Chef Marcelle Roberts of Cafe 1999.
Chef Marcelle Roberts of Cafe 1999.
Starters are presented at Cafe 1999.
Starters are presented at Cafe 1999.

Cafe 1999

Where: Silvervause Centre, 117 Vause Road, Berea

Call: 031 202 3406

Open: Monday to Friday lunch and dinner, Saturday dinner

Wine dinners are often fraught affairs, with a lot of hype and too little substance. Plus you have the whole have to be seen foodies and the snifferatti.

But put Marcelle Roberts, one of Durban’s top chefs, with The Foundry wines and you have a winner. The quietly assured wines of Chris Williams, the man who also helms Meerlust’s cellar, lend well to Roberts own style. And the style was relaxed Durban casual elegance at its best.

The menu had a beguiling simplicity about it even if the dishes were anything but simple to execute, creating a wonderfully relaxed wine pairing where everything flowed effortlessly, the wines too, of course, and the general conviviality was helped by the fact that neither wine maker nor chef prattled on interminably and both offered some fun insights.

First up was a beautifully intense and deep seafood bisque served in tea cups with grossini and a nicely rounded Foundry grenache blanc. Not a cultivar I know well, this was the most interesting wine of the evening.

The veg course too showed Robert’s flare. All four of us voted this lightly curried paneer a winner. It was served on coconut lentils, flaked almonds and a mint chutney and with a nicely spice viognier. Chef warned us the mint may flatten the wine a little, and so it was drizzled around the border of the plate. And while it didn’t impact on the wine at all it pulled the dish together beautifully.

One of the best pieces of fish I’ve had in Durban in a long time, came next. This was a macadamia nut and fennel crusted kingklip, perfectly cooked and drizzled with a simple orange beurre blanc. But such simplicity was magnificent. It paired well with the Foundry Rousanne.

Seared duck breast, on a butternut and vanilla puree with spinach, spiced jus and charred onion skins came next. I loved the intense vanilla flavours chef infused into the meat. While one of our party had a slightly stringy piece of duck, we were fulsome in its praises. It was paired with the Foundry’s grenache noir, another very interesting and well balanced wine.

The syrah was the highlight, this a nicely tamed and rounded one, not one of those where someone threw in the entire spice cabinet. This was paired with peppered venison loin, I think it was eland, juniper jus, polenta chips, pea puree and parsnip shavings. It was an enjoyable dish even if the venison was a shade on the tough side.

Dessert, and Roberts is known for her desserts, was a simple slice of dark chocolate torte with honey and milk ice cream, bee pollen and strawberries. It was all the more enjoyable for being not overly sweet. And you could even wash down the last remnants of the wine without overpowering it.

All in an excellent evening and good value at R625 ahead including tip.

Food: 4 ½

Service: 4

Ambiance: 4

The Independent on Saturday