Food & Drinks, Travel

FYN Restaurant, Where Exceptional Food, Great Views and Memorable Interior Design Combine

Recently opened by innovative chef de patron Peter Tempelhoff, FYN is one of the loveliest fine-dining restaurants in Cape Town.

Greg Cox
FYN Restaurant, Where Exceptional Food, Great Views and Memorable Interior Design Combine | House and LeisureFYN Restaurant, Where Exceptional Food, Great Views and Memorable Interior Design Combine | House and Leisure

No matter the season or the weather, on your first visit to FYN, you should aim to arrive at sunset. First, you’ll travel slowly upwards in the lift from the ground floor of the iconic Speakers’ Corner building on Cape Town’s historic Church Square. Next, you’ll pass through a dramatically dark entrance hall into one of the country’s most beautiful new restaurant interiors. And finally, there’s the view, through the triple-height floor-to-ceiling windows that form one entire wall of the space. Table Mountain, Kloof Nek and Lion’s Head are all arrayed before you – with, if the time is right, the sun setting the sky ablaze behind the latter.

But while the view is undeniably wonderful, the task of tearing your gaze away from it is made much easier by FYN’s elegant yet earthy interiors. Featuring a variety of natural materials including stone, leather, and a range of different types of wood, they were created by rising local design star Tristan du Plessis of Studio A. And the triple-volume space is both softened and enlivened by the spectacular hanging decorative element, made from hundreds of wooden discs ‘strung’ onto steel poles, that ‘lowers’ the ceiling above the dining room.  

FYN Restaurant, Where Exceptional Food, Great Views and Memorable Interior Design Combine | House and Leisure

Seating is either at tables or around the ‘Kitchen Counter’, a granite-topped bar that adjoins the kitchen, and the lines between the kitchen and the restaurant have been more than blurred – at FYN, they’ve completely disappeared. If you’re seated at the Kitchen Counter – as we were – you have the perfect vantage point from which to view all the chefs going quietly and efficiently about their work. Cooking, prepping, finishing and plating all happens before your eyes, making the skills and sheer attention to detail that go into creating dishes of this calibre very evident.

FYN Restaurant, Where Exceptional Food, Great Views and Memorable Interior Design Combine | House and Leisure

Chef de patron Peter Tempelhoff has already enjoyed a long and distinguished career, and looks set to cement his considerable reputation with FYN. He describes the food as ‘ingredient-focussed cuisine drawing inspiration from South Africa’s culture, lore and society, as well as my jaunts around the world; especially my many journeys to Japan.’ 

‘Our challenge,’ he explains, ‘was to create a menu that can be experienced in around two hours, but that has all the flavours and excitement of a three-hour menu. We looked to Japan – and kaiseki (traditional multi-course Japanese) dining in particular – for the answer, and have designed the starter and dessert courses to be served on small oak trays. This format allows us to offer the guest a multi-sensory experience of three or four courses at the same time, shortening the dining experience considerably.’ But this is not just another ‘tapas-style’ experience, says Tempelhoff. At FYN, it’s instead about ‘selfish eating,’ he says jokingly, ‘as people don’t need to share their food with the people they arrive with at the restaurant, even if it’s a loved one!’

FYN serves a set tasting menu at lunch (R550) and dinner (R975) from Tuesday to Saturday. The meal starts with a tray of four ‘canapés from bento’, a selection of delicious bites that include the most delectable ‘nigiri’ featuring both crispy and chewy rice with white fish, furikake and aged soy sauce.  

The starter course, ‘kaiseki tray’ also contains four small dishes, among them a bowl of ‘squid ramen’ that is as witty as it is delicious (the ‘noodles’ are made from the seafood itself, and served in a delicate seafood broth). 

FYN Restaurant, Where Exceptional Food, Great Views and Memorable Interior Design Combine | House and LeisureFYN Restaurant, Where Exceptional Food, Great Views and Memorable Interior Design Combine | House and Leisure

A highlight of the meal on the evening we ate at FYN in December 2018 was the palate cleanser before the main course: it consisted of a scoop of carefully flavoured salted celery sorbet that was served alongside a dish of beautiful edible flowers and herbs – and a wooden pestle. The server pours liquid nitrogen over the flowers and herbs, which instantly dry-freezes them, after which each diner crushes them to a powder with the pestle. The sorbet is then added to the bowl and is coated with the scented herbal ‘detritus’. It functioned as a charming ‘DIY diversion’ as well as performing very well as a preparation for full enjoyment of the main course – perfectly cooked roasted guinea fowl with poached leeks and wood-ear mushrooms.

FYN’s desserts are also served as a ‘sweet kaiseki’ tray of three different dishes; all were absolutely excellent, but the marinated blueberries with yuzu, served with the most delectable coconut sorbet, was truly superb. Fresh, refined and perfectly summery.

A flight of wines selected to accompany the various courses is also available (R550 at dinner; R275 at lunch), and these were exceptionally well paired with the food – in particular, the Saurwein Chi Riesling 2018 served with the canapes, and the glorious Morgenster Red Blend 2003 that accompanied the guinea fowl. A glass of Klein Constantia Vin de Constance enhanced the dessert dishes beautifully, too. For those who prefer to select their own accompaniments, the FYN wine list is impressive in its range and scope, including a selection of excellent South African wines as well as a short list of options from Burgundy and Bordeaux, in France.

FYN is named in part from ‘the Afrikaans word for fine, but,’ says Tempelhoff, ‘I also like to think it as the better half of the word “fynbos”.’ It’s also very much a reflection of ‘the better half’ of fine dining, in that the restaurant is all about innovative yet delicious food, served beautifully but without any trace of pretension, in an extremely lovely space. 

Booking is essential: visit the FYN website to make a reservation.