Overlooking an exquisite stretch of the Atlantic Ocean in a leafy pocket of Camps Bay, Salsify at The Roundhouse is one of Cape Town’s finest. Co-owned by superstar chef Luke Dale Roberts and Ryan Cole (who served as Luke’s head chef at The Test Kitchen for three years), the restaurant certainly has the culinary clout to attract Michelin inspectors, but I’m not sure that’s the point.
Local and very lekker
Drawing inspiration from the eatery’s name (a root vegetable with a unique flavour), 30-year-old Ryan and his consummate team have created a series of perfectly restrained and utterly compelling dishes – with delightful views, chic interiors and excellent service enhancing the overall experience.
When the restaurant opened in December 2018, Ryan was clear about the concept: “We’re not trying to be a Test Kitchen,” he explained. “We will develop our own signature and style, pushing the boundaries of flavour and technique as we go.” Which is an understatement of note. Every dish is a miniature wonder. The pine needle gravlax with powdered amasi and hot mustard and apple, for example, was skillfully and sensitively prepared – refined, unshowy, satisfying. The same can be said for all the dishes we tasted.
Fish features prominently – appropriate, given the restaurant’s ocean-facing setting. But, actually, the pescatarian bent comes from Ryan’s background. “My father was a career fisherman and my brother is one too; it’s in my DNA.”
In addition to a strong focus on fish, Salsify’s nose-to-tail, seasonally driven approach is sustainability you can taste!
Why play it safe?
Located on the upper level of the historic Roundhouse, the interior is a magnificent mix of edge and sumptuousness, which both honours and challenges the building’s history. Think avant-garde graffiti (by international street artist Louis de Villiers, aka Skull Boy), a 1.3m show-stopping bronze sculpture of Lady Salsify by Otto du Plessis, faded vintage rugs on original oak floors, a leather-covered wall, modern upholstered chairs in a mix of patterned velvets and fabrics that marry old and new exquisitely.
When you arrive, you’ll be taken on a tour of the various rooms, during which you’ll discover fascinating insights about the property and its inhabitants (which dates back to 1786) – as well as the artists’ no-holds-barred interpretations of them!
“We’re beyond playing things safe,” says Sandalene, Luke’s wife and design partner. “We want people to be interested in everything they see and taste.”
General manager Markus Fiedler (previously from The Test Kitchen) is the consummate host and his emotionally intelligent staff are friendly and professional. Our four-year-old son was with us for Sunday lunch, and the staff worked around him seamlessly. (As someone pointed out, Salsify is child-accessible, rather than child-friendly.)
Reading about it is one thing, but it’s only when you enjoy a meal at Salsify that you discover all of the layers and facets that make it such an all-round experience.
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