A stretch of Keerom

Thursday, 27 May, 2004
Kim Maxwell
Wining and dining the length of Cape Town’s Keerom Street
Legal suits spilling on to the gritty pavement of Keerom Street is a familiar daytime city sight. With South Africa’s High Court forming the pivotal point, weekday activity is common in this part of Cape Town. Friday nights see groups congregating over drinks in an 18th century bar, located at one end of the street. Popular Five Flies’ cosy wooden interior spills into a cobbled courtyard, while a flight of stairs continues the restaurant area and bar on an upper level.

Chef Gerard Reidy’s new winter menu offers value-orientated options for cooler days and nights (two courses for R100; three courses for R135, May to August), as well as a Plat du Jour lunch special of homestyle options at R55 per head. Homestyle with a twist describes the winter a la carte menu, with somewhat heavy options such as veal escalope accompanying prosciutto and parmigano and a creamy mustard sauce, to filled cornflake-crusted chicken breast options.

The starters offer more innovation, plus a welcome lighter touch. Particularly good is the smoked salmon in giant ravioli topped with a tangy froth of citrus beurre blanc, washed down with a glass of Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noir. Alternatively, Saldanha mussels are cooked in a pesto-like white wine, garlic, cream and fresh herbs sauce, while Asian spring rolls stuffed with prawn on the special menu are good fun, dipped in sweet ginger and chilli sauce.

Legal minds are increasingly making a beeline for lunch at the other end of the street. Newish 95 Keerom restaurant offers ‘authentic Milanese’ food in eye-catching contemporary wood and glass, plus original brick surroundings. Starters focus on hot and cold fish and meat carpaccio options, while main courses include gnocchi to fish and meat dishes (the former is caught from co-owner Giorgio Nava’s boat). Three previous meals left me sold on the décor and ambience, but unconvinced about all menu options - fish is excellent, pork dishes generally overcooked, and seasoning is frequently too subtle. But I happily returned at winemaker Giorgio dalla Cia’s invitation to a fresh porcini lunch, enhanced by winter sunbeams in the upstairs section.

The former Meerlust winemaker has useful family connections. Franco Dalla Cia’s refreshing Fieno aperitif wine tasting of herbs and litchis, is Giorgio’s Milano brothers’ contribution. Giorgio’s caterer wife Simonetta cooked the richly satisfying dried porcini and stock sauce for the chicken breast main, a perfect match with Dalla Cia Chardonnay 2003. The porcinis Giorgio finds himself, from a top-secret Jonkershoek forest location. The wine he makes at Meerlust’s cellar. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s been substantially wooded, nine months of tank fermentation adding creaminess to the 5% barrel-fermented portion.

The Dalla Cia menu included beef carpaccio topped with fresh porcini slices, lemon and olive oil, to tagliatelle sottobosco (fresh pasta topped with fresh porcini and a squeeze of tomato). With both courses, the Dalla Cia Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (released with bottle age a year after it’s made), showed lovely mature Sauvignon characters. Both the Sauvignon and Chardonnay show Old World classic restraint, despite their New World origins.

Appropriately Grappa finished the meal – in white and chocolate Grappa ice cream, inside dark Belgian Meerlust chocolates, and in Grappa-enhanced espresso. Ordering his third espresso, Giorgio explains he and son George Dalla Cia are focusing on a grappa distilled from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A red will soon join the family business, a Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot for 2005 release. Clearly Giorgio’s philosophy has matured with experience: ‘I follow my own culture, own feeling and background. I’m not interested in making a young, fruity wine. We want wines that taste of wine.’ While on the subject, food that tastes of food gets my bet hand’s down. On my last visit to 95 Keerom, Simonetta’s input ensured that was certainly the case.

95 Keerom Street
Tel: +27 (0) 21 422-0765
Five Flies
Tel: +27 (0) 21 424-4442