With the signature style of co-owner and interior decorator Sarah Ord much in evidence, you will certainly feel that you’ve arrived on entering private members’ club and public brasserie The Stack in Cape Town. The 160-year-old Leinster Hall building, more recently known as The Cape Town Club, has been revamped into a wild, colourful, eccentric Mother City hangout that will be the place to have your after-work drinks this summer.
The Stack originally opened some time ago, but days after its launch a fire destroyed the upstairs section and the owners’ dreams went up and smoke. But Sarah and Nigel Pace didn’t give up and have rebuilt a space that’s even more colourful and glamorous than before.
Of course, aside from visiting for the eccentric decor, businessmen and creatives alike have also put The Stack on their radar for its attractive food and drink offering.
We caught up with head chef Warwick King, asked him a few questions about his food journey so far, and persuaded him to share his famous Salmon Gravadlax recipe.
Could you tell us about your professional background?
After I finished my studies at ICA in Stellenbosch in 2010, my food journey started at the restaurant at Simonsig wine estate. That’s also where I developed my culinary passion and where I knew for sure that food was the career path I wanted to follow.
My next adventure, working under Christiaan Campbell, was at Delaire Graff. I worked there for only a year, but it is where I learned so much of what I know today.
I yearned to work in the bush, though, because, along with cooking, it’s one of my greatest passions. I took the leap, which brought me to the beautiful Phinda in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, where I worked at a small private establishment known as Zuka Lodge. That must’ve been one of the best times of my life.
After my time at Zuka, I came back to Cape Town and started working at The Bay Hotel as a sous chef. I was promoted to head chef after a year, but I soon realised that I’d like to go back to working in a restaurant. The position at The Stack just opened, I jumped at the opportunity and I haven’t looked back.
Can you let us in on your food philosophy?
I like to keep things simple and let the ingredients do the talking. A plate of food must be both aesthetically appealing and packed with flavour – natural and not played with too much.
What are your top five go-to ingredients that you just can’t cook without?
Garlic, lemon, butter, salt and thyme.
If you could work at any restaurant in the world for a week, just observing and learning, where would that be?
I would love to spend a week at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy – not only because it’s the best restaurant in the world, but because I love how chef Massimo Bottura sees and interprets food.
100g Norwegian salmon
For the salt mix
50g rock salt
5g star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
1 baby fennel bulb
20ml elderflower syrup
20ml rose syrup
For the topping
3 heritage baby beetroot
2g table salt
1 baby fennel, shaved
30ml crème fraîche
Zest of 1 lime
5g dill, chopped
5 individual wild salmon roe
2g Maldon salt, for garnish
Stroke your hand along the salmon fillet to check for any stray bones. If you find any, pull them out with a pair of tweezers or small pliers.
To skin the salmon fillet, lay the fish skin-side down with the tail end closest to you. Insert a knife at an angle at the tail end and cut through the flesh to the skin. Turn the blade so it’s almost flat against the skin, then take hold of the skin with the other hand. Pull and wiggle the skin towards you so as to cut the fillet away. Halfway through removing the skin, hold the knife firmly and flip the fillet over. Gently lift the fillet away from the skin and discard the skin. Trim away the thinner part, plus any fat around the edges, so that the fillet has an even shape.
To prepare the salt mix, tip all the dry ingredients, including the zest of the lemon and orange and the baby fennel bulb, into a food processor and whizz until everything is combined and the spices are completely ground. Add the vodka, elderflower syrup and rose syrup, and mix thoroughly.
Scatter about a third of the salt mix onto a large tray, about the size of the salmon fillet. Lay the salmon, skinned-side down, on top of the salt and cover the salmon with the remaining salt mix. Cover with clingfilm, and leave in the fridge overnight or for at least 12 hours.
Remove the salmon from the fridge and rinse off the excess salt mixture. Allow to air-dry in the fridge for a further two hours before assembling the plate.
Salt the baby beetroots generously and bake at 180C until soft. Mix the zest and juice of one lime into the crème fraîche, add the chopped dill and whisk together untill creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut the salmon fillet into thin slices. Mix in a little lime zest, some Maldon salt to taste and olive oil.
Lay the salmon on a plate in a circular formation. Cut the salted beetroots in half and place on top of the cured salmon. Garnish with the dill crème fraîche, wild salmon roe and shaved baby fennel.
Shawndre Cunningham Cocktail
Aside from making outstanding food, The Stack is also well-loved for its fine cocktails. Head bartender Derrick Erwee shared his recipe for the Shawndre Cunningham cocktail, which in our opinion is a must-try, either as a pre-dinner drink or as an after-work drink. Go try it out, and be sure to have Derrick do the mixing.
50ml bourbon – Derrick uses Jim Beam White Label
25ml sage syrup*
25ml egg whites
25ml lemon juice
1 sage leaf
Dry shake the egg whites and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker approximately 20 times with no ice. Add the other ingredients (minus the sage leaf) to the shaker, this time with some ice, and shake. Pour the mix into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the sage leaf.
*To make the sage syrup, add 1L water and 250g white sugar to a pot and bring to the boil over medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and add between 20 and 25 sage leaves. Leave the sage to steep in the pot of water for one hour, then strain and let it cool.
Read more about The Stack and its bold design in our October 2016 issue