Benguela On Main in Somerset West is a welcome addition to fine dining in the Helderberg. Dave and I were guests of the owner, and arrived earlier than planned on a stunning Friday evening. No expense has been spared, from the linen, cutlery, crockery and stem ware to the finishings. We arrived while the chef was going through the evening’s menu with the waiters and it was good to note that they get to taste the food and can make recommendations based on their own experience of each dish. The staff are all well dressed and articulate and understand what good service is all about. Our waiter for the evening ensured that our time at the table was perfect.
We started off upstairs in the wine bar where we had a Lagavulin 16 year old single malt. An Islay whisky is a perfect way to start an evening off in my opinion. The whiskys are well priced, and the Benguela Cove labelled wines are a fair price for an upmarket restaurant. I do feel that the other wines on offer are on the expensive side, but not outrageous. I am sure that this is to encourage diners to buy the estate’s wines which is a reasonable expectation. The wine bar has a wonderful view and the young lady in charge is attentive and I was able to overhear her telling patrons all about the wines. She is knowledgeable which goes a long way in deciding what to enjoy. It is fairly noisy upstairs and this leaks into the dining room downstairs. The dining area has curtains to absorb the sound and the tables are well spaced apart to ensure privacy while talking.
We finish off our drink and head downstairs. The wine we have chosen, the Merlot 2014, is brought to the table and the sommelier ensures it is placed on a bottle coaster. He only visits us once again, at the end of the meal to apologize for not spending more time with us. Denis lets us know he is from Sancerre and we spend some time reminiscing about our time there. The second time we are at the restaurant, Denis paid more attention to our table. I found him to be fairly condescending, basing his choice of wines for our meal on price, rather than on what we requested from him and what we have ordered to eat. We had chosen a South African MCC to enjoy upstairs as we prefer to support local and of course this was cheaper than the French champagne on offer. There are filled ice buckets at each table and the bespoke bottles of water are kept in them to keep the water cold. This is a wonderful extension to the attention to detail you can find throughout the venue.
We were offered bread while reading through the menu and I had to try all 3. They were served with a lard butter and a flavoured butter. The amuse bouche arrived at the table and was a perfect bite, with a hint of spice and acidity to wake up the palate. Tony explains in detail the starters and main courses, letting us know which dish is his favourite. Dave was convinced by him to try the pork shank kromeski (R80) and I choose the Norwegian salmon gravadlax (R90). The starters were extremely tasty but I thought my blini could have been thinner and Dave found that the lip of the bowl did not make getting the last morsel of his starter out, easy. We asked for a wait between our starters and mains and the timing is perfect, without us having to request for the course to be served. Dave had the springbok rump (R175) and one bite of his meal is what convinced me to go back as it was as soft as butter and delicious. When we went back for our anniversary celebration meal with friends, I had this dish, and I was not let down at all by choosing it as my main meal. My pan roasted yellowtail (R170) on the first evening was sublime and the potatoes accompanying the dish soft and so good I could have had a bowlful more of them. We chose the roast cauliflower (R35) as a side dish to share and it was scrumptious. Dave selected the cheese platter (R90) for dessert and it was beautifully presented, with 5 perfect wedges of local cheeses and accompanied by melba toast and preserves. My lemon custard tart (R85) was gorgeous to look at and eat. Dave ended off with a single espresso.
The bill was presented in a wooden box, and all we had to do is sign. We added a tip for the service as is our norm when we are hosted by a restaurant. Together with the bill is a baobab tree with the selection of petit fours on the branches. The profiteroles are my best and I’m glad I left that taste for last.
Disclosure: Dave and I were guests of Benguela On Main and our dinner was facilitated by Carla van der Merwe. I am very grateful to Penny, the owner, for such an amazing evening. This post is in line with my blogging policy.
What I blogged January 27:
- two years ago – Baumkuchen
- four years ago – Garlic
- five years ago – Sichuan Pepper Chicken With Star Anise Honey