As South Africa gets ready to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Kerstin Kühn goes to check out one of Cape Town's most high profile restaurants: Maze by Gordon Ramsay at the One & Only Resort
When entering Cape Town's One & Only Resort at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, it's difficult not to be blown away by the impressive entrance hall. With its central Vista lobby bar set in front of a triple-storey glass wall offering panoramic views of the city's most iconic landmark, Table Mountain, the hotel is no doubt one of the Cape's most spectacular properties.
Hailed as hotel mogul Sol Kerzner's homecoming, the 131-bedroom resort launched last April, bringing to Cape Town, and indeed the African continent, the first ventures by international multi-Michelin-starred restaurant groups Nobu and Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH). The latter brought one of its most established brands to the mix: Jason Atherton's Michelin-starred Maze. The launch marked GRH's fourth international Maze outlet after London, New York and Prague - although, unlike its sister sites, the Cape Town restaurant has been run on a consultancy basis right from the start.
Maze Cape Town is a 130-seat restaurant which also features a chef's table overlooking a show kitchen as well as a 20-seat outdoor terrace. It also includes a glass-fronted pâtisserie section and bakery as well as an open seafood bar offering local fish and crustaceans - South African and Namibian oysters, kingklip, yellowtail, Cape crayfish and Mozambican prawns.
"It is very important to me to use local produce and to keep the local identity," says Maze executive chef Atherton. "I'm not going to serve Colchester crab in South Africa and have diners feel as though they're eating in the UK."
The 35-strong kitchen brigade of local chefs is overseen by head chef Phil Carmichael, who has worked with Atherton since 2005 and also oversaw the launch of the now-closed Maze Prague, where he gained a Michelin star. The menu at Maze Cape Town comprises a mix of its two London sister restaurants, Maze and Maze Grill. "Sol Kerzner wanted it this way," explains Carmichael, adding that the combination seems to fit the local market better.
The menu kicks off with a selection of Maze's signature tapas-style dishes, which includes the best of South African ingredients - such as soft-shell crab served with spicy mayonnaise (R65, £5.40), and marinated beetroot with locally produced Buffalo Ridge ricotta, pine nuts and a Cabernet Sauvignon dressing (R65). A consommé of biltong (South Africa's national favourite of dried cured meat) shows off Maze's signature knack for innovation. Infused with the dried meat, the hearty stock is served with shavings of biltong, poached and fried quail's eggs and a good handful of fresh parsley (R65).
Main courses continue the local theme, including a dish of roasted Karoo lamb rump and braised neck served with aubergine and roasted green beans (R160, £13.25); as well as Cape Malay mussels (R95, £7.90) served in a signature local curry sauce. A highlight is a dish of kingklip (a fish akin to a meaty cod) served on crayfish risotto with garlic and parsley mussels and a bouillabaisse sauce (R165, £13.70).
The grill section features local meats such as ostrich and springbok next to grain-fed Karan and Chalmar beef, Namibian beef and the most expensive dish on the menu Wagyu fillet (R750, £62) and rib-eye (R700, £58) from Australia.
The large pastry kitchen of the restaurant supplies an array of beautiful puddings, with an assiette of Maze desserts (R90, £7.45) offering a taste of seven sweet concoctions, including the signature Maze peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich; warm chocolate and orange fondant; Champagne poached peaches with Champagne mousse; and a peppery pink macaroon.
Maze Cape Town has access to the largest wine collection in the Southern hemisphere, with 4,500 bins of mostly South African wines, which it shares with the One & Only Resort's other dining outlets. At Maze Erik Botha, one of just eight South African sommeliers, presides proudly over his wine list.
With further sites to follow in Doha, Qatar, in February and Melbourne in April this year, Atherton and Maze are slowly but surely making their mark on the global dining scene.
Maze, One & Only Cape Town, Dock Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa
Telephone: 00 272 1431 5222
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