!) and at 4h45 we have to be at the lounge for coffee and go to the frist safari of the day at 5h!

One of the comfortable meeting points 

At my first night I couldn’t even sleep, so much was my excitement! We had arrived from the safari at 20h30, had dinner at the restaurant of the reserve, ready to welcome all the tired guests from the safari, welcoming us with true smiles and traditional, comfort food.

The beautiful scenario waiting for us

Veal tenderloin with peanut and tahini satay 

After dinner we went to our room, it was time to rest and I was really tired but the adrenaline of being there, didn’t let me sleep!!!

On the second day, as soon as our staff knocked on the door I was already ready for the adventure!

Teams ready for another day 

The meeting at the lounge was always a mix of somnolence and happiness! We starded bonding with the people in our jeep. Zandri and Brendon, also rangers from another lodge of the group, the &Beyond Phinda. What a privilege, 3 rangers in our jeep, it could only be an amazing experience!

And Anika and Eshan, a wonderful couple from Sri Lanka, crazy about safaris! The perfect group for a perfect trip!

Shaun, João, Brendan, Eshan, Anika, Zandri, me and Tom – what a team!!

Along the way we befriended people from all around the world, making this trip more memorable.

Amazing how usually my articles are only about the hotel’s features and an objective experience, and now I cannot stop being emotional about all this stay… three days that seemed like a lifetime!

On the second day we went for the morning safari, starting right away with an exciting sighting… wild dogs! A bunch of them, and according to Shaun they haven’t been spotted in six weeks.

We were able to see them preparing for the hunt, they are a very deadly species due to their group organization skills.

Wild Dogs

Another highlight of that morning were the young leopards resting, and extremely bothered by us interrupting their rest!

Leopardo cubs

Time to return for a warrior worthy breakfast!

At &Beyond Ngala the pancakes are to die for!

The rest of the day we enjoyed the pool of the hotel, the 39ºC felt forced us to be in the water all the time, while seeing a family of warthogs, remember Pumbaa from the Lion King?! There was a couple and three babies walking freely around the hotel, having a bath in a small lake alongside the pool!

Amazing scene!

 Pumbaa and its kids resting in one of the walkways of the lodge 

There’s not much more one could ask for! 

After a well deserved rest it was time to get ready for the second safari of the day! After kicking off with a Gin, we barely knew it would be such an agitated and fun evening!

A good selection of South African gins 

Water is essential along the safari 

We started by seeing a mother and rhino calf, that was so amazed to see us that became one of the most comic moments of the afternoon!

If you’re wonderind how all these species don’t attack the jeep as soon as they see us, it’s firstly because these jeeps were never a threat to them, and secondly because we’re not their prey, and lastly because the team of &Beyond trains the way they show off at the babies, so they can get used to our presence since a young age.

The real safari photographers 

Then it was time to see an elephant family, whose baby was still a bit wobbly, as if extremely dizzy! So sweet!

Elephants transmit a super tender image, but are probably the most imposing animal in the jungle! And we were about to experience that!

The baby could barely walk!

On with our safari, it was time to see some hyenas, always with their tricky look! Also very good group hunters!

Hyena

Giraffe

Where’s wally?

Meanwhile, Shaun received a warning from others teams – a group of lions where in the river… Obviously we went right away!

And there was a group of lions, from females, males and babies, lots of babies, and there was a white one! Something very rare, only about 15 in the world! What a privilege to be in the middle of the jungle and experience one of the rarest animals!

Is there anything more beautiful?

I felt so happy at that moment…so complete! Little I knew I had so much more to experience in that wild world!

Minutes later the elephant family we saw earlier started to go down to the river right in front of our jeep, so for our precaution we moved away.

And we had front seats to an impendind titan war! Or so I thought… no lion is titan enough for an elephant! No, the king of the jungle is not the lion, but the elephant! The white cub was the first to runaway “let me run, I’m to rare for this!” must have been its thought! The males and remaining babies went after, only two females stayed behind, amazing how females are braver in any species!!

It was scary when the baby elephant started to get close and one of the females (probably the mother) decided to raise the trunk (sign of attack) and start running after the lionesses! It was a shaking moment! Mostly because it also raised its trunk to our jeep and you start to think if they run to you, there’s no escape!

