TripAdvisor, the world’s largest and most trusted travel website, announced its top fine dining restaurants for 2018 in the Traveler’s Choice Awards, with La Colombe in Constantia being named sixth best in the world, up one spot from the previous year.
“La Colombe has consistently received worldwide acclaim, and our passionate team is extremely proud to be recognised amongst the top restaurants in the world,” said chef proprietor Scot Kirton, winner of the Eat Out S. Pellegrino Chef of the Year Award in 2015.
At last year’s Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards, La Colombe ranked third (up from seventh place the previous year), with its offshoot La Petite Colombe in Franschhoek ranking fifth and Kirton’s other restaurant Foxcroft, a previous winner of the Eat Out Retail Capital New Restaurant of the Year, ending up as a finalist for the top twenty in South Africa.
“What an incredible honour and privilege it is to receive this,” said executive chef James Gaag, who joined La Colombe as a third-year student in 2010 and because of his hard work and determination, rose through the ranks. “Most importantly I’d like to thank Scot. He’s given us an incredible opportunity and chance to put our own stamp on each of our own restaurants. I am incredibly grateful and thankful.”
From the minute one walks into the restaurant, originally founded on the historic Constantia Uitsig wine estate but now located under new ownership at the picturesque Silvermist organic wine estate at the top of Constantia Nek, it’s easy to see why it’s been so lauded over the years. As winner of the Eat Out John Psillos Award for Outstanding Contribution to Service as well as the Eat Out Nespresso Service Excellence Award, it’s not-surprising service was on top form throughout the meal.
Just as outstanding was the food, which is based on Kirton’s philosophy of fusing Asian and French cuisine. The restaurant offers a gourmand menu and a vegetarian menu, both of which can either be full or reduced and with or without wine pairing. The decision on which to take depends on your appetite (and your budget), but the idea is to go for the full experience if you’re able to handle what amounts to around a dozen courses.
“When it comes to food, I believe that flavour comes first,” says Gaag, who, as part of his studies, worked in top South African restaurants including Jardine, Greenhouse, Terroir, Maze, and Nobu. “Food needs to be immediately delicious and inviting, not overthought, overworked, or overcomplicated. Flavour is paramount and key in making great food and also running a great kitchen. Making it look pretty is where we get to have a bit of fun as chefs. And yes, we eat with our eyes first, but ultimately flavour is what makes the guests come back.”
Indeed, one of the most enjoyable aspects about La Colombe is the ever-present playful touch, all in line with the trademark forest theme that received an upgrade after an extensive six-week renovation last year. It begins with a palate cleanser as you walk through the door, continues to the famous sealed ‘tuna’ dish, and ends with flavours from the garden, where it feels like you’re foraging for sweet treats.
What’s next for La Colombe? Alongside La Pettie Colombe at Le Quartier Français, Kirton has opened Protégé, an exciting new casual fine-dining eatery. “The hardest thing about being a chef is finding inspiration and coming up with new ideas,” he says. “Sometimes you get trapped in a shell where you can’t be creative. The hardest part is coming out of that shell and coming up with different flavour combinations to evolve the restaurant and keep guests coming back for more. If you can get that right, you can do anything.”
Videos courtesy of: www.eatout.co.za.
If you go: www.lacolombe.co.za.