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Eat, drink and…

25th September 19

Eating out is an experience, more than simply a collection of ingredients delivered on a plate. It begins the moment you step out of your car and only ends when you don your coat and exit the restaurant.
A food and wine pairing is a particularly pleasant dining experience, for a number of reasons. To begin with a team of professionals has gone to great lengths to pair a selection of wines with complimentary foods. My approach to choosing a wine for dinner is usually pretty hit and miss, white with fish and red with meat, and that’s about as informed as it gets.

But one of the things I most enjoy about a pairing dinner is its social nature. Everyone in the restaurant is eating exactly the same meal, and drinking exactly the same wine. And they’re all doing so at precisely the same time.

As a result it becomes a shared experience, with complete strangers striking up conversations with the table next door, discussing the merits of each course as it arrives.

The occasion for this meal was a pairing of Anthonij Rupert wines with a four course menu prepared by David Tilley, the executive chef at the Taj Cape Town. And if you thought Tilley was an English name, you’d be wrong. It turns out David Tilley is French. Very French. Listening to him try to pronounce the Afrikaans names of some of the wines was quite amusing.

The pairing dinners venue for our dinner was the Mint Restaurant and Terrace upstairs. Crisp, contemporary and relaxed.

The wines, as already mentioned, were from Anthonij Rupert. Not, we learnt quite emphatically, to be confused with Rupert and Rothschild, which is an entirely different barrel of wine altogether. Before we even reached our table we’d been offered a glass of L’Ormarins Rosé Cap Classique. It’s delicious, dry, only just pink, and full of creamy berry flavours.

The amuse-bouche is followed in short order by the entree. Which might be a little confusing if you happen to be from the other side of the pond, because in the states entree typically refers to the main course. In our case it was the first of four courses, and consisted of cured salmon with vegetable crisps and a citrus gel. Of course there was a gel, just as know there is certain be be at least one jus.

In any event it was delicious, and accompanied by one of the most interesting wines of the evening, the Laing Semillon. The grapes for this wine come from some of the oldest vines in South Africa, grown on the slopes of the Skurfberg Mountain outside Clanwilliam. Which is about as far from traditional wine country as one can get. These bush vines are over 60 years old, and the resultant grapes are rich in flavour, with a long, lingering finish.

The starter followed: ricotta gnocchi with green asparagus and a Masala tomato sauce. Fabulous. If I could have licked my plate clean I would have. (There are some things you just don’t do in public!) It was accompanied by the Riebeeksrivier Caroline, a pleasant and unpretentious wine that paired perfectly with the asparagus and tomato sauce.

Time for the main course, and another wine from the Riebeeksriver vineyard, the Southern Slopes, a shiraz driven blend (with Mourvedre & Petit Syrah). Hints of black cherry with a lingering, earthy spiciness. It was paired with a walnut encrusted rack of lamb and gorgonzola dauphinoise. Plus the obligatory rosemary jus. A fine match, with the food and the wine both doing each other justice.

And finally, dessert. Appropriately named Chocolate Decadence, it was exactly that. A rich, chocolatey indulgence offset by the bitter sweet of fermented raspberries. Accompanied by my favourite wine of the evening, the Basson Pinotage. Like the Laing Semillon earlier in the evening, this wine is named after the farm where the grapes are sourced, in the this case Nooitgedacht, the Basson family farm in the Paardeberg. A delicious wine with a strong noise, upfront berry fruitiness, but still subtle enough to remain interesting. A fitting end to a fabulous meal.

There are 3 Taj Cape Town food pairings remaining for 2019, hurry and book your seats now.

> 4 October - Tokara

> 25 October - Klein Constantia

> 15 November - Simonsig

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