Don’t go looking for dull at Overture

April 21st, 2011 § 0 comments

People have always raved about Overture’s food, except maaaybe once or twice the dreaded F word was mentioned… As in ‘The food is great but it is quite… foamy‘. So I arrived, emboldened by Bertus Basson’s kind invitation to dine at Overture, with the intention of grilling Bertus-with-the-Mohawk about the scourge-which-is-Foam. Only to find Bertus channeling Nicolas Cage in the kitchen and serving an amuse bouche of duck rillettes with cornichons (little gherkins), egg mayo, confit of onion, bread and chunks of butter. What a cool combo of earthy delights. And I absolutely love it when the humble boiled egg gets to shine.

We very highly amused

A couple of quick chats with Bertus in between courses revealed that he has outgrown the mohawk and his grandiose dreams of cheffiness and is now focused on pushing the boundaries of fine food. Keeping it real, and doing it really well. As SA’s erstwhile top competition chef, skill and perfect execution are a given but having been at the top of his game for some time, he’s taking the liberty of serving funky cardboard boxes with crispy chicken wings and a delicious dipping sauce, because who says you can’t? The passion and dedication is infectious – hanging with Mr B is like sticking your finger in an electric socket. Which is pretty cool if you like a buzz! On this day a team of just three chefs manned the tiny open-to-view kitchen, which explains why all my pics are a bit blurred.

Greased lightening-a-trois

Many chefs claim to change their menu often but on closer inspection they cling to the crowd-pleasers. Or they simply can’t maintain the pace of frequently reinventing an entire menu to exacting standards. Not so at Overture. Each week sees an entirely new menu. After the duck rillettes we had a little Caprese salad which was so wickedly flavourful it had me peddling my feet for joy, followed by braised Springbok pie with white beans and minted peas.

Delicious little Springbok pie

The first three courses were my favourite part of the meal, which is often the case with tasting menus. I think my tastebuds become saturated and I generally prefer more flavourful, lighter dishes. Next up was home-brined tongue on risotto bianco, which was ever so delicately flavoured with lemon, parsley and capers. I have a love-hate thing going with tongue… it’s fine if it’s very thinly sliced and served with a good sauce, preferably in the mustard range… so in other words, I like it the boring old way. I battle when the tongue on my plate is thicker and harder than my own. Euw. Does that make sense? While I’m at it let me confess that I don’t like truffles. I KNOW!! Put the barbarian out of her misery and give her a lifetime supply of Wimpy vouchers. So, not only did the tongue not adhere to my weird and full-o-crap requirements, it was also served with a bit of truffle…oil probably. Cousin J was more than happy to help me finish this course. Later, enjoying a coffee on the stoep, we did the usual post-meal analysis:

Me: ‘I must confess… I know they’re terribly posh and the best thing in the world according to anyone who knows anything about food… but I really can’t stand the taste of truffles. It just overpowers everything and it tastes so…dank. And musty. And I know I should like it but I just don’t.’

Prickly pause…

Cousin J: ‘Well … … … quite frankly, neither do I.’

WHAT? I am not alone!

Me, in full truffle-bashing mode: ‘I think they taste like fossilized tree farts.’

Cousin J: ‘Yes, or like constipated mother earth turds.’

Me: ‘But wouldn’t that taste much like fossilized tree farts in any case?’

You get the picture… we had the Chefs Menu with wine pairing. The rest of our food was great. A hake & prawn curry with coriander and cucumber, then a funky version of a Banana Split served on equally groovy blue plates from Monsieur Prix (nice touch, at R11,50 a pop!). But what really blew my mind was when I rocked up a week later with the Expresso team and was treated to a few dishes from the new menu. And it was right up my alley. I spotted this little beaut just before it left the kitchen:

Chicken parfait with nut loaf

And here’s Bertus finishing off the endive salad to go with the chicken parfait. What a lovely combo.

Sharp & tart meets robust & rich

And then I was treated to a demonstration of the Sole Petit Pois a la Francais. I LOVE petit pois a la frenchie. This dish is so simple and clean yet it just klaps all the flavour buttons.

O my sole petit pois a la francais...

Peas in chicken stock with bits of bacon (lardons, si vous voulez) and lettuce leaves that blanch to release such subtle flavour… don’t know why we don’t eat more of it? And I saw but wasn’t fast enough to photograph the Saffron risotto with smoked garlic, Buffalo Ridge mozzarella and courgette –  another winner.

Here's Bertus baring his sole to me

I unfortunately had to leave before the Expresso team was treated to lunch. After spending time in the Overture kitchen my dinner party menu for that night seemed hopelessly uninspired… I dragged myself through the shops, encountering one out-of-stock ingredient after another, knowing that post-Overture my efforts would look and taste terribly domestic. But I dutifully started cooking when I got home. Milly installed herself on the couch in the kitchen and I think her expression sums it up perfectly….

YAWN... whadya cookin lady?

The beauty of Overture is that every week is different. I so happened to have preferred the second week’s menu to the one that I was originally invited to enjoy… but it’s all brilliant and the amazing thing is, there’s always more.

Thanks Bertus & team for a bolt of inspiration.

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