Built in 1786 and used as a guardhouse and later as a hunting lodge for governor of the Cape Sir Lord Charles Somerset, The Roundhouse has been given a new look with the opening of Salsify, a contemporary fine dining restaurant which is going to delight Cape Town foodies.
The eclectic décor juxtaposes the formal with the cleverly frivolous, a tricky combination at best but one which Sandalene Dale Roberts has pulled off very successfully.
“Salsify is the guardian and muse of the space – she is half game bird, half woman”, explains Sandalene, who worked closely with Louis de Villiers and Otto du Plessis to create these arresting talking points.
“We want our restaurants to be a sensory experience from start to finish and it all starts with the visual feast from the moment you enter that space”, Sandalene told Daily Maverick. “Because it’s a significant historical building, we couldn’t and didn’t want to change its bones, we chose to amplify its history with really modern touches juxtaposed with nods to the past and plenty of surprises too.”
In the atrium which houses the busy intersection between the foyer, lounge, kitchen and dining areas and directly under the building’s central turret stands Salsify, an Otto du Plessis bronze. The piece, lit by an elaborate chandelier, features the head of a bird of prey atop the body of a young woman with a carpet of cutlery at her feet.
Monochromatic street art by Skull Boy aka Louis de Villiers forms the backdrop to the richly coloured chairs in the lounge and pops up unexpectedly here and there. The selfie room just off the lounge is a tiny over-the-top space with graffiti-covered walls and a mirror that would take pride of place in any classy bordello.
Both artists have embraced the idea of Somerset using the Roundhouse for his alleged trysts with Dr James Barry, a renowned military surgeon who, on his death, was found to have been a woman.
En route to the main restaurant space you move through a dining area that feels more private and intimate than the main room, the inner circle (both by name and by nature). The leather-clad walls made the area feel a little womb-like or even like the interior of a very expensive new car. With its gorgeous leather chairs and subtle lighting the room is in stark contrast to the outer room which is bright, light and airy with the Roundhouse’s fabulous view of Camps Bay.
At a recent five-course tasting menu created by LDR and Ryan Cole, the taste highlights included Spring Minestrone with octopus, oyster and sea herbs in a delicate consommé with drops of dill oil and the spice-fired tuna with smoked tomato pearls, lemon atchar and a wisp of lacy tuille.
‘Burning’ food is all the vogue in today’s top inventive kitchens, but in a good way. Hence the brightly-hued dishes including (like the spice-fired tuna above) fire-roasted asparagus with sunflower Hollandaise and sunflower pesto; aged beef prime rib with porcini pudding and onion gravy (and it’s good to see an old-fashioned touch to a modern dish), and a signature cocktail of Salsify Gin & Tonic with Cherry Bitters. For dessert it may be hard to say no to Roasted pineapple, coconut cake, coriander and matcha meringue, or Strawberry Scone with raspberry, MCC jelly, blueberry jam and apple mint frozen yoghurt.
The Roundhouse has been a tea room, a private home and even a hotel. In its newest guise, as with LDR’s other restaurants, bookings open on the 1st of every month for the following month and an upfront deposit per head is required. While dining at Salsify is never going to be a cheap evening out, the full experience of the restaurant will make for a memorable one. Book at [email protected]. DM
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