An Evening of Banting and Banter at THE TABLE

THE TABLE photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

THE TABLE photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

On Tuesday evening I had the privilege of attending Christopher Duigan’s pop-up restaurant event – aptly named ‘THE TABLE’. This was the second installment in what I hope will continue to be an annual event. Christopher, a famed concert pianist opened up his beautiful home to thirty guests, to partake in an evening of wine, food and fun – as well as providing an opportunity to network and promote local/national business, whilst building a sense of community, as we sat down to ‘break bread’ together – well, not quite – as the theme for the evening’s menu was ‘Banting’ – made popular in South Africa by Professor Tim Noakes. This lifestyle – or Real Meal Revolution as it has become known, is about forgoing carbohydrates and sugar and eating a diet that is moderate in protein and high in fat. Incidentally, I hopped onto the Banting bandwagon with the rest of Cape Town, ten days prior to this event – and was anxious as to what I would be able to eat – so you can imagine my delight, on arrival, to discover that the menu catered perfectly to my needs – oh who am I kidding – I would have eaten anything offered up to me – especially when some of the finest local chefs were preparing the meal!

Bouchard Finlayson Wine. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Bouchard Finlayson Wine.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Throughout the course of the evening, we were treated to a variety of the most exquisite wines from Boutique Vineyard, Bouchard Finlayson, situated in Hermanus in the Western Cape. I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Finlayson, the winemaker – as well as Tony Kee who distributes Bouchard Finlayson wines in KwaZulu-Natal. Peter’s passion for wine was palpable (or should I say ‘PULPable’) when he addressed us, talking us through the wines we would taste that evening. I was fortunate to sample four of Bouchard Finlayson’s wines – all of which were superb and highly quaffable – however my favourites were the Sauvignon Blanc which was crisp and lusciously fruity and the ‘Piece de resistance’ – ‘Hannibal’ (as in the conqueror) a juicy and full-bodied red blend made with French and Italian varieties. The most notable element of this wine is the addition of Sangiovese grapes that Peter cultivated from cuttings in 1989 and worked to develop over 12 years before first bottling wine made from this cultivar in 2001. All I can say is ‘Give that man a Bells’ – ‘Hannibal’ is a delectable wine, with notes of black cherry, spice and strawberry. I suggest you go out and buy a bottle or three IMMEDIATELY!

Peter Finlayson talking about his wine

Peter Finlayson talking about his wine

The success of any pop up restaurant worth its salt – not only relies on fine wine, but also, delicious food. The guest chefs at THE TABLE did not disappoint. After snacking on Australian Macadamia nuts and crudites served with an artichoke pate I could easily have eaten by the handful, we started our meal with a sublime Langoustine bisque – lovingly offered up by Jonty and Tanya Nicolson, owners of Nicolson’s Country Cafe. The soup was akin to liquid velvet bursting with the sweet/savoury essence of Langoustine that Jonty had been reducing two days prior to produce this silken deliciousness – enriched with cream and piquant tomato, I could have happily licked the bowl clean were I not in polite company.

Nicolson's Langoustine Bisque. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Nicolson’s Langoustine Bisque. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

The main course – courtesy of Penny Hatting of Traffords, was ‘Duck done three ways’ and was prepared by her highly talented young chef, Kayla Ann Osborn assisted by Jeane Morkel – Executive Chef at Selborne Hotel, Golf Estate and Spa. Kayla created the dish to perfectly compliment Bouchard Finlayson’s Pinot Noir.  Each plate consisted of perfectly cooked duck breast, still pink and juicy with the fat rendered down, that had been soaked in a cherry and tobacco tea – giving an earthy, chocolate taste to the duck.  The second component was a rich and voluptuous duck liver pate with a cherry and tobacco gel and last but not least, a sumptuous duck rillette which was fragrant with herbs and suitably tender and rich.  The trio was pulled together perfectly with a cherry and tobacco sauce and turnip micro greens. It was without doubt the most enjoyable and satisfying threesome I’ve ever had!

