The Greenhouse

Dear people who eat,

Do you like to lunch in pleasant surroundings?

Do you enjoy nice food?

If you answered yes to both of those questions with no qualifications, then The Greenhouse may be wasted on you, because “nice” and “pleasant” are what we in the business of any thinking person like to call aggressively average. The Greenhouse is by no means average (nor aggressive).

We went because they’re currently running a winter lunch special which promises four courses for R395, which is a pretty good deal for a restaurant headed by a chef with an impressive list of accolades, and who was apparently born wielding a wooden spoon. But when we got there it, we were faced with a choice of a “special” or an “experience”. (Plus, their booze list is called a “Book of Beverages”, and includes a chapter index.) What would you have done?

Correct answer. And so our experience began. First up, seaweed daaltjie with smoked snoek dip; pickled fish with mango atchar; poached Hermanus abalone with braised kelp and egg custard. There’s little point in looking for silly adjectives here — they were all excellently prepared and thoroughly delicious.

Onward to The Butcher Bird’s pantry, complete with a sweetbread, sherry and chocolate “king kone”.

Holy shit.

Two little snacks of a duck breast taco and a duck confit something else with seeds and a chenin syrup were impaled on a likeliness of the barbed wire this bird enjoys using as a pantry. If anything could represent murderous psychopathic bird activities as charming, this would be it — especially since there were also madumbi chips with duck liver parfait and port jelly. And the king kone was what every actual King Cone dreams of tasting like when it grows up. (Hint — it includes real chocolate.)

Then, for a little carb action, mielie bread with popcorn butter and bacon brioche with banana cream (which makes complete sense if you were Elvis, or grew up eating at Wimpy in South Africa — though they seem to now have replaced this classic burger option with something served with mushrooms and no bun. Thanks a lot, Prof Noakes).

Mielie (corn) bread and popcorn butter is a remarkable thing. Bacon brioche and banana cream probably could have been too, but were both sadly a bit too subtle here.

Correctly judging that our palates were amoused [sic] enough by all the snacks, “lunch” started with a piece of Atlantic tuna served with kimchi, radish, compressed apple and a kind of sesame sauce:

You know one of those rare moments when every blob on a plate actually does a job rather than just looking pretty? That.

Crustacean “tea” (langoustine tail, prawn ceviche, onion purée, and an added consommé brewed as tea at the table, served with a little prawn goodness in brik pastry):

Feeling sated yet? We were, a little. But we soldiered onto the Outeniqua springbok with green bean “risotto” with miso, bonito flakes, and venison vinaigrette, which was presented as a springbok take on a Salade niçoise. It was certainly delicious, though we agreed that the vinegar kind of overpowered the springbok. In the infinite wisdom of hindsight, we probably could have done without this and the bacon-banana number.

Next was a salted celery refresher, which was perhaps the most inspired taste of the day. Picture a mortar with a small pile of celery leaves placed in front of you, to which a server adds a careful but billowing drizzle of liquid nitrogen. Another hand steps in with a pestle to grind those now dry-frozen leaves to powder. Enter a scoop of perfectly smooth, salty celery sorbet. Proceed to enjoy the best palate cleanse you’ve ever experienced.

It was then time, dear reader, for the “main course”, of Karoo lamb done two ways, and pumpkin done some other way:

Completely unnecessary, but utterly delicious (though one of us may have asked for a little bit of salt for lamb shank, because let’s face it, all shanks need a bit of help in that department).

Pre-sugar was a sorbet dish of chamomile, yoghurt and grapefruit, and what a sorbet it was:

Actual sugar was a parfait with a lemon jelly filling, a sheet of burnt sugar, and a rooibos, honey and lemon syrup, and what a parfait it was (even if Lady J can’t stand rooibos):

Post-sugar (bear with us!) was a woodwork of delights, coffee and grappa, which may have included a birthday message for one of us (or the tree!):

11 courses and a remarkable experience behind us, we did the responsible thing and Uber-ed back to the comfort of couches (and perhaps another glass of wine).

Regrets?

None from our side. Though if I were the server who took our coffee order and remarked that “ladies don’t often ask for grappa”, I may want to rethink that quip.

Otherwise highly recommended. And ladies — get the grappa. You deserve it.

Yours Sincerely,

The Lunching Ladies


Originally published at 2ladieswholunchblog.wordpress.com on June 28, 2017.