Probably the most exciting moment of my life! Or so I thought at the time!

After all this crazyness it was time to stop at a safe spot to eat something and toast to another amazing day!

Still time to see another rhino

We found out it was Eshan’s birthday and the hotel once again proved to be amazing, there was a bottle of champagne to celebrate Eshan’s special day and also this amazind day for all of us!

Shaun Zandri and Brendan

We went back to the reserve in time to get ready for a great dinner! A dinner for all the guests, a very fun party! These dinners work like a farewell for the different groups. It’s recommended to stay just for three to four days, due to the tiredness these experiences provoke, and the level of requirement of this kind of tourism.

So, each three days, there’s a dinner for all the guests and safari groups, with the rangers and the trackers, so we can have a goodbye party! An excellent service by &Beyond. What you can call a luxury!

A very well slept night was all I needed, and this time I slept, my tiredness won over my excitement!

Another meeting at 4h45, and the realization this was the last day in total communion with nature!

After the last safari I was sure there wasn’t much more to see or feel! Nothing more exciting than a lion vs elephant face to face! That was until we cross paths with the male leopard!

Busted!

“My” leopard

Before that, we saw giraffes and buffalos, these last ones are so impressive, so beautiful and imposing!

Meanwhile, Zandri (also a ranger) saw a leopard, the male leopard of the family we saw before.

It was trying to sleep below a tree, it was extremely hot that morning, it was very early and already super hot. It was bothered by our presence, stood up and changed places, we followed, but it tried to get away again. And so it decided to start surrounding the jeep, three times, smelling not only the jeep but us as well! Abd suddently it stopped! In front of me, just an arms distance away, and looked me in the eyes, in the most intense way I ever felt and growled at me, looked me right in the eyes again and made me fall in love with that moment! Inexplicable, scary, exciting, disconcerting… the world stopped for about 30 seconds!

Behind me I just heard Shaun “don’t move Cíntia, don’t move, keep steel…”

It’s true you must enjoy life without a phone in the way, but I thank everyday for recordind this moment, so I can eternalize it in a more real way!

Fear? Not even a bit… I just wanted to extend my arm and touch it… but I know I could never do that!

I asked Shaun if that was normal, if the leopard though I was a danger to it, and why it stopped right in front of me? And he just said “It smelled something in you that captivated its interest and wanted to know what it was!”.

Happy to know that my pheromones have impact even in the jungle!!

The last coffee in the jungle

We came back to the reserve fot a last breakfast and my mind was already in another universe! It was by far the most amazing experience I had in my life… all this contact with nature in its wildest state is of a disruptive sensation you can’t really put into words. But being so close to a feline and feeling it look at you made me realize this really was an experience of a lifetime!

Buffalos 

On that day, and before leaving we had time to buy a series of souvenirs for our family and friends, and mostly because a part of the value of what you buy in the store of hotel reverts to a series of projects to protect some of the species, namely the rhinos, that are stealthly hunted for theirs horns, because of the belief they have healing properties.

The store of &Beyond Ngala

You can know more about “Rhino’s whithout Borders”  and help here!

It was time to leave! Time to say goodbye to the group that shared this experience with us, thanking them for the company, care and friendship!

Time to say:

“Thank you Shaun and Tom for making all of this possible!”

Thank you all!

“Thank you &Beyond Ngala for taking care of this bit of paradise, where all species live in perfect harmony, this one and all those spread around the world! Thank you for continuing to believe there are many places in the world where you can take this noble project.” 

All the corners at Ngala are magic!

And…

Thank you my perfect Leopard for giving me the most exciting moment ever!

See you soon &Beyond!

&Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge
Bedrooms from 560€/ pax, all included 
&Beyond Ngala Private Game Reserve – Kruger Park

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Aubergine

German, born in the countryside, on the border with Belgium, became a cook all around the world… this could easily be the short story of Harald Bresselschmidt’s life, who after a successful passage through the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl, decided to settle in Cape Town and open his Aubergine.