Traffords Duck done three ways. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Traffords Duck done three ways. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Kayla Ann Osborn from Traffords. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Kayla Ann Osborn from Traffords. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Executive Chef Jeane Morkel plating the duck liver pate with cherry tobacco gel. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Executive Chef Jeane Morkel plating the duck liver pate with cherry tobacco gel. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Jonty Nicolson from Nicolson's Country Cafe plating  up the duck. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Jonty Nicolson from Nicolson’s Country Cafe plating up the duck. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

To end, we were treated to a cheese course, handmade by Dutch cheese maker, MJ Mook from ‘Just Cheese’. There were two varieties – a 3 month matured Gouda with crushed pepper and a 6 month matured Gouda. Both cheeses were utterly divine and I cannot wait to get my hands on some very soon!

MJ Mook's delicious handmade cheese from Just Cheese. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

MJ Mook’s delicious handmade cheese from Just Cheese. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Each course was served on beautiful crockery made by ceramicist, David Walters.

Beautiful ceramics from David Walters. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Beautiful ceramics from David Walters. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

The evening was interspersed with glorious music (from Handel to The Teddy Bears picnic- I think ‘eclectic’ is the word)- courtesy of Christopher, our warm and gracious host and an interesting talk by Professor Barry Lovegrove on Banting and the benefits of a LCHF lifestyle. The conversation surrounding the evening’s theme led to much debate and conversation – ranging from issues of health, sustainability and the viability of such a lifestyle for those with limited financial means. However, there was also plenty of merriment – especially during the sing along!

I had been slightly apprehensive about attending a communal dinner with strangers – what if it was awkward, what if they didn’t like me, what if I committed a truly horrendous faux pas, what if there was nothing to talk about – obviously I am neurotic and fortunately I was wrong! I thoroughly enjoyed the company and meeting such interesting and talented people from all different spheres of society – I regret not being able to talk to everyone who attended. I left THE TABLE event feeling uplifted by the sense of community I encountered which was infused with so much passion and creativity.

The concept of the Pop-up restaurant is not new – I first read about it in Kerstin Rodger’s fabulous cookbook ‘Supper Club: Recipes and Notes from The Underground Restaurant’ which details her own experience of pioneering London’s first Pop-up restaurant from her home. I was delighted when I found out about Christopher’s pop-up and having now experienced THE TABLE – I hope this event will continue for many years to come – perhaps with more frequency (hint, hint) – after all, in the words of Virginia Woolf “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
In addition, there is something truly lovely about being welcomed into a person’s home for a meal, sharing food with acquaintances and by the end of the evening, leaving as friends (if only on Facebook).

The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own – no-one coerced, tortured or blackmailed me. I received no payment for this review.

The gorgeous photos where credited were taken by photographer Jonathan Burton: http://www.Jonathanburton.co.za

Should you wish to experience the delicious food and wine mentioned – here are a list of contacts:

Bouchard Finlayson Wine: http://www.bouchardfinlayson.co.za
Tony Kee (distributor of Bouchard Finlayson wine in KZN): email: tonykee@telkomsa.net or phone: +27 (0) 82 652 9549
Nicolson’s Country Cafe: http://www.garlington.co.za/amenities/nicolsons-country-cafe/
Traffords Restaurant: http://traffords.co.za
Just Cheese: http://www.justwisefarm.co.za
David Walters Ceramics: http://www.davidwalters.co.za

Tony Kee of Bouchard Finlayson (left) and Christopher Duigan - our wonderful host (right)

Tony Kee of Bouchard Finlayson (left) and Christopher Duigan – our wonderful host (right)

Wonderful host Christopher Duigan (left) and Tanya Nicolson  Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

Wonderful host Christopher Duigan (left) and Tanya Nicolson Photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton

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One comment

  1. What a tantalizing experience. I felt as if I was there … The only problem is that I now have stomach cramps from all the salivating without any of the gastronomic satisfaction!


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