Vegan Fine Dining. Not something a local or even a visitor would expect to find on offer in Cape Town but this past weekend I was proven wrong as I donned my fancy pants, shined my shoes and headed to the Azure Restaurant at the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa to experience their new Vegan Tasting Menu.
Address: Victoria Rd, Camps Bay
Hours: 7am-10:30am, 12:30pm-3:30pm, 6pm-10pm Mon-Sun
Due to an undeniable demand for more vegan options worldwide, Azure Restaurant’s Food and Beverage Manager, Hilton Ruch and Executive Chef, Christo Pretorius, responded by creating a 4-course tasting menu simply titled Taste of Nature.
To start off we enjoyed some delicious homemade bread, hummus and seed crackers, which was swiftly followed by our first course, simply titled Barbequed Beetroot.
The title is where the simple part ends as the unassuming beet was prepared in various ways on the plate to create complex and contrasting textures and flavours, with the sweetness of the salt-baked beetroot balanced perfectly against the pickled beets. This was also complemented by the recommendation from Richard our sommelier to pair it with the Jordan 2016 Riesling (part Azure’s suggested wine pairing option). This was definitely a great opening dish which was beautifully presented. Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself saying “Oh, wow!” when it is placed in front of you!
The Nouvelle Mushrooms followed as the second course of four and what worked reasonably well with this dish was the robust flavour from the roasted shitake offset against the other less flavoursome mushrooms (possibly oyster, but I’m not sure?).
I personally find more often than not that mushrooms can be on the bland side. My main reservation though is that mushrooms have a naturally high water content and by adding the forest mushroom consommé to the dish it makes it all rather wet but this is perhaps more of a personal preference than a knock at the dish or its presentation.
The third course and what I would label as the main course of the tasting menu (based on size, quantity and the inclusion of a reliable protein source) was the Roast Butternut Tofu.
This was probably the most interesting and palate-pleasing dish on the menu which once again played with a number of different tastes and textures. The tofu had the right balance of firmness and flavour and the corn succotash gave an unexpected crunch to the dish against the softer textures of the slow-cooked white beans and spinach. A tasty, wholesome dish that truly satisfied.
Now, you may have figured by now that I have a weakness for anything sweet which means I LOVE my desserts! Caramalised Pineapple with a pina colada sorbet had us almost licking the plate which, given our setting would have been highly inappropriate! Definitely a winner!
As with most tasting menus, portion sizes are not the focus, but rather the quality of the ingredients. The perfect timing between the courses didn’t leave us feeling hungry at all as the evening was all about having a relaxed dining and intimate experience.
The tasting menu is priced at R475 (and an additional R250 for wine pairing) which I would argue is slightly overpriced. In Azure’s defence however what must be considered is that you are not just paying for the cooking skill and presentation from Chef Christo and his team, but the fantastic service throughout from the waiters and sommelier as well as the views and ambience that a hotel like the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa offers. This is not your average, everyday dinner, but great for a special occasion.
Ultimately, what has to be acknowledged (and applauded) is that an establishment such as the 12 Apostles is taking notice of what is happening within the vegan movement and they are responding to that. Food and Beverage Manager, Hilton Ruch says they have plans to develop further vegan offerings on the menu (which may possibly include a High Tea #mysuggestion) which if they do, will have me running back through the door faster than you can say Caster Semenya.