It was the year of 1996, when Harald installed himself in a historic building from the XIX century, to quickly start to change the gastronomic scene of the city. Having studied the most classic French cuisine, like most chefs of Central Europe, and inspired by the African and Asian ingredients and unique game meats of South Africa, Harald created a space of his own, where wine (one of his great passions) has a spotlight.
But on to our visit… Right at the entrance, we are awarded the nice staff, a common throughout the entire dinner; the ambiance, divided between rooms and a terrace for the warm nights, is cozy and more informal than expected of a classic fine dining restaurant.
Already seated, we are quickly invited to check the menu, while being explained the several tasting options and the several dishes of the menu.

After making our choices, we are served several pieces of bread, a great mushroom butter, and olive oil.
Followed a very refreshing Cucumber Soup with Tofu and Seeds, that really woke up our palates.

Cucumber Soup with Tofu and Seeds

To drink, we started, nicely, with an Ambeloui, Methode Cap Classique, made with the classic combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and three years Sur Lies.

White asparagus, Scallop, salmon roe, and sea trout sashimi
A classic combination, with a perfectly cooked scallop, a good “sashimi” from the trout’s belly and loin, and in general a good contrast between the earthy notes of the asparagus with the ocean flavors of the dish.

In a challenge set by Ralph Reynolds, the passionate sommelier, we accompanied the dish with two different wines, the Aubergine 2013, made especially for the restaurant with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, a very interesting wine on the mouth, without excess sweetness and a strong presence of fruit. And the Savage 2015, also made with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, but this time resulting in a more intense wine, more complex, alcoholic and long in the mouth, a great wine!

Squid, tomato, risotto Nero, and saffron
A somewhat dated presentation, but the rice, the squid and all the elements, created the best risotto I’ve had in a long while, and since then haven’t had one better, an amazing dish!

To harmonize, Ralph chose a TMW Mourvèdre 2016, from Tim Martin Wines, a wine with little intervention, elegant, thin and precise.

Gnu, broad beans, pancetta, glazed pear and mushrooms with berberis sauce 
There’s always a first time for everything, and the gnu meat was a nice surprise! Rare, in a roast beef style and very nicely paired with the other ingredients. A great sauce!

Ostrich, blue cheese, vegetables, and rosemary-infused sauce
Excellent cooking of the ostrich, nicely paired by the vegetable flavors, mushrooms, the blue cheese notes, and the excellent rosemary sauce. Another dish with a less obvious protein, that also surprised!

Two game dishes, two different wines, first the Beaumont Pinotage 2015, probably the best pinotage I ever tasted, well balanced between fruit and wood, average body and well-integrated tannins. We also drank a Migliarina Shiraz 2012, produced in Stellenbosch, demonstrated the proper features of the caste, some evolution yet with an interesting intensity and spices notes that went very well with the dish.

Huguenot and Boland tartlet duo with olive tapenade and kumquats 
Two kinds of cheese produced at Dalewood, and two of their most important, Boland,  that resulted in a great tartlet, and the Huguenot in thin slices. A moment I can never resist, and in this case I was very pleasantly surprised by the cheeses produced in the region. The Cape can’t stop surprising me…

On the glass, Intellego Chenin Blanc 2012, and a beautiful tasting moment, very complex and refined. A great wine, that went really well with the cheeses!

Mocha Semifreddo, grape textures, toasted rice ice cream
Light, sweet and balanced, with the grapes making a good contrast with the intense notes of the mocha. High score for the rice ice cream.

Accompanying, a classic, Signal Hill Straw Wine 2001,  made of grapes from very old vineyards, following the classic process of this style in Jura. Sweet, with honey, vanilla, cinnamon, spices, and quince notes, very complex and nicely matched.

Caramel “Bola de Berlim”, chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream, strawberry mousse, chocolate, and raspberry tartlet, and mint and apple semifreddo

The perfect dessert if you can’t decide just for one – like Cíntia! Classic, well-executed and with good flavors. Highlight to the chocolate tartlet and raspberry and the caramel “bola de berlim”.
Harmonizing was a Noble Late Harvest 100% Chenin Blanc Joostenberg 2017, of balanced sweetness, quince notes, apricot, and honey, with an acidic ending.

