A full-on fine-dining experience at Benguela on Main in the heart of Somerset West
If you think of fine dining outside Cape Town, it’s the wine estates that first spring to mind. However, Benguela on Main, which opened last year in the centre of Somerset West, is bucking that trend. Part of the Benguela Cove stable, it’s an elegant contemporary space with a touch of the avant garde in the figurative paintings and sculptures.
The a la carte menu provides a lighter meal, but the Benguela experience is really about the chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings and lingering long into the evening over the many courses of intriguing and complex dishes. There were seven courses paired with wines and many imaginative extras in between: a fun snack platter with spicy caramelised popcorn and smoked fish croquettes, a far too tempting fennel brioche bread board with mushroom tapenade, a palate cleanser of a salted pineapple and celery lolly which arrived smoking on dry ice, and the gorgeous tree of petits fours with coffee – dramatic twists that add to the sense of occasion.
Chef Jean Delport clearly delights in playing with flavours and textures, and the wine pairings took it to the next level, with a knowledgeable sommelier telling us about each. “The food comes first – we’ve got quite an extensive wine list, and we’ll also buy in wines for a specific dish that we think would work well. It’s all about the experience – whatever completes the dish,” says Jean.
Ginger is one of the hardest ingredients to pair with wine, says Jean, and his solution was interesting: the carrot and scallop starter was paired with an unusually smooth mellow viognier from Hilton Vineyards, which after a mouthful of scallop dressed in vermouth and ginger became zesty and lively. We enjoyed the ocean delicacy of the black squid crisp layered with sea bass, prawns, asparagus and samphire paired with a Benguela Cove Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, and the balance in the goat’s cheese snowball bridging savoury and sweet with apple and honeycomb paired with an appley Riesling from Paul Cluver. There were many more taste adventures in between, culminating in a gorgeous dark chocolate marquise with berries and a sparkle of candy pop to revive the palate after the well-paced three-hour dining extravaganza.
Benguela on Main
087 357 0637
Words: Kit Heathcock | Images: Supplied