Cape Town is home to scenic beauty in every corner, but the V&A Waterfront is undeniably some of the best. Fortunately, the La Colombe Group of restaurants now offers a place to perch next to (and directly over) the working harbour, giving us lunch or dinner with a view. They say first impressions matter, and being welcomed by big windows that frame views of the V&A Waterfront and a charming dinner-jacket-donning gentleman is as good a start to a meal as any. Setting expectations high, the elegant setup doesn’t stop there at PIER Restaurant – and neither does the charismatic service.
Located on the first floor of the Pierhead Building (above The Waterside Restaurant, the group’s other new restaurant on the lower level), the fine-dining restaurant features soothing, subdued hues and plenty of natural wood to lend a warm touch to the space. With a minimalist aesthetic, the focus is all on the food and the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean. The food from head chef John Norris-Rogers, previously of La Petite Colombe, is what you’d expect – clean, consistent, identifiable and often really fun. His 11-course tasting menu takes inspiration from the range of cultures and cuisine that the La Colombe Group celebrates, with seasonal dishes influenced by the flavours and techniques that have passed through the group’s kitchens over the years. However, even La Colombe devotees will discover new things at this location.
You can, of course, tell a lot about a fine-dining restaurant by its hors d’oeuvre and amuse-bouche. So, when the one-bite appetisers of salmon, horseradish and dill – followed by oysters and caviar poached in MCC – landed, we were excited to get going. The menu changes frequently, but cross your fingers for the tuna that packs a punch with tiger’s milk and furikake for a crunchy texture, as well as the sweet, plump confit mussels cooked in chorizo oil, served with Black Forest ham and soubise sauce. But it’s the delicate crayfish tortellini – teeming with pork jowl and spiced coconut that doesn’t overwhelm the crayfish meat – that will make you really swoon. After a quick palate cleanser of nitrogen-poached calamansi (a hybrid citrus fruit), the main event comes in the form of grass-fed beef cooked tableside with duck liver, broccoli and smoked short rib jus. Every ingredient is the best – it’s a sophisticated blend of flavours. You’ll keep talking about this truly delicious meal long after leaving.
If you’re feeling adventurous, dishes can be paired with an exemplary wine list. The tasting flight matches a lineup of slightly unexpected drinks with each course. It kicks off with the Graham Beck Ultra Brut 2015, which opens up with a lively bouquet of lemon zest and brioche notes, while the rich, creamy, lemon-flavoured De Kleine Wijn Koöp Debutant Semillon 2021 is paired with the bread course of caraway, bone marrow and garlic. Calitzdorp port wine cuts through the richness of the optional cheese selection wonderfully, and the Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2018 finishes the evening off as a sweet accompaniment to the honey, stone fruit and bergamot dessert. Bottle after bottle of fine and rare wines, proudly displayed at every turn, will catch your eye – it’s a nod to the emphasis placed on interesting tipples to come. For those looking to choose their own wines, the wine list is lovingly curated and has plenty from small, organic and low-intervention vineyards, so do explore.
PIER Restaurant is an instant classic – smart cooking in a seductive setting. The one downside is that it’s already so popular that reservations must be made weeks in advance. Get to it – book now, and book to go back at the same time. This one’s going to be another sell-out.
Cost: R1,650 per person for the 11-course Chef’s Experience (R150 supplement for the optional cheese course) and R1,250 per person for the beverage pairing (R75 supplement for the optional cheese course)
Pierhead Building (between the NSRI and Life Grand Café), V&A Waterfront, Dock Road, Cape Town
021 879 6328