Petit fours

Like I said before, the service went perfectly, from the timing between dishes to the nice team and their explaining of the dishes. One of the things I have to highlight are the wines, the service, and the harmonization quality. The sommelier Ralph Reynolds explained to us that the chef is also a big wine lover, and many times thinks firstly of the wine he wants to serve and creates the dish from there, and that was noticeable in the quality of the food/wine pairing, surprising in many of the dishes!

Final Remarks
Aubergine is one of the historic restaurants of Cape Town, with Harald Bresselschmidt challenging the market for over 20 years, with his cuisine and fine dining atmosphere, with open doors to the good gastronomic revolution of the city.

The game dishes are memorable, as well as the unusual combinations of ingredients. But the most surprising was the wine harmonization, and the way food and wine complemented each other.

It’s the right place for any wine lover visiting the city!
Harald Bresselschmidt

Aubergine
Average price: 50€ without wines
39 Barnet Street, Gardens  – Cape Town
+27 021 465 0000
info@aubergine.co.za

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Cape Town

V A Waterfront

We ended our 2018 travels on the African continent.

It was our first time in Africa and it was a pleasant surprise, mostly for me because I had no expectations.

I must confess I wanted so much to go to Cambodia and Vietnam that when João convinced me to go to South Africa I decided to not even worry about this trip! But now I must tell you it was one of the best experiences of my life!

 The view over Cape Town city center

We flew from Porto to Madrid and from there to Johannesburg, where we took another flight to Cape Town. That was nice for me ’cause it was only a long haul trip and two small ones, and the longest was for 10h during the night, allowing me to rest more!

We flew with Iberia, a company we had never experienced but we became fans! But you can read about that experience here!

We went discovering a little bit from South Africa. And we started in Cape Town, the legislative capital of the country and the most populated following Johannesburg.

The beautiful and frozen beaches of Cape Town 

Famous for its natural Port, Cape Town has a historic meaning to us Portuguese, because here at Cape of Good Hope, Portuguese sailors have proven their value in the period of Discoveries, but we’ll get to this topic later.

A bit of its History 

The oldest remains of any type of human occupation date back to 10000 BC and are present in the Peers caves. But the first time the city effectively became known was by the Age of Discovery, and thanks to the Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias!

So many tried to pass the “Cape of Storms” – a name given by Bartolomeu after the severe storms they survived to pass it, but this passing opened the way to future sailing to India, creating the important connection between the Atlantic and the Indian oceans.

In 1488, João II of Portugal named it Cape of Good Hope!

But the city started to grow after 1652, by the hand of Jan Van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company.

Here establishing an important trading point, a support area to the travels between the Netherlands and India. With slave work from Indonesia and Madagascar, the city became to prosper, but by the time of the French revolution the Netherlands were to busy and lost control of the city, leaving the way open for the British to establish in 1795.

The discovery of diamonds in the XIX century increased the flow of immigration to South Africa and Cape Town kept prospering.

South Africa went through some great tension moments throughout history, namely from 1948 to 1990 with the Apartheid (weird to think just a few years ago there was racial segregation here. And did it really end?). And it was just from 1994 onwards that free elections became possible.

The country is going through an incredible period economically speaking, in terms of tourism and real estate. But disparity and the huge gap between poverty and wealth is very noticeable, like an enchanted city involved by an authentic slum where millions of people try to build their lives.

This was the first impact when arriving in Cape Town, the surroundings of the city are immersed in poverty but when you arrive at the city per se, richness is constant.

Beverly Hills worthy mansions, movie star like cars, and its natural beauty almost make us forget that we just passed by millions of people living in a scary level of poverty.

Should you go to Cape Town, despite this shock, YES… but my answer will always be that, when you are in a country that at the same time causes you anguish, revolt, and fascination.

Cape Town has the most sublime ocean view I ever experienced, I met amazing people who will always bring me joy, and above all, I value more what I have, the opportunities life gave me and I took without hesitation, and see the world and the human being with a more caring look.

But, what should you really visit in this Town??

I selected 10 things I consider mandatory! 

