HERBIVORE: Executive chef Simon Kemp tends his rooftop crops
HERBIVORE: Executive chef Simon Kemp tends his rooftop crops
APPETISING: Tuck into a starter of beef tataki.
APPETISING: Tuck into a starter of beef tataki.
MEDLEY: North Africa marinated tuna.
MEDLEY: North Africa marinated tuna.

Terri Dunbar-Curran

FOR the past few years I have been dabbling in growing my own veggies. From a small, dreadfully positioned patch in Little Mowbray that yielded a grand total of four green beans and one small cauliflower, to a mismatched collection of pots on my Milnerton balcony that have hosted vaguely successful rosemary, tomato, chilli and one valiant garlic plant, I’ve soldiered on.

I know what a labour of love it can be, so I am always thrilled to hear of people who are not only tending successful little gardens, but are also harvesting and eating their produce. What’s even more impressive is when that little garden is in the middle of what is, essentially, an urban area, and on a rooftop no less.

Executive chef Simon Kemp of Upper Eastside Hotel’s Liberty’s Restaurant has planted a delightful little fresh produce garden on the roof of the Woodstock building and has been reaping the rewards for the past few months.

In this short time, he says, they sourced a large percentage of their daily herb and salad requirements from the garden. In addition to the basil (which “goes nuts” during spring), the garden has spring onions, Swiss chard and chillis. Summer is bound to be a colourful affair with fresh granadillas, lemons and limes.

Those with a penchant for the spicy should definitely head to Liberty’s during summer to try some of the chef’s chilli dishes. It’s not unusual for the bushes to yield 40 or 50 chillis a day during the warmer months.

My husband and I were invited to sample some of the produce, used in preparing items on Kemp’s menu. With live music from the adjacent trendy estreet Bar as a backdrop, we settled down to peruse the menu and admire the space.

Bright colours and luxurious textures give the double-volume space an elegant yet funky feel. It can happily accommodate couples out for a cosy romantic dinner, or friends looking for a cocktail or two at the bar. Our fellow diners were a mixed bunch too, from a couple of girlfriends catching up over huge bowls of pasta, to one of the hotel guests back for another meal.

If you’re looking for a varied selection to start, ask for their tapas menu. We were very tempted, but in the end the tempura prawns and Szechuan crispy duck spring rolls came out tops. With bigger appetites and a little more time we’d have happily ordered the mushroom bombs with roasted pesto and goat’s cheese, truffle mash, sun-dried tomato and olive salsa, or the beef tataki.

Richard tried a variety of the craft beers, while I opted for the Tanqueray Apple Tease cocktail.

For my main I decided to indulge in the tender Camembert beef fillet served with meaty wild mushrooms, truffle mash, Camembert melt, beef jus, cranberry, and a port and rosemary jelly. It was sublime. The heavenly truffle mash mingled beautifully with the sweet and salty flavours.

There were no complaints from the other side of the table either, as Richard tucked into a flame-grilled rump with creamy and smoky pepper sauce with grilled veggies and chips.

Once we took a look at the dessert menu we were both relieved we’d passed on the tapas. If you really mean business, you’ll find happiness in The Chocolate Lovers’ Club section, which offers delights like Chocolate Nemesis or the Amarula and dark chocolate fondant.

Richard, a die-hard cheesecake fan, went with the double-layered chocolate cheesecake with chocolate ganache. We admired the delicate chocolate tiara for a few seconds before snapping it up. My heart was won by the Amaretto and vanilla bean crème brûlée served in a darling little espresso cup. We’ll definitely be back.

l For information, see www.uppereastsidehotel.co.za