vegan fine dining in cape town
I don't do fancy. I may be 25 years old/young but I still lick my knife despite my dear mother having told me countless times not to. I call all wines "smooth and fruity" even if they're not. My nickname is "Messy Chessie" after my messy eating habits. But hell, how could I say no to trying out the new vegan tasting menu at the fancy Azure restaurant at the 12 Apostles Hotel in Cape Town?!
When I heard they had just launched a four-course vegan menu, I made a booking right away. And I did this despite living in another city. I was that determined to give it a go.
Vegan fine dining in South Africa is pretty much unheard of so all the stops needed to be pulled, including buying an airplane ticket from Durban to Cape Town just to pay the restaurant a visit.
Just kidding, I was planning on coming to Cape Town anyway. But I made sure this menu was on my to-do list while I was back visiting my hometown.
I've always had a weird fascination with this hotel. I recall my mom mentioning to me when I was around 12 years old that Michael Jackson would stay there when he came to Cape Town. Now bizarrely so, I've never been MJ's numero uno fan but for some reason, this little nugget of info lodged itself in my brain for years. I would always think about MJ chilling in some shiny suit and hat at the 12 Apostles every time I drove past it as the years went by - and I drove past it often.
I never thought I would ever get to go inside this mystery, celeb hotel.... But then... I did. And it wasn't as mysterious as I thought and I also didn't get to meet MJ. Oh well.
However, it is one of the most beautiful hotels I've been to and some of the best views Cape Town has to offer.
And how was the food?
Sweet and fruity.
That was an attempt at a joke. Can you tell I don't really know how to review restaurants? I try guys, I try.
I think though, what makes a good menu, especially when it comes to fine dining is not only the taste, but also the variety, plating, textures, and colours. Basically, is the plate a conversation starter, or not?
So on to the food. For real.
A lovely tomato gazpacho in a shot glass was our palate cleanser. It was so delicious, I tried to stick a spoon into the bottom edge of the glass to scrape the remains. Unfortunately, shot glasses are too small for spoons it seems.
We also were given a collection of different breads, including raw seed crackers (yum!) with a red pepper hummus. We initially were given butter and salmon paté which was surprising but I guess it was a slip-up and misunderstanding. Once we explained that we couldn't eat it and why, we were served a nice big bowl of hummus. Obviously as a vegan being served animal products is not only an inconvenience as you have to ask for things to be sent back, but it can even be seen as offensive. When we explained to the waiter to change it, the mistake was corrected. Being a vegan is considered "weird" to some people so I don't feel the need to get angry or upset at someone who doesn't fully understand what veganism means.
I love beetroot but I never really cook it, mainly because I don't know how to make it taste delicious. I mean, it's great when roasted but how can I make it different and exciting? Well, Azure showed me how it really can be done with their Barbecued Beetroot. This starter comprised of salt baked beetroot, burnt orange, BBQ dressing, and pickled beets. Super yum. I licked the plate clean.
the second starter (or baby main?)
Next up was Nouvelle Mushrooms. Don't worry, I didn't know what that meant either. The menu stated it was roasted shitatke, forest mushroom consommé, mushroom ketchup, and picked shimeji. Still confused? I don't blame you. Guess you will have to go to the restaurant to try it out for yourself! ;)
This dish was my absolute favourite! The intricacies of this dish, from the variety of the tiny mushrooms (some that were small I almost didn't see them!) to the delicate consommé, just astounded me. The waitress even laughed at how excited I was. Who wants to go foraging mushrooms with me?!
I love tofu and I love butternut so when I saw the two paired together, I knew this was going to be a goodie! The main dish was a colourful and textured plate of Roast Butternut Tofu, made with corn succotash, slow cooked white beans, yellow baby carrots, wilted baby spinach and chunky herb oil. I think they may have infused the tofu with butternut as the colour was a gorgeous orange. It was a striking-looking plate of food indeed.
Hmmmm, caramelised nuts! My weakness. If you want to get into my heart, give me caramelised nuts, rotis, sweet potato, dates and tahini. That actually sounds like a freaking epic meal... We may be onto something here. But that's another story.
Dessert was Caramelised Pineapple with a pineapple salad, pina colada sorbet, and caramelised nuts. There were even rose petals on the plate - now I'm really living up to my name @francescaeatsroses :D It was sweet, satisfying and I wanted more! A winner dessert that I would happily have again.
I thoroughly enjoyed my multiple courses at Azure. For Cape Town (and South Africa) this menu shows massive steps in restaurants being more and more accommodating to vegans. What's also great is that non-vegans can order a dish or two off this menu; you don't have to eat the entire four-course menu, meaning that more people can try a vegan meal without having to commit to what may be a daunting menu to try in one go. It is very costly though - close to R500 per person so maybe reserve it for a special occasion. It's worth it.
If you're living in Cape Town, or are visiting the city soon, definitely set some time to give the menu a try and to show your support! The more people who express interest in this menu (and others like it), the more vegan options we will see cropping up over time! And that's the goal, right?
Thanks for the lunch 12 Apostles!