Staying at The Twelve Apostles Hotel
The nicest staff ever and an ambiance so serene you almost can’t leave! Just contrasting is the bustle of the Leopard Bar, a meeting point for locals! So if you don’t have the chance to stay at the hotel, don’t miss a trip to the Leopard Bar in the evening for a gin and a sunset! They have an incredible gin menu at a good price for a luxury hotel bar! Moreover, the entire menu has very fair prices. Another highlight of the Hotel is the Spa. One of the best water circuits I ever had. But you can read all about that here!

The Twelve Apostles

Walking around V&A Waterfront and feel the city vibe! 
There’s entertainment everywhere, the different musical groups stand in line to show their talents and entertain whoever passes by. This is the heart of town, and millions of people pass through here every year, tourists and locals. If your intention is to visit a museum, walk around, do some shopping and feel the people and the bustle of Cape Town, this is a mandatory place! Honestly I think everybody visiting Cape Town should spend a few hours here.

It’s not the most interesting thing the city has to offer, but it is worth the visit! From here you can access different places like Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was kept for years; Cape Wheel – the ferris wheel, that I do well without as always!; the Nobel Square – with statues of the four Nobel Prize of Peace; the Two Oceans Aquarium – an excellent option for those traveling with kids; the Springbok Experience for the loves of the Invictus movie; the Clock Tower – Victorian style, closed by the time we visited; the Diamond Museum, very proper for a city full of diamonds! If your goal, like ours, is just to walk around and do nothing in specific, just enjoy the bustle of this area! The buzzling life and the views of Table Mountain are worth the visit. However we chose to enter two places in the Waterfront area! The Zeitz Mooca Museum and the Silo Hotel.
Zeitz Mooca Museum
The biggest museum dedicated to contemporary art produced by African artists, open since 2017 in the building of Hotel Silo, at Silo’s District. I must confess I didn’t wanna “waist” time visiting a museum in this trip, I resisted but João convinced me in the morning we were supposed to see the Table Mountain but it was too windy, so we decided to see the Zeitz Mocca Museum! And gladly because I loved it! The original structure of the building has a strong industrial heritage, mixing very well with the contemporary art of its interior. The pieces, the ambiance, and the building itself transformed this museum in one of my favorites. Don’t miss it!

Price: 190ZAR (13€ aprox)

https://zeitzmocaa.museum

Being in Silo’s District and this building take time to enjoy a cocktail at the Silo Hotel!
If you’re lucky you’ll get a table in the Rooftop (it is only available for guests, but if there are tables available they ease the access), if not stay on the 6th floor, the bar is also amazing.
One of the most incredible experiences of Cape Town is the astonishing view over Table Mountain.
This is for sure a place so see! But, good luck, because the city is so wind that sometimes you just can’t climb it, for safety reasons,  obviously. We tried two times, without luck, but the third time was the charm! We went on the cable car, but for the most athletic you can do it by foot. Honestly, I’m a person of moments, and the moment we arrived at the top of Table Mountain, was by far one of the best. Magical, I don’t even have words for it, and you can look at the pictures as much as you want that you cannot understand the feeling, trust me, put this on your wishlist! It is called Table Mountain, because it’s shaped like a table, an authentic table land for 3km! It goes from the Devil’s Peak (the best place to see the sunset) to the Lion’s Head, west! The first documented climb was in 1503 by António Saldanha (Portuguese sailor). Whom actually gave it its name and put a cross at Lion’s Head! You can  buy the ticket to the cable car in situ, it’s not expensive, you just have to wait a bit in line!

Visiting Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope
You can pass without doing it, but if you’re Portuguese you should really go and pay homage to Bartolomeu Dias! It’s about an hours drive from Cape Town to Cape Point (we rented a car, but you can easily book a transfer). We drove the charismatic Chapman’s Peak Drive and stopped everywhere there was a good view!

We then arrived at the Table Mountain National Park. It has paid entrance (303ZAR – around 19€ ) and you get a very simple map to guide you between the two Capes.

