It’s a crisp November evening when we walk into Arugula Bistro in Welgemoed for the last of its famous food and wine pairings for 2017.
The second-storey room is packed, even though it’s a Tuesday night in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. I find out later than it’s precisely because business used to be slow on Tuesday evenings that owner and chef Neil Swart started the tasting nights.
It wasn’t long before Tuesdays became his busiest days. It was also the start of a big new dream.
First on the 5-course menu for the evening is a quail liver parfait, with cherry compote, hazelnut and bacon crumble paired with Haute Cabriere’s Chardonnay pinot noir. The winery’s eccentric cellar master, Takuan von Arnim, is there to present his wines with the food. He recently took over from his father who bought the farm and started the cellar in the early 1980s.
“I always find it’s a massive contribution to start a meal with a glass of bubbly,” he says. “It just gives you a twinkle in the eye and reminds you why you’re alive. Chardonnay Pinot Noir had never been recreated since champagne was created in the Champagne region of France. It’s a great South African wine and very versatile.”
Arugula’s food and wine pairings have for the past few months served as a taste of what’s to come with Swart’s latest culinary adventure. Early next year he and his partner in crime chef Anouchka Horn are opening a new fine dining eatery in Cape Town. Named Belly of the Beast, the 20-seater restaurant will be a unique dining experience in South African in that it will focus primarily on food and wine tastings. The menu will change every day and will be made up of whatever the chefs can grow, source or cultivate.
The 5 to 8 courses on the menu will be set, depending on what the chefs have planned for the day.
“We’re looking to create an intimate dining experience, so Anouchka and I will do everything from cooking the food to pouring the wine,” says Swart. “We want to do something that’s never been done before.” In that sense they’re halfway there with Belly of the Beast believed to be the first restaurant in South Africa that will be crowdfunded.
A campaign was launched earlier this year via Thundafund, asking people to pledge donations towards the restaurant in return for rewards such as a cooking class at Belly of the Beast or catering for a boutique wedding. Swart needs roughly R600 000 to start the restaurant.
“When Neil started working as a chef I was afraid that he would run out of ideas. He was just 23 and had great ideas, but I was so scared he would run out. As you can see, he never has,” says Deanna, Swart’s wife.
The mysterious location of the restaurant is yet to be announced, but with a name like Belly of the Beast, one can expect nothing less than magnificent.
Find out more about Belly of the Beast HERE.
(Image: Ceili McGeever) The festive season is approaching at lightning speed and along with it, the hoard of visitors making their merry way to the Mother City. ALSO READ: 15 Specialised restaurants and bars in SA that focus on a single food item or drink We’ve put together a useful restaurant guide for anyone you know planning a trip to Cape Town this Summer.