Is it completely insane to be obsessed with the fish dishes at a restaurant best known for serving nose-to-tail meat? While I’ve also tasted the crispy pig’s tails (of course I have, how could you not?) and literally drooled over a starter of pig cheek with chicory and apple, it’s La Tête’s fish options that I always seem to want to order. And they are always outstanding, too – a perfectly cooked and seasoned piece of hake with almost nothing else on the plate, for example. Simple, seasonal and delicious.
La Tête is the sort of place where you’ll want to meet a few friends and share several dishes between you, because there’s so much that’s genuinely new to Cape Town diners to taste and try here. Take the starter of green beans and chicken of the woods, for example – and no, the latter is not related to that enormous rooster meme you’ve seen on the internet: chicken of the woods is a type of mushroom. It just happens to taste so much like chicken that I’ve watched someone appreciatively eat an entire plate of the stuff at La Tête, then comment that the chicken in her starter was somehow a bit less ‘meaty’ than she expected it to be.
Let’s not pretend that some of the items on the menu are going to be everyone’s first choice, though. Once we ordered the ox tongue and then could each manage only one bite of it… it was really just too genuinely ‘tongue-y’, and I mean that in terms of shape (!) as well as texture and taste. But dedicated meat lovers who understand that ethical meat eating must be nose-to-tail in its ethos (as La Tête chef Giles Edwards’ mentor, Fergus Henderson, was one of the first to point out) will thrive here. Encourage them to order the sweetbreads, kidneys or other offal options – they won’t be sorry. And get some side dishes, because from a simple green salad to finely shaved, just-cooked Brussels sprouts, these are routinely excellent here.
Another massive highlight of eating at La Tête is dessert. Restaurant desserts are so ubiquitously similar these days that it’s worth noting that here, you actually should ‘save room’ (as the silly saying goes) for pudding. And that lovely home-style word ‘pudding’ is also really a much better one for what La Tête does than poncy, fancy-chocolate-something ‘dessert’. You absolutely must order the madeleines – buttery and warm from the oven, they are as perfect on their own as they are as an accompaniment to an espresso or dipped into the delectable juice that puddles around the poached nectarines with cream. Described by the chef as a play on old-fashioned peaches and custard, those nectarines are one of the best things to eat on the entire menu. Served cold with a big scoop of the thickest cream imaginable, they really shouldn’t be missed.
Unless of course, by the time you read this, they aren’t on the menu any longer. Because La Tête changes its menu almost daily, depending on what’s available from their selected group of suppliers, you actually can’t be guaranteed of eating anything I’ve mentioned in this review when you visit. What you can be quite sure of, though, is that you’ll have a memorable and mouthwatering meal.
For more information and to reserve a table (which you should you do; it’s busy), visit latete.co.za.