What reasons justify the visit to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope? If you’re Portuguese there’s the history factor, but there are many more! It’s the most southwest you can go on the African continent, and nature is probably the best reason to visit. Miles and miles of unique beauty, where you can see a huge diversity of animals (beware of the baboons!) and you’ll get the freshest and purest air of your life! (due to an air flow from Antartic).

Once inside the park you can follow the direct path to Cape Point with its old lighthouse. From there you get an amazing view over the Cape of Good Hope. You can climb by cable car or the steep stairs, that I recommend, because you can stop and take in the view! From the lighthouse you can drive and follow the directions to the Cape of Good Hope, or up the stairs of the lighthouse there’s a pathway to Good Hope. You can also see two monuments for the Portuguese sailors, Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama.

Beware of the strong winds, and the opening and closing times of the park, that vary according to the times of sunrise and sunset throughout the year.

After the Capes, stop at Simons Town and enjoy that typically colonial style, making us travel in time.

Here you can also enjoy the typical fish&chips of the area. We had an interesing lunch at Bertha’s, the most emblematic space in town, with a nice terrace over the port.

After lunch, nothing like stopping to see the penguins at Boulders Beach, something you don’t imagine seeing in life! Hundreds of African penguins, established in this beach since 1982. Entering the colony (ticket 76ZAR – 5€), you can turn to the right to a place with less people where it’s easier to see the penguins. No, you can’t touch them or access the beach, you watch them from above.

You can go to Foxy beach, next to this one, where’s its more free, but take care because penguins are not as nice as they look! This area is also great to go to the beach per se, due to its granite structure the beach is more protected from the wind.

The worst time to visit is January, because the penguins are in the ocean searching for food.

 

One of South Africa’s highlights are the wines! 

In Cape Town you should really visit wine regions and farms. We really wanted to see Stellenboch, but our timing was off. So we chose to visit the Bouchard Finlayson from the Red Carnation family and visited in the great company of Frank Woodvine, who gave us  an authentic biology class along the farm.

We had lunch with Peter Finlayson, winemaker, a wonderful host during lunch and the wine tasting. It is one of the most important farms in South Africa, with awarded wines, just an hour and a half from the city center.

We went on this trip, organized by the 12 Apostles Hotel, once the owners of the hotel also own the farm (see).

 

Frank Woodvine

We also had time to visit another vineyard, the famous Klein Konstantia, a beautiful property indicated by a dear friend and wine producer who visited before. A huge and well taken care of property, in a beautiful area of the Cape. Constantia has unpaired beauty and the wines are also unique and memorable.

But if you have the chance do the wine circuit around the Stellenboch region.

Besides the wines, gastronomy is something to try in Cape Town. Despite seeming a very international cuisine, there were some restaurants I must consider in my list, like the Aubergine and the Salsify. But about these João talks about in other articles (like here and here)!

There’s much more to see in this rich city, so cultural and with such lovely people, we must return in a few years!

See you soon Cape Town!

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Salsify at The Roundhouse

Up and down the hill, a lot of green and a blue horizon melting with the blue sky, is the path to The Roundhouse, former hunting house of Lord Charles Somerset, former governor of the cape, and also a hotel, tea room, and some other activities… nowadays it hosts the new restaurant of Luke Dale-Roberts, the successful chef and businessman who dominates the restaurant scene of Cape Town (you can read more about Luke – here).

A historical building, of rare form, round as the name indicates, with one of the most beautiful views over Camps Bay, that was Sandalene’s inspiration to create a completely unexpected scenario for those, like us, visiting the restaurant for the first time.

 The view over Camps Bay

If the experience of a restaurant goes way beyond the food served, at Salsify that’s the case right from the entrance with the decoration. As we are accompanied to the table our host also explains the history of the building and the different areas created by Sandalene. From the Lady Salsify statue to the Lord Charles graffiti, everything makes sense and surprises.

Lady Salsify

Some decor details 

At the table, the show unravels, with the team being ready and with the service nicely prepared, despite being a recent restaurant. We chose the tasting menu, accompanied by the wine choices of Sommelier Nash Kanyangarara.

We are quickly introduced to the first snacks, with beetroot tempura with mustard seeds and celery biscuit with truffle tarragon pesto and parmesan. Both delicious in the texture and flavor combos, opening our palates to what was to come.

