The setting is the most breathtaking of any restaurant I’ve been to in Cape Town. For tables of 4 or less you get to get to choose a table by the window looking over BoKaap, the harbour, Greenpoint or the city. For larger tables you get the spot on the translucent blue glass in what feels like a private dining room. As the sun sets you get this aerial view over the city toward the sea, and after the dusk has turned to darkness you’re high up above the distant lights making their way up the mountain. It’s worth the visit for the view alone. Book to be there half an hour before sunset. The manager even said he’d put in a good word with the powers that be because the sunset on the night we went paled into grey without an explosion of vibrant colour. I can imagine a picture perfect sunset view from the terrace on a warm summer evening would be the ideal romantic spot.
You can opt for the 5 course tasting menu which comes in regular or vegetarian, or you can select a-la-carte. One of our party has a severely limited fine dining palette so she had meat and mash, and the rest of us opted for one of the two versions of the tasting menu.
Surprisingly the vegetarian menu had some winning dishes over the carnivores. I’m all for veggies but given the choice, I’m going for the meat option. My wife chose the vegetarian because she insists that ostriches have eyelashes and she can’t bring herself to eat game. Cows have huge eyelashes, just saying. Anyway, we each got to taste everything, except for the Blesbok dish which my wife declined citing something about eyelashes that I couldn’t hear over the explosion of flavour going on in my mouth. Best dishes for me were the vegetarian starter, the prawn starter, and the Blesbok (already said that, but it’s so good I’ll say it twice). Dessert was the same for both sides and had the entire table steeped in a moment of food-worship silence with a lot of people praying, or at least calling on the name of their maker a few times. The fish dish for the carnivores was bland and could happily have been left off the menu or in the kitchen. I’d rather have had a dollop of what the vegetarians had than the fish skewers – they need a lot more re-imagination. This was the only disappointing dish of the evening.
Their wines are pricey, so the Jewish wine conneseur in me went for the house wines which included a MAN Family Wines Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc with the breads, the sunset and the first 2 courses – a complex wine with a wonderfully rich character, and then a M.A.N. Skaapveld Syrah – also delicious and a great accomplice to the quality of the 2 red meat dishes and dessert.
Service didn’t match the calibre of the food though. When you’re fine dining, there’s an equally highly expectation from the service staff that was lacking here. Dishes need to be explained as they’re delivered with the kind of finesse that makes you oooh and aaah as each element is explained – this was sadly lacking here. One of the 5 dishes was delivered with a hurried explanation while the other four courses were simply placed on the table. It’s a part of the dining fantasy that plays on the anticipation and the feeling of being entertained. In addition, sometimes we had to flag our waiter down, sometimes he was there.
I would call it as the name suggests – elevated dining. It’s a close runner up to a fine dining night out, but to be called fine dining in my book there’s a bit of work to be done.
The menu price is fair, but the wines except for the house wines are pricey. The food is exceptional but there were also underwhelming courses that downgraded the overall experience. The view is unmatched and it’s worth going for the view at sunset going into the night lights. Rather go in tables of 2 to 4 to secure a table by the window.
Links: Utopia Cape Town