Review: La Tête on Bree Street
I am not much of a meat eater. I will make exceptions when I am trying a restaurant for the first time and meat is included in a signature dish, or if I am at a work event, but generally will avoid red meat and chicken for ethical reasons. La Tête was a night that I was definitely going to make an exception for.
The anticipation was flying as it was my first time dining at a nose to tail style eatery, and also knowing that chef Giles Edwards’ ability stems directly from London’s most prolific restaurant in this genre.
Nose to tail means eating the whole animal and not wasting any bones, organs and other parts butchers usually throw away. We are used to eating the muscle tissue in the form of fillet, sirloin, rump and the like, but by using the animal’s entirety, the process of eating meat becomes far more sustainable and nutritional.
Fergus Henderson pioneered this methodology and wrote 3 books on the subject and has 3 restaurants under the name St John, the first opening in 1994, in London. The restaurants and Henderson himself have become iconic in the UK food scene, reinventing British cuisine and is certainly the reason for the revival of offal and other parts of the animal seen on many upmarket menus today. His famous quote sums up his ideology perfectly: “If you’re going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing” (The Whole Beast, 2004).
Giles worked for the St. John group for many years during his time in London, but has returned to Cape Town, after a series of pop-ups, before opening La Tête which pays homage to St. John. La Tête follows Henderson’s approach while incorporating significant South African flair and local ingredients.
Chicory and anchovy paste – complimentary hors d’oeuvres.
Everything is fresh, locally sourced and prepared for the day it’s made. Each day the menu will change from lunch to dinner as the offering changes based on availability.
The space is strictly minimalist, with stark white walls, a concrete floor, stained dark wood tables and black bowl-like pendent lights. The rectangular room feels like a sophisticated canteen, and isn’t at all cold as one would expect. This is helped with the matching white ‘artworks’ on the wall – perforated board that helps the acoustics. Acoustics in a restaurant feels like a last cause and a totally ignored element in restaurant design in Cape Town, so I was well-pleased.
For those like me who need to wrap their head around the concept before they eat an ox heart, you will be pleasantly surprised. The food was nothing short of exquisite and the freshness of everything from cucumber to mussels to lamb ham showed through in flavour and texture.
The quality of ingredients was evident throughout, and each dish really displayed Giles’ eagerness to deliver and his genuine respect of good food. He also came out to discuss the menu which showed just how dedicated he is in upholding the restaurant concept and making sure diners understand it and enjoy it.
We were a group of four which made it easy to taste almost everything. We started off by sharing a few starters which included pigs head, duck rillette, octopus and fennel salad, West coast muscles with leeks and bacon and a cucumber, samphire and kohlrabi salad. Giles knows exactly how to balance his dishes, making sure that with every rich, fatty element comes something lighter and zesty. He does this throughout never letting one dish take over another, it’s like one massive balancing act and despite the meat eating, I never got that heavy feeling I get from a steak, even after the mains.
So the ox heart apparently had to be ordered, as did the lamb ham, so I pushed for the hake. The lamb won here. It was in a broth (no doubt where the bones were used), and it was served with sliced onions, turnips and a herby green sauce. Again the oiliness of the broth meets the fresh herbs and onion and it is perfection.
The ox heart was pretty much like thinly sliced pieces of steak with a fairly dry texture, served with the finest home made chips and homemade tomato sauce. The chips and tomato sauce could honestly have me back for them alone!
The dessert was the cherry on top of one of the best dinners I’ve had in a while: a cherry Bakewell tart and an ice cream-filled profiterole and chocolate sauce. It doesn’t get much better than that. The cherry tart was love on a plate and the perfect close to Giles’ unwavering performance.
Every dish was simple yet eloquent and full of flavour. The concept might take some people time to get used to but if red meat isn’t for you, then go for the seafood options which are superb. Vegetarians won’t find much unfortunately but there is usually at least one option on the menu, as well as the cucumber, samphire salad which I would have again and again.
This is definitely the new it spot in town. La Tête is effortlessly chic, serving proper, down-to-earth food that sings of quality with every bite.
Dinner expenses were paid for independently.