We review Benguela on Main in Somerset West
About a 55-minute drive from Cape Town, this establishment is worth the drive.
I was very impressed by the beauty of the two-storey building. What could have easily been a dull building, on the corner of Main and Coronation Road, comes alive with soft lighting outside.
The light from two giant crystal chandeliers inside shines brightly through the large windows, adding a touch of elegance and offering a glimpse of what to expect inside.
We opened the glass door and my dining partner and I were greeted by a friendly waiter and a life-size gold sculpture which I can only describe as a naked man with pins with from head to toe.
Perhaps a little risqué, but it really is a beautiful piece of art - and that was just the beginning. The black grand piano next to it wasn’t bad either.
The racy theme continues into the lounge with suggestive sculptures on the wall; even the back of the menu has a painting of a naked woman on it, with the intimate parts strategically covered.
I asked our waiter, Logan, the reason behind the art and he said: “These are just pieces the owner likes. There’s no story behind it.”
Touches of gold glitter on the walls, while the soft lighting against the neutral colours and piano music playing in the background add to the elegance of the place.
The second floor is where the bar and tasting room is located, guests can enjoy local and international wines, and buy a bottle to take home. It’s perfect for pre-dinner drinks on the balcony while enjoying the view of the Winelands.
Benguela on Main has a tasting menu and an à la carte menu that offers two or three courses.
We tried the à la carte menu.
For starters I had cured Atlantic salmon trout with miso, matcha tea and an avocado and preserve yolk. My partner had a chicken liver parfait with quinoa cracker, smoked risin, red grapes and bitter radicchio with a slice of brioche.
We both enjoyed the starters. I especially loved the strip of salmon and how well it was prepared.
The liver parfait also went down well with the sweet brioche.
For mains I had pan-roasted hake with gnocchi nero and caviar cream with leeks and greens.
I found the hake a little too salty.
My partner ordered the grass-fed beef chimichurri with roasted shallot, poached bone marrow and pommes soufflé with a mushroom purée.
We both agreed this dish won the mains round, I especially loved the mushroom purée.
Dessert was a brown sugar tart with valrhona chocolate textures, espresso, tonka bean and cacao nib beignets for me and for him, rice pudding cannelloni with tropical fruits, white rum and coconut sherbet.
I really enjoyed the different tastes and textures of the chocolate and espresso.
My partner said he loved the fresh fruits of his dessert.
Executive chef Jean Delport, whom we could see from a distance as he worked his magic in the kitchen, says he always adds a modern twist to his classically French, old-English style of cooking.
“My cooking style is very much modern cooking but using old French, English techniques. We try to use local ingredients and techniques as well, so we do a lot of braais in our kitchen.
“We don’t want to stray too far from our roots,” he says.
Delport’s passion for cooking started when he was in his teens and would bake with his mother.
“The whole idea of cooking grabbed me when I was still at school, around 14 or 15 years old.
“We did lots of baking and I used to cook dinner when I came home from school.
“It slowly became an obsession and I really started enjoying it.”
After he matriculated, Delport went to chef’s school and the rest, as they say, is history.
He has been chef at Benguela since it opened two years ago and says they wanted a restaurant “that is accessible, with the focus in fresh produce”.
“We wanted to do two different menus, which is our tasting menu and our à la carte menu, where you can have your choices of starters, mains and desserts.
“We wanted to have an even balance between the two.
“The whole idea was to bring the farm into town for a taste of what we do.”
* Benguela on Main is on the corners of Main Road and Coronation Avenue, Somerset West.
For reservations call: 087 357 0637 or e-mail: [email protected]