La Belle Restaurant At The Alphen

By December 2014, my end to the working year commenced with the beginning of what was set to be one of my most enjoyable Summer holidays to date.

Specifically, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend lunch at what is quite possibly the most charming hotel in the Cape. By charming, I mean that The Alphen in Constantia ticks all of the prerequisite boxes that fit the description of a hotel being: With in a country-like setting, amidst picturesque and rollicking gardens resplendent with perfectly manicured lawns and topiary-cut hedges, old-school décor, period-architecture and superbly groomed and well-mannered staff.

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In other words, a visit to the institution known as The Alphen is quite possibly your closest bet to hopping into a time machine and travelling back to a bygone-era reminiscent of an opulent Summer-time Soiree in a Jane Austen novel.

As mentioned, The Alphen offers one the choice of what best suits your mood when wanting to tuck into something scrumptious. So although Rose Bar does offer a fine selection of food more aligned to the ‘comfort eating’ category, La Belle caters to a guest who is more after a healthy and substantial lunch in a bustling bistro environment. The restaurant also includes a REALLY decadent section which is quite simply the most glorious offering of baked goods that I have ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes on. Now, as most of you know, I am staying truly committed to my Banting diet this season, so had to forgo the temptation to tuck into a slice of home-made cheesecake or a beautiful hand-crafted Macaroon. But take heed, for my fortnightly cheat-day this month, the La Belle Bakery will be my first point-of-call for which to commit total Carbocide (An analogy for almost committing suicide from over-indulgence of Carbohydrates!)

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Whilst seated under a great big brollie in the quant outdoor dining area (again framed by those massive old Oak trees), us four friends enjoyed what was an utterly sublime and hearty lunch. The menu offers a simple yet succinct selection of classics and favourites which all seem to be made in a traditional ‘farm-style, rustic and bistro’ form of preparation and presentation. Matt and I chose their deep-fried Kingklip, purely due to the fact that the rise of old-school fish and chips has most definitely made a come-back in the Cape Town foodie scene, and I am currently on the hunt for the Mother City’s BEST fish and chips recipe.

Spotting a twist to this classic in the form of the Kingklip as opposed to the usual Hake was a must for me to try. And disappointed we were not. The batter was light and crispy enough to justify me eating my full portion and not picking off most of the crust as I do in most restaurants when confronted by a piece of fish drowning in batter so thick once needs a microscope and tweezers to actually find the poor little piece of aquatic meat. In other words, this Fish recipe is arguably on my top 5 list for one of the best fish and chips combos I have yet sampled at a Cape Town eatery.

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Similarly, the chips (although I was disciplined enough to only have a few) were hand-made, chunky and fresh. I had to all but sit on my hands to stop myself from polishing off the lot! Accompanied by a made-from-scratch tomato sauce and the interesting addition of cottage cheese as opposed to the usual tartare sauce, this dish was a winner. Nikita enjoyed the Crispy Skin Norwegian Salmon which came with sautéed new potatoes and a cauliflower puree. Cauliflower puree is an alternative to mashed potatoes that I have seen many upmarket restaurants adding as accompaniments to dishes as of late, and I am pleased to say that La Belle got it bang on point. Cauliflower mash or puree can often become watery or taste totally flavourless – even though many prefer it to eating mash as it is ultimately the low-carb option.

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However, if this side dish tastes awful, it can ruin a good piece of meat or fish. I am happy to say that, again, La Belle got it right and it went remarkably well with the crisp-on-the-outside but gloriously pink and succulent on the inside Salmon. Byron’s old-fashioned Chicken Pie was thankfully presented the RIGHT way: complete with leeks, thyme , mash and mushrooms. Although I didn’t have the chance to taste it, the smell alone confirmed my suspicions that this pie is indeed the closest thing you are going to taste to your Grandmas Chicken pies that you remember from your childhood!

Please note, that for a more lavish affair, 5 Rooms restaurant at The Alphen is your best bet for a fine-dining romantic experience with your lover or companion. It’s a dress-up-to-the-nines, exquisitely decorated eatery which has the addition of live Jazz on the weekends as well as the historically-on-the-nose offering of high-tea ala Mount Nelson DAILY.

If you haven’t yet treated yourself to the Alphen experience, take my advice and make your next monthly treat a reservation at one of their 3 superb restaurants. Remember to stay tuned to The What The Food Show on 2oceansvibe Radio this month as I will be bringing you some exciting offerings from this magnificent establishments!

Until next time, happy eating!

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