Constantia Uitsig restaurant is firmly nestled in the beautiful vineyards of the rolling farm of the same name. It shares its home with the award-winning La Colombe and the lovely River Café and is an establishment that can without doubt, hold its own.
Clayton Bell, has lovingly built a solid name over the years of serious Italian food with a rustic feel and the odd dose of the Pacific rim. He has a strong and loyal patronage, and it is Richard Branson’s favourite restaurant when he jets to our shores.
He explains with a quiet intensity that their mantra is fresh, seasonal ingredients and he will only allow the very best ingredients in his kitchen.
Having been there for 12 years, Uitsig has become his second home. He talks of his ‘family’ with pride and believes in a happy kitchen, there is no knife-throwing or hand-boiling for his lucky staff.
His calm demeanour filters down into all who work there and we savoured a blissful meal whilst looking out onto an astonishing view.
We chatted to Clayton:
Q: Where did your love of cooking begin – can you pinpoint an incident or moment when you knew this would be your future?
A: My love for cooking began while I was working in a 1 star Michelin restaurant in London called the Square beginning in 1992.
Q:What do you love most about food and cooking?
A: Starting with a raw product and finishing up with a sublime finished dish, taking care and passion.
Q: What instrument do you feel you cannot go without in the kitchen?
A: A chefs knife.
Q: What, in your opinion is the most underrated ingredient?
A: Olive oil, as it can offer an extra dimension to a dish.
Q: What is the most exotic thing you have ever cooked with or tasted?
A: A white truffle which I served on shaved on scrambled eggs for my family at home (my two sons loved it at the time they were 2 and 4).
Q: What is the worst meal you’ve ever cooked?
A: Springbok shanks which were cooked for hours and would not become tender!
Q: What is the best meal you’ve had in 2009?
A: A meal at La Colombe.
Q: What is your most successful seduction meal?
A: A mushroom Panzerotti with a truffle cream topped with shaved fresh truffles.
Q: If you could have anyone cook for you – who would it be?
A: It would have to have been Frank Swainston in his prime years of cooking, but today I would not mind having a meal produced by Thomas Keller.
Q: Who would you like to sit down for dinner with – anyone in the world, pick 6 people?
A: David Duchovny, Megan Fox, Nigel Slater, Eddie Izzard, Meg Ryan and Lucas Radebe.
Q: What would be your top foodie destination?
A: Italy, as it is where my tastes lie.
Q: Your top recipe book of the moment?
A: The Complete Robuchon by Joel Robuchon.
Q: What is your favourite place to eat out in SA?
A: Haiku, for the combination of flavours.
Q: Food hero?
A: Frank Swainston, he taught me the passion of flavour.
Q: Food villain?
A: Anybody who dos not cook from the heart.