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I suppose by some measures, Jardine is “hip.” It certainly presents itself that way, and more than a few local reviews describe it so. But aside from the trendy-feeling bar downstairs, and a few diners who look a little overdressed for the room, it’s not, really. A small number of well-spaced tables, an attractive but not overdesigned interior, a small open kitchen, a (relatively) short but clever menu and wine list…before we’ve even eaten a bite, we can tell that this is a restaurant where the focus will be on the food, not the scene. And we’re eager to begin.

I start with thin strips of cep marinated in smoked garlic, then dotted with cubes of foie gras, little morsels of ox tongue (crisp-soft in the manner of pork belly), and a few greens. It’s an inventive and flavorful dish, the usually-rich porcini here providing contrast to the actual richness of the animal products, after which the greens serve as palate-cleansing freshness. All the while the aroma of smoked garlic hovers in the air. Next up is twice-fried crispy duck – they like their crunchy fat here – that’s still tender and juicy in the interior, like some sort of hybrid between French and Chinese preparations of the bird, with even more greens (they like their greens as well) and some other accompaniment that I neglect to write down and can’t quite remember…in any case, it’s the duck that stars on this plate, and it brooks no competition.

The care devoted to the wine list allows me to sample a glass and then a bottle from the same winery, wines that represent two slightly different takes on the same idea:

Neither of us is hungry for dessert, which means that – per custom – I’ll take mine in liquid form. There are some local choices, but I’ve already tasted most of them (this is one area in which South African wine lists are a little disappointing; the country makes a lot of sweet wine, yet the same labels show up over and over, even in wine country). Thus, my eye is soon drawn to some French entries, including some I wouldn’t normally choose due to the expense. But at ten-plus rand to the dollar? Yes, please. (11/08)


Copyright © Thor Iverson