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BRANDY. The quintessential South African drink, most often consumed around a braai and mixed with cola. Not necessarily. The team behind Fine Brandy By Design are winning over new enthusiasts with every sip.
If you’re keen to explore the world of brandy and learn to enjoy it without drowning it in soft drink – then make a booking at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay.
The restaurant is offering a special pairing menu together with Fine Brandy By Design, which showcases a variety of brands and their potential. The menu, which changes periodically, was created by chefs PJ Vardas and Eric Bulpitt and sommelier Joakim Hansi Blackadder.
I was invited to discover just how versatile the drink could be. After enjoying a refreshing brandy and ginger ale cocktail while taking in the gorgeous view from The Roundhouse gardens, we were ushered into the building which dates back to 1756.
One of the most important lessons to learn when tasting brandy is how to approach the drink.
There were several burnt nasal passages at our table when we plunged our noses into the glasses to have a good whiff.
You won’t do it twice.
With brandy it’s best to gradually let the aroma waft from the glass, breathe in gently and enjoy.
When it comes to tasting, Joakim also mentioned that it’s best to never take that first sip with a dry tongue.
The basics out of the way, we set about exploring the flavours in each glass.
The chef had prepared a variety of exciting dishes that worked together with the elements of the brandy, and it was interesting to experience how the flavours interacted at different stages in the meal.
Before each course we watched a short clip in which spirits enthusiast Dave Broom animatedly discussed each drink and what we should be on the look out for.
First up was a heavenly white bean veloute with sour dough and caramelised pear paired with Oude Meester Demant.
The soup had a delightful texture and the crunch of the sour dough combined with the sweet pear was an instant hit. Dave suggested we look out for hints of black fruits, chocolate and apricot flavours in the brandy. I definitely found the sweet notes.
While the rest of the table savoured farmed cob with sea lettuce, pickled mussels and beurre noisette emulsion, the chef prepared a fabulously light ham hock terrine for me.
Not only was it beautifully presented, but the combination of flavours was stimulating. The salty meat was complimented by the crisp, vinegary sweet carrot. It was immensely satisfying and the portion was just right.
That course was paired with Collison’s White Gold, my favourite for the day. It has a far sweeter aroma, think figs and vanilla – which would explain why it worked so well with the saltiness of both the ham hock terrine and cob.
I hung on to my glass when they cleared the table for the third course – I couldn’t let the last few sips go to waste.
And so it was that the glasses began to pile up around my place setting, because next up was the Klipdrift Gold. With its rich aromas of chocolate, sweet spices and dried fruit, no one was even remotely tempted to dilute it with coke.
Accompanying it was venison loin with hay ash baked beets, pickled blackberries and cherries. A simply stunning dish judged on appearance alone, which offered an array of flavours when I destroyed the beautiful presentation with an eager fork.
The juicy pickled fruits lent a crispness to the gamey fallow deer. The whole dish was a glorious riot of colour which left my plate looking like an abstract watercolour once I’d finished every morsel.
To round it all off, what better accompaniment to brandy than something chocolaty? Dessert was a gorgeous six textures of Felchlin chocolate with banana, walnuts and chocolate sauce. Sublime.
The textures were a delight as was the combination of banana bread and rich chocolate ice-cream.
It earned itself a place among the most satisfying, creative and successful desserts I’ve had in a while. All that chocolate goodness was paired with Van Ryn’s Collectors Reserve 20 Year Old. A careful sniff revealed spicy sweet aromas. It is a brandy that, as Dave so eloquently put, “wears its age well”.
The first sip instantly yielded chocolate and oak tastes which blended seamlessly with the dessert. Not a drop or smear of sauce was left.
If you’re a dedicated whisky drinker, or enjoy the decadence of a wine pairing, do yourself a favour and take a risk – branch out a little, you may just be surprised.
l The pairing menu is R450. To book, call 021 438 4347.