Sunday, December 25, 2011

Signal (Capetown) 12/2011

onderfully situated opposite the Waterfront mall, which is occupied by every sort of shop, Cape Grace Hotel (CGH) has harbour views from every room. The place has style and elegance. Boasting 400 whisky’s they offer various priced tasting experiences, as well as very reasonably interesting wine tasting session. The main dining room “Signal” named after the blast signifying 12 noon daily, is partly partitioned into several areas. Chairs are extremely comfortable.Tables are well spaced, set with double white cloths, and good cutlery.There are large shipping scenes on the wall and magnificent chandeliers. They are diminished in our eyes by having copper or china equipment hanging among the crystals. Breakfast is either a ‘Little Breakfast’ (SAR45, about A$6) of one cooked course, a Continental breakfast (SAR95) off a buffet which is the usual stuff with the added attraction of freshly shucked oysters. I had a serve of seven of the creamy beasts which retained a distinct flavour of the sea. Their ‘Full Breakfast’ (SAR160) included the buffet and a hot cooked dishes, mostly eggs with choice of all, or any, of bacon, pork or beef sausages, steak, kippers, grilled tomato, mushrooms, hash browns and baked beans.
The breakfast table.
Every thing was very well prepared. This is a steal at this extraordinary low price for a very fine meal. The buffet is the usual selection of cold cuts serials pastries and so on, all extremely fresh. The cooked meals were also very good and served quite efficiently.
Eggs Benedic

Poached eggs.Lunch included ox tail ravioli, saffron infused quinoa and chilled spicy tomato soup which was not over spiced and smoked tomato risotto stuffed squid, beetroot puree, bone marrow jus and crispy kataifi as starters. The risotto bore no resemblance to an Italian risotto being virtually a puree but, ignoring the name it was a great idea and a most appealing, very mild flavoured entrée. Mains were Malay spiced springbok loin, cumin crusted loin of lamb rack or home made tagliattle which was wonderful and one of my favourite comfort meals, fish and chips. Kingklip was very suitrd and was even better in it's very crisp beer batter. Unfortunately the chips were rather limp.
Desserts included Chocolate pave, blue berry financier and artisanal dishes cheese dishes. Once again the preparation of every dish we tasted was of the best quality. We decided to have a crayfish as the one we had the previous night, as part of a degustation meal had been so very good. Sweet and tender with fine fibres. This turned out to be a mistake. Instead of a whole cray, as we had seen others eating, we got nothing more than a very small tail. We also ordered this without carrots and beans but it came with them regardless. This photo exaggerates the size of the cray.Subsequently we spoke with the manager who promised that if humanly possible he would get crayfish for us for dinner the next night.This eventually resulted in two much larger lobsters, one Thermidor, with a brandy sauce and cheese and the other with a mornay sauce.

They were supposed to have been served with saffron rice. First plain rice and then some sort of pilau were sent out. No saffron was ever sighted. We then waited over 35 minutes for three scoops of sorbetwhich were a little gritty with small ice chips in them.


The degustation dinner is five courses for SAR425 or SAR625 with matched wine. There is also a vegan five course meal for SAR350 or 550. At about 8 SAR to one US or A dollar this is remarkably inexpensive. In our experience the wines alone would cost substantially more than these meals, including the food. The first course was pistachio crusted duck liver parfait with spiced apple espuma. This was very smooth and the apple quite sweet. The villera tradition brut rose nv had a light sweetness which went particularly well with this dish. If I had any complaint it was that it was a very small serve. Butter poached crayfish, crispy chilli salted sweetbread, sweetcorn puree and spiced tomato relish looked a lot on the plate but it was a skimpy serve with only half a small lobster tail. The tail was excellent and the Ruperrt and Rothschild Baroness Nadine chardonnay improved it particularly because the bland sweetcorn puree needed some acidity. Seared franchoek trout, potato gnocchi, caramelized fennel, orange gremolata and liquorice foam was new to us. The trout was fairly firm and quite salty. The gnocchi soft and fine. We loved the fennel but the gremolate needed a mass spectrometer to find it and the liquorice foam was, as far as I could tell, present only in spirit it had no substance and no flavour. Because the salmon came with a chilli marinade Sandra had a local fish, Kingclip, which has a cod like character with a firm white flesh which easily separates along the muscle plains. The flesh does not have any fishy odour and is moist and tender if not overcooked.The Rudera Robusta chenin blanc 2008 helped to make this somewhat disparate conglomeration of elements into a complete dish. It was aromatic light, and fairly dry. A winter melon and lime sorbet was an effective palate cleanser. The last of the main courses was a 21 day extra air dried sirloin, ox tail croquette, goats cheese cannelloni, carrot puree, pickled celeriac and juniper juice, served with a Constantia Sebastiaan 2000. This was lightly cooked meat, quite tender, and juicy, would not be out of place in any meat restaurant. We always make a point of asking for our meat to be as rare as possible which, sometimes, is far from rare. Finally dessert vanilla cream, crumble, cinnamon jelly and nartjie sorbet was served with a sweet wine with no sign of botrytis, or bitterness. It was the 2005 signal hill Vin de la Empereur. This was a meal where the wine matching was exceptional. Unfortunately the service was very slow. The staff were all charming despite being forgetful.

Offered a clean serviette after I spilled a little water was nice and expected but it never appeared, wrong orders were also delivered at times. They seem to have the chef plating every dish so we waited 35 minutes for three scoops of ice cream. This is a result of the way the kitchen is organized and the general policy of not starting to prepare the next course until the table is cleared from the previous one .They also have significant communication problems so a discussion and pre arrangement the previous night was news to the staff the next day.

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