WORDS: CATHERINE BLACK | IMAGES: SUPPLIED
Dynamic Michelin star-trained chef duo Tim Stewart and Tyeya Ngxola first met each other while studying at Alma (The International School of Italian Cuisine) in Parma, Italy, when they began hatching plans for their new restaurant back home. A few years later, the result is La Petite Maison, an intimate and elegant Parisian-style bistro and wine bar tucked into Melville’s vibrant 7th Street. With dishes with names like Hogsback, Magaliesberg and The Karoo, the menu is a South African culinary journey using French technique. We chatted to Tim to find out more.
Q: Why did you choose Melville as your location?
A: It’s vibrant and colourful and has such a rich footprint – from its art galleries and second-hand bookshops, to the multitude of coffee shops and restaurants. Originally La Petite Maison was an adult shop called Kink, and just before we moved in, it was a dilapidated Peruvian hair salon. When we walked in for the first time, the space loudly screamed “Parisian wine bar!” We want to replicate this feeling, while also packing a unique South African punch.
Q: What’s your food philosophy?
A: We think of our menu as a map. We want to take diners on a journey through the South African landscape – the spine of each dish comes from a different locality, and we try to replicate that on a plate. Our four main food pillars are naturality, seasonality, simplicity and rawness.
Q: What are your stand-out dishes?
A: We love cooking our risotto, The Atlantic. It’s complex, and takes both skill and timing. It’s also unconventional in the sense that we emulsify it with squid ink, which is ironic as it’s named after the Atlantic and also looks like an oil spill!
Q: You have a standard menu as well as a vegan option. Why did you go the vegan route, as opposed to just vegetarian?
A: We felt that having completely vegan options was a massive challenge that we wanted to take on. With a vegan dish you can’t hide behind things like butter and fats that can enhance a product. We want to make sure that no matter what your beliefs or dietary preferences, there’s something here for you.
Q: Tell us more about your wine list?
A: We stock rare, boutique wines, and many are completely natural and unfiltered. We aimed to include wines that reflected our own conviction that if something is good, it’s good, regardless of whether you follow the rules or not. Our wines are small batch, and often weird and wonderful, such as our Vin de Soif – a white merlot – by Magna Carta.