Friday, June 15, 2012

5 Rooms at the Alphen Hotel

As you would know (from the updates below), Ive been spending a fair amount of time in Constantia lately, visiting wine farms and going for lunches etc... and, as it happens, I was in the region again for quite a marvelous dinner.

I had heard of The Alphen Hotel being under new ownership at the end of last year, and had heard some good things about the restaurant and how the whole estate was quite a landmark – but until the dinner, I had never set a foot onto the property.

I always get excited about trying out new places and sampling new dishes, and from the moment we arrived I was taken by the beautiful, old building. It was pretty chilly though, so we hurried in and were happily surprised when we found our table was in a cosy corner, literally right next to the fireplace.

The restaurant, 5 Rooms, is named after the fact that it has five rooms. We were seated in the 'portrait' room, taking its name from all the portraits that line the walls. I can be reproachably chatty at times and with a curious (bordering on nosy) nature, I asked our waiter about all the paintings and the history of the building. As it turns out, each portrait featured in the room is of people who visited and stayed at the estate over the past few 100 years.

The centuries-old manor house, in which the restaurant is housed, is a National Monument, in fact the whole estate is a national heritage site – so a must-see for history lovers – and has hosted the likes of Mark Twain, Cecil John Rhodes, George Bernard Shaw, Captain Cook and Jan Smuts. Most fascinating of all, is that the front door is actually made from the wood decking that was part of one of Jan van Riebeeck's ships (for those who don't know, he was the Commander of the Cape from 1652 to 1662). I checked to see if the waiter was pulling my leg – but he was being genuine.

So enthralled was I, by all the surrounding history, that I hadn't even looked at the menu, and kept asking for more time to decide upon our dishes.

They have a fairly extensive wine list and quite a few wines by the glass, which was helpful as my fiance and I couldn't agree on what bottle to share. He went for a glass of one of his favourite red blends, The Chocolate Block (R100 per glass) and I had a the Kevin Arnold Shiraz (R85).

To start we ordered the Bresaola beef with potato and horseradish to share (R70). The medallions were perfectly cooked to medium rare and went beautifully with both of our wines.

We decided to try two very different, restaurant-signature dishes for our mains. My fiance had the signature lamb trilogy dish (R160). It was spectacular and included: biltong dusted lamb loin, lamb tortellini with truffle sauce and a grilled lamb cutlet with wholegran mustard... he couldn't have been happier with his choice!

I had a very unusual seafood dish, called the fishtank, which literally arrives in a fish bowl. It includes a medley of seafood, such as salmon, mussels, squid and so on, in a bouillabaisse on glass noodles. It was spectacular and won the dish of the day. It also lead to a little argument about the stock, which after some inquiring turned out to be chicken – so my fiance won that bet. I had a glass of Warwick Chardonnay (R60), which complemented the seafood amazingly.

For dessert we shared a chocolate fondant with chocolate ice cream and a nachtmusik cuppuccino with sugar powder (R55)... YUM!!! With a little dessert wine from Vergelegen hmmmmmm....

Overall the service was excellent. Our waiter was very well informed about the food and had a wealth of wine knowledge.

For those wanting to try it out, the good news is that they also have a WINTER SPECIAL on at the moment: 2 course menu for R140 or 3 course menu for R190, plus half price cocktails everyday in winter and a special winter menu with dishes like 1kg of prawns for R99, slow-braised lamb shank with mushrooms, garlic and rosemary on a bed of creamed potato for R129 and an Osso Buco for R89. 

We will definitely go back, and soon I hope.

To book, call 021 795 6300


Rosie said...

*mussels .. sorry, can't help myself.

Amy Hopkins said...

AAh thanks Rosie!!!