To go with, a cocktail is never too much, we started with a signature Gin&Tonic, prepared in situ, with grapefruit and cherry bitters, and a pineapple margarita and fava tonka.

Excellent Cocktails

And then, the bread moment, with an excellent worked butter with oil and dust of fig leaf, it’s hard to ask for a better start…

Spring Minestrone, Octopus, oysters, and herbs 
A clear broth taking us to a tomato water, with octopus bites, oysters, salicornia and some herbs. Very good in terms of flavors and textures, however, a little bit more saltiness would’ve been nice!

On the glass, a Pino Gris, Migliarina Grey Matter 2017. A rare caste in South Africa, here resulting in a cool and super fresh wine, with crunchy acidity and a citrus side that worked wonders in harmonization!

Grilled asparagus, sunflower and hollandaise sauce  
The Sunflower is the key element of the dish, present in different ways, from the seed to the oil used in the hollandaise and the frozen pesto that covers the asparagus. An excellent vegetarian dish, the magic of a good product and good cooking.

Harmonizing was a wine that I loved, Orpheus & The Raven Old Bushvine Chenin Blanc 2017 – demonstrating its stage in wood on the nose, in a good balance with the fruit. In the mouth it is rich and concentrated, resulting nicely with the fatty notes of the dish and the unique flavor of the asparagus.

Scallop, Curry, pomegranate, and onion bhaji 
A trip to the Indian influences on the African coast, with a perfect scallop and several cooking techniques that resulted very well. Fresh, spicy, crunchy and light!

To go with this dish, the sommelier went for a Chardonnay Domaine des Dieux 2014, complex wine with exotic nose and balanced palate due to its citric notes. A certain sweet side of the wine went very well with the scallop and the curry.

Line fish, peas, beans, and butter with yeast 
Kabeljou, a very common fish in the region, simply cooked, with its taste easily being beaten by the different elements on the plate. Mussels, peas, herbs, bottarga and a burnt butter sauce with the distinguished flavor of the yeast elevated this dish.

And another great harmonization, with a Fable Mountain Jackal Bird 2014, a blend dominated by Chenin Blanc, with a long stage with the grounds, resulting in a different wine, complex and insightful. On the nose, a citric, melon and spices side, while in the mouth we get a punch of fruit, with well-marked texture and a minerality that made all the combo work.

Peking duck, Bitter plum and wallnut cream
Far from a true Peking duck, the perfectly cooked breast, the delicious sauce with the plums, the pickles and the nut salsa, created a comfort dish, not heavy like many meat dishes tend to be in a tasting menu.

Accompanying was a Foundry Shirah 2012, with a nice aroma, with herbs, plum, and spices. Complex and intense, becoming a nice companion to the duck.

Strawberry cone, blueberry jam, and raspberry jelly
More a dessert than a pre-dessert, this combo of red fruits in different textures and cooking, sugar balanced and freshened by the ice cream, created a nice path to clean the palate.

Roasted pineapple, coconut cake, iced goats milk kefir >A dessert that perfectly represents the way I like to end a tasting, light and fresh, with a good contrast of flavors and the different temperatures making all the difference. Very good!

We ended the harmonizations with a Keermont Fleurfontein Sauvignon blanc 2017, a Late Harvest, of excellent quality, with dried apricot, citrus, and dried fruit notes, and nicely acidic.

A great ending to an already long lunch, to which would followa ling walk on top of the Table Moutain (without any incidents!!).

The service was flawless! Professional from the first contact, a fine dining ambiance with a relaxed vibe and lightness. Just a side note to the mise en scene, is it really necessary to finish every dish at the table?

In terms of wines, as you read along the article, the work of Nash Kanyangarara, contributed a lot for me falling in love with South African wines.

Final Remarks
Luke Dale-Roberts, his wife Sandalene, and this time the chef Ryan Cole, created the soon to be the “next big thing!” of Cape Town, after The Test Kitchen  and the successful and casual The Pot Luck Club and The Shortmarket Club, Salsify is already a great restaurant in any place around the world. A mandatory visit for those visiting Cape Town, and if you can, choose the lunch menu and enjoy the wonderful view!

