A little while ago my family and I were invited to a lunch at Blanko for review purposes. As I scrolled through their Instagram feed, one thought kept popping up… “my kids are way too wild for this place”. I politely e-mailed them back and told them that I feared for their fancy establishment should my kids descend upon them – I was assured that they would be just fine, and that they would still love to have us. I did my part, I warned them.
Last Sunday we left the West Coast and headed for the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. We used to live in Meadowridge and it was quite nostalgic to be in our old neighborhood. At the same time the crowded shops, narrow streets and small gardens made us realize that we could never get accustomed to that lifestyle again – we much prefer the open spaces and serenity of the farm. Constantia is a gorgeous and affluent suburb, with a winemaking history that dates back to 1685. It boasts 8 award-winning wine estates, Groot Constantia, Steenberg Vineyards, Constantia Uitsig, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Eagles Nest, Constantia Glen and Silvermist Vineyards. It is no wonder that the area also is home to some of the finest eateries and restaurants in Cape Town.
Blanko is situated at The Alphen Boutique Hotel, a 17th-century historical treasure spread across 11.5 acres of beautiful gardens and sprawling lawns. As we drove into the parking lot, I saw white chairs, white linen, white everything… and I started to get nervous again. My children are very well-mannered, but they are wildlings… messy wildlings. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful, with tasteful decor and a relaxed atmosphere. It is the kind of place where you can spend all day having a lazy lunch and drinking some of your favorite wines. It is classy, immaculate and has a contemporary style synonymous with the Kove Collection. It is such a breath of fresh air to see such a young, modern space at the Alphen.
When I am asked to review restaurants, I prefer to not inform the restaurant staff of who I am and what I am there to do – it gives me peace of mind that I am receiving the same service as everyone else and that my dining experience is authentic. The first thing that I have to remark on is that their staff is excellent. Friendly and welcoming, and Elvis (our waiter) knew the menu offerings and made excellent recommendations.
We were seated in the outside courtyard, covered by lush green trees, decorated with Italian marble tables and textured furnishings while a live jazz band in the background made us feel instantly relaxed. The kids started getting fiddly, there was no jungle gym in sight. When our waiter came around to take our drinks order, the kids asked for milkshake (which they do not serve)… I think our dear waiter must have sensed the panic rising inside me, as he smiled and pointed at the large lawn just outside the restaurant. There, in all it’s glory, was a child-friendly setup like no other. Bazinga had different stalls, doing face paint, magic sand, sand art, balloon animals and all kinds of fun activity stations. There was a huge jumping castle and for R50 per child, you can enjoy absolute peace of mind. The best part is that the lawn is surrounded by security cameras and there are staff at every single exit point ensuring that none of the kids “escape”. Your child is signed in and gets a wristband allowing them to make use of all the facilities available. Cole and I could laze on the couch, have drinks and actually have a date without having to worry about the kids at all! It was absolutely amazing… it was basically like having Nanny McPhee with you, we didn’t have to lift a finger or run after them once. The R50 payment is donated to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, so it is all for a good cause. This is only available as their Sunday Fun Day feature, and not for the rest of the week.
We started our dining experience with some of their signature cocktails. My first order was the French Mojito (sparkling wine & fresh strawberries @R100), but my absolute favorite was their Spiced Pear Bellini (Ketel One Vodka, fresh pear, pear liqueur, spiced syrup and sparkling wine @ R95). It is the perfect drink for lunch/brunch… sweet, with just enough kick to shake things up a bit. Other cocktails on the menu that caught my eye were the Grapefruit and Mint G&T (Tanqueray Gin, grapefruit, torn mint leaves, cane sugar and tonic water @R65), and the Espresso Martini (Ketel One Vodka, Kahlua, Espresso, Sugar & Cream @ R70).
We placed our food orders and decided to try a variety from their starter and main menus in order to get a true reflection of what Group Head Chef, Amber-May Deetlefs meant with her culinary philosophy “I believe the best food is prepared from the heart – it not only has to taste good, it should be something sincere and uncomplicated”.
Dish 1 – Antipasti: Beef Carpaccio (R95)
I was very excited for this dish, I love beef carpaccio. The dish is served with wild rocket, Parmigiano Reggiano (a hard, granular cheese), extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic. In all honesty, I found the cheese to be overwhelming. The balsamic and cheese combination has never been a favorite of mine, but unfortunately with this dish the flavours were too complicated and the beef got completely lost in it. It would have been so much better without the Parmigiano Reggiano.
Dish 2 – Antipasti: Mixed Fried Seafood (R110)
Seafood is another firm favorite of ours, and even the kids dug into this starter. Fresh prawns, calamari, baby squid, sardines and lemon – cooked to absolute perfection. It was incredibly tasty and the flavors all complimented each other nicely. You also get a descent sized serving so it was perfect for us to share.
Dish 3 – Stuzzichini: Zucchini Bruschetta (R60)
Out of all the appetizers on offer (the antipasti & stuzzichini) this was both Cole and my favorite. Chopped zucchini served with garlic, olive oil and goats milk cheese on a crisp slice of toasted bruschetta – excellent! The flavors were precise and clean, it was just something different. So simple, yet so tasty.
For our main meals, we decided to go with our waiter’s recommendations. Cole ordered the Lamb Shank and I ordered the Grilled Salmon.
Dish 4 – Carne: Lamb Shank (R220)
A rich, slow cooked, red wine infused and braised lamb shank. In Cole’s own words – the most tender and tastiest piece of meat he has ever had. It was bursting with flavour, prepared perfectly and totally worth the price tag.
Dish 5 – Pesce: Grilled Salmon (SQ)
Another excellent dish! The salmon is served with baby potatoes and Italian salsa verde. It was extremely fresh and just melts in your mouth.
They offer a great variety of dishes for the kids as well, and I love that they do not try and overcomplicate them. They had pizza’s, fish and chips, a cheesy pasta and more. The kids enjoyed their food, and no unnecessary garnishes and sauces meant that it was perfect for my picky eaters.
The desert was the highlight of the day, without a doubt. Cole opted for the Sorbet (R60)and loved it – fresh, zingy and not too sweet. The kids enjoyed their ice cream and chocolate sauce and I was blown away by their tart (R65). A rich, chocolate dish with dollops of caramel, hazelnuts and ricotta – I recommend you try it as soon as possible! And the presentation was just gorgeous.
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