Like everything worth doing and having in the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, good food is an investment that yields substantial dividends over time.
My latest foodie find, understands that irrespective of the variegated cultures intrinsically tied to the fabric of the Mother City’s ethos, eating has a universality which shepherds all kinds of people to get together.
Say hello to Cape Town’s newest 40-seater eatery: Upper Bloem Restaurant.
“8 Years after the opening of celebrated La Mouette Restaurant comes the birth of Upper Bloem – a new quintessentially Cape Town restaurant with a unique approach to offering a terroir experience in an urban environment.”
Upper Bloem Restaurant’s patron Chef Henry Vigar & co-owner Andre Hill understand that cooking is about people – which probably explains the restaurant interior design choice: an open plan kitchen.
We, the restaurant guests, are welcomed into an intimate space – previously reserved as a sacred enclave wherein all manner of gastronomic magical menagerie is created & curated by gifted chefs.
The decor, designed by Liam Mooney, is probably my favorite part of Upper Bloem’s experience, besides the taste experience one is privy to.
They managed to encompass the amalgamation of different people, speeds, landscapes and tastes, into a space most reflective of a Cape Town mood. The ambiance is traditional and refined with its brown and teal hues, in as much as it is fresh with modernity and art deco eclecticism.
Then again, 50s re-imagined, is the latest design aesthetic circling the globe.
…but “What of the food?”, right?!
Set Menu: R395.00c per person
Set Menu including x3 wine suggestions: R695.00c per person
Upper Bloem is all about a tapas situation – tapping into the port city’s adventurous tastes on that front. They offer up delightful small plates delivered as fresh as possible, and created using modern techniques you can see in effect, from your table. Chef Hill & Chef Vigar’s co-creations show a commitment to sourcing seasonal local produce, while delivering on a classic fine dining journey you’re likely to think back on, with affectionate nostalgia.
It’s winter and even gluten-lovers have a hankering for bread. Upper Bloem starts their diners off with a bread board you cant help but continue nibbling on.
I highly recommend this menu because I’ve never quite tasted such an interesting combination…an that’s just to start you off.
We began with a Smoked Snoek ‘pate’, made with apple puree, teriyaki glaze, samosa crisps, potato, and kale. I have my reservations about anything with pate AND kale, as did my friend who accompanied me. #SomethingsFishy
My friend seemed to be under the illusion that fish just wasn’t for her, but I convinced her to try the starter dishes. Where better to explore the bounds of your culinary inclinations, than at a restaurant with one of the finest Cape Town chefs in residence.
We discovered that she is not averse to fish – she’s just got a palate for the finer things, because this particular pate went down easy with her.
Next to the tummy, as part of the tapas starter pack, was Cured Kabeljou with a sago crisp, pickled radish, and curry & raisin.
Sago crisps have an incredible lightly spiced flavor and crunch, which essentially highlights the cured kabeljou’s fresh flavor once it hits your tongue. The other ingredients serve to even everything out in to a well-rounded one bite starter.
Chef Hill’s origins story is narrated in the next starter: Cape Malay-style onions with pickled aubergine and caramelized onions.
I could taste Bo-Kaap in the finesse of this contemporary dish, laden with the textures of Hill’s childhood.
The second course – small plates served in quick succession – began with Tandoori Carrots, made with whipped goat’s milk yogurt and candied black rice.
GUYS! I heard about goat’s milk in movies, but I’d never sampled it. I really enjoyed these carrots. Making veggies taste great, is the Everest of chefs cooking for me. The carrots were crunchy inside, and slightly tender on the outside; the yogurt and candied state of the black rice, came together to complete an ideal tapas option.
Seafood isn’t for everyone. Some folks squirm at the texture of shellfish, while others shudder at a mere whiff of seafood.
I happen to have dragged myself from the relative safety of the simple fish & chips life, straight into being a fine connoisseur of fresh water & salt water dwellers & their underwater nibbles.
It is, therefore, not a shock for me to profess a like for Upper Bloem restaurants Saldanha Bay mussels, with spekboom, parsley oil and sea essence.
They were simply a good little mouthful of seafood. No gimmicks, just good.
A revelation descended onto my tongue, by way of the Beef Carpaccio – Carpaccio being a favorite at Cape Town eateries with more defined dinner menus.
Plated with roasted beef mayonnaise, crispy onions and pickled mushrooms, the beef carpaccio did not come to underwhelm.
Mouth-feel, flavor and all-round taste was beautifully managed.
Make sure to pilgrimage to the food gods working their gifted asses off in Upper Bloem’s kitchens, to thank them for the Set Menu’s third course plates.
I give thanks, for the Greenfields Farm Beef Short Rib, matched with Jerusalem artichoke, sweetbreads, tongue and apple.
It is wonderful to taste that labor of love and flavor.
You cannot convince me that potatoes aren’t one of the best things to cook with. You fuck up potatoes, and I don’t exactly know why you’re allowed in a cooking area.
Upper Bloem’s Triple cooked potato, with: Muizenberg sour figs, curry sauce, burnt chard and bhaji power, comes through like a warm hug when you bite, chew and swallow a morsel.
Last to this foodfest is Lamb neck briyani. The lamb was made very well, but there was something missing from this dish, accompanied by: grains, pomegranate, pistachio and dried herbs.
Dessert Board: R195.00c (2x)
The dessert board is made for a squad filled with folks with different tastes. You can get in on some:
Koeksisters with coffee cream – sooo good, but a little hard on the outside of the koeksister.
Caramelia toffee apple – a fun and nostalgic sweet & tart flavored dessert.
Mango & Jasmine pate de fruit – kind of awesome! No overwhelming sweetness, but a rich flavor coming out when you bite smoothly into the pieces.
“MySugar” space bar – CHOCOLATE! YES! YES! YES!
…and the After school fruit tin featuring condensed milk and tinned fruit, which would probably use some work considering it kind of came off like a dessert with all the ingredients compiled, but was ‘uncooked’.
It’s new, but I think they’ve found their feet quite quickly. A terroir approach to Upper Bloem, means the establishment is mindful of the tempestuous taste & mood Cape Town diners have, as well as the environmental factors which influence ebbing taste, cultural dietary disciplines, subsequent choices, and most especially ingredient availability.
You could walk-in for lunch and gorge yourself on a variety of stand-alone choices, but just be mindful that the 5 to 6 dish options change daily.
I truly think that beyond the food, the decor design is what might clinch Upper Bloem as a foodie eatery of note.
Everybody loves a culturally versatile sensory journey!
What about the health nuts & vegetarians?
Ey! Vegetarians and Gluten-free folks: Guess who has menus available for y’all, upon request?!
Upper Bloem does not want you to feel like the forgotten step-child. You’ll get a gourmet tapas experience too.
Substitutions and dietary restrictions need to be articulated in advance though folks, so ensure you’re vocal about your needs to the helpful servers.
What of the drinks & booze?
Upper Bloem does not skimp on your choices for Wine specials – especially due to the fact that this restaurant is the sister of famed La Mouette restaurant, also in Cape Town.
For those not in the know: La Mouette is known to be where chefs go for grub, on their days off!
With each course of the Upper Bloem Set Menu, comes an accompanying wine. On this particular day, I began with the 2015 Hermanuspietersfontein ‘Kat met die Houtbeen’ Sauvignon Blanc – A crisp, chilled and firm blanc, with the lightest hit of grass & nettle, which went wonderfully with the seafood starters.
While perfectly matched by sommelier’s with vegetable dishes, I found the Bouchard Finlayson 2016 ‘Crocodile’s Lair’ Kaaimansgat Chardonnay was a little too fruity and flowery for my own personal tastes. The Chardonnay was impeccably well matched with the Carpaccio though…there’s something about the flavors of gooseberry, sweet melon, jasmine and rose petal all coming together with the carpaccio’s plated additions.
Also on the Set Menu drinks thread, is a 2014 Neil Ellis Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2015 Stony Brook ‘Von A’ Noble Late Harvest for dessert.
You also have the choice of craft beers on the drinks menu, some Japanese sake, and soft drinks for those in dire need of non-alcoholic beverages.
Upper Bloem Restaurant get’s an all-round 8/10
Upper Bloem Restaurant
Tuesdays to Saturdays
Wednesdays to Saturdays
Sundays, Monday and Public holidays