I just hope I can get a reservation on a next trip to Cape Town. It won’t be easy for sure!

Salsify at the Roundhouse
Average price: 80€ without wines 
  The Roundhouse, Camps Bay – Cape Town
+27 021 01 06 444
reservations@salsify.co.za

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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The Shortmarket Club

“Don’t change a winning team…”

The famous chef Luke Dale-Roberts (nº 44 of the World´s 50 Best Restaurants with his The Test Kitchen) joined his wife Sandalene, and his right arms, Wesley Randles in the kitchen and Widdison in the room to, in 2016, open another successful space, The Shortmarket Club.

The premise is at first sight simple, a restaurant in the center of town, in a bohemian, vibrant area, in a historical building, and a cuisine that combines comfort and creativity.

Randles and Simon, working with Luke since the first steps of The Test Kitchen, are in charge of managing the space while Sandalene shows the brilliance of her decoration.

Arriving at the door of Shortmarket Club for the first time, you can hardly tell what you’re about to experience, a narrow entrance and a hallway that take us to a staircase, that ends in a surprising environment. It could be an English club or speakeasy, but it’s a comfortable and luxurious restaurant in Cape Town.

Already installed we ask for some cocktails while looking through the menu and choosing dishes for a light and quick meal…

Saldanha Bay Oysters
Fresh oysters for the Saldanha Bay, next to Cape town, served with a great Leche de Tigre and lemon. A great start!
Accompanying was a good quality bread, homebaked, with butter and homemade ricotta with good seasonings. First impressions could hardly be better.

Sambal Oelek Tuna
With this first dish, finished on the table with hot coconut oil, we see the Asian influence in the creating process. The tuna, in a tataki style, was seasoned with sambal oelek (a typical Sri Lanka chilli spice), combined with coriander, basil and red onion. The contrast of the hot oil with the fresh texture of the tuna and the herbs created a nice flavor and texture symbioses in the mouth. Very elegant!

Springbok tartar, parmesan, walnut, and ponzu sauce
Springbok is the famous small gazelle, the symbol of the South African Rugby team. A very well presented and accomplished dish. With several elements and textures, with the meat as the highlight.

Tandoori cauliflower 
This vegetarian dish is a dive into India, where sambal, masala, jasmine rice, coconut, and chutney joined the party. Once again an excellent contrast of flavors and textures resulting in a vegetarian dish I wouldn’t mind tasting again and again.

Crispy pork cheek, endive, gorgonzola and honey
A signature dish that easily conquers us, the game of textures and the presentation follows the same line of the previous dishes, here with the contrast of the cheese, the honey vinaigrette and the pecan nuts working very well with the pork fat and the bitter side of the endive.

Roasted potatoes in duck fat 
As a side dish, we ordered these roasted potatoes, but in reality, this “simple” dish was probably the most surprising. Flavor and texture, lots of flavors, made of these potatoes the best ones I tasted in a long, long time!

Simple and well executed cocktails, here with the version of a Clover club

Peach, ricotta, pine nut ice cream, sponge cake and honey infused with mint, thyme, and lemon
A light and delicate dessert, very well executed in the combination of flavors, with highlight to the excellent ricotta and the cooking of the fruit. A beautiful ending!

The service could not have been better, seating on the counter, we had plenty of talking themes to go around with the bar staff, always ready to help and to answer any questions about the dishes.

Final Remarks
Despite the warranty of its owners I confess I didn’t arrive with the highest expectations at The Shortmarket Club, however, the surprises kept coming since entering the door (we arrived before opening hours and without reservation and they assured us two seats at the counter right away), to the decor, to the staff and obviously the gastronomic offer. The last one with a bistro concept, simple, comforting, and flavorful, Asian influenced, and fresh, full of herbs, spices and lots of textures.

A pleasant surprise in the center of Cape Town, the right space for a relaxed fine dining meal, in a unique, cosmopolitan environment!

The Shortmarket Club
Average price: 50€/pax without wines
88 Shortmarket Street – Cape Town
+27 021 447 28 74
info@theshortmarketclub.co.za

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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