Bistrot Bizerca has found its rightful home in historical Heritage Square
Arguably the sweetest courtyard for a lunch on a hot, windless, Cape Town day and that’s not to mention the outstanding food, service and wine.
No longer is one of the finest bistros in the country, hidden away in some obscure part of the foreshore. It has found its rightful home in historical Heritage Square on Shortmarket Street in Cape Town.
If you find yourself sweltering in the city, go and seek immediate refuge in the stone courtyard where you will find the temperature drops a degree or two and the city pace slows. The outside wall of the kitchen has a lush vertical garden that adds to the serenity and to your plate – chef, Laurent Deslandes, harvests fresh salad leaves and herbs from it. Cyrillia Deslandes, co-owner and Laurent’s wife, says, “We will literally be dining ‘off the wall’, which is in keeping with name of the restaurant.”
In true bistro fashion, there is a small selection of dishes on the regular menu supplemented by an extensive daily chalkboard menu of dishes which seduce simply with their description, before they even reach the palate.
I had the Yellowtail Tartare topped with Avocado and Matchstick-sliced Papaya with a fresh wasabi undertone, to start. The temperature of the dish was perfect and made a cooling, clean experience on the palate. While I was …mmming and …ahhing over my dish, I eventually noticed a pleasureable silence coming from across the table. My dining partner had fallen victim to another sublime starter dish – a Melon and Grapefruit Salad with Poached Prawns and a cheeky zip of chilli in a mint dressing. The master note in this dish is a gazpacho sorbet that blasts your mouth with cold flavour in contrast to the kick of chilli. Masterful and perfect for munching on a hot day.
Roasted Pork Ramannoff with Cheddar, Bacon and Spinach plated like a regular ol’ sandwich but not really, and surrounded by a rich jus. The strong flavored cheddar enhancing the intense pork flavours set off by a delicate salsa-type salad of corn and cucumber. This dish may sound deathly rich with pork, bacon and cheddar, but somehow Laurent keeps it light, without sacrificing the rich flavours.
Whilst eating at Bizerca, you notice the attention to detail that goes into each dish and this starts with sourcing the best and freshest ingredients. This is crucial for Laurent, as is their origin. Fresh fish is delivered daily, small local producers are staunchly supported and the pork comes from those happy, acorn-fed pigs at Oak Valley in Elgin.
The wines from France and South Africa are selected by the couple themselves. “We try all the wines before we decide whether to offer them to our guests,” says Cyrillia. “It’s important for us to know that they will complement Laurent’s food.”
This meticulous attention to detail is what creates the warm, inviting atmosphere in the bistro. Ambience is contemporary and casual. It is in no way stiff because this world-class food comes with an unpretentious confidence. Food as good as this is not just whipped on to your plate with creative spontaneity – it takes discipline, hours of planning and sourcing, to put these plates of perfection out in a seemingly relaxed manor.
You could really put Bizerca alongside a busy motorway and I think people who know would still be there. That’s not to say that new location is not a vast improvement. Laurent’s food is sublime – well balanced, well thought out – almost perfect. Food, like art, is subjective so test it yourself in its new location. Tell me if I am wrong, or if Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards’ were wrong, to award Bizerca the 2009 and 2011 title of Best Bistro. Or was it a surprise that Heston Blumenthal personally thanked Laurent for his meal.