Putting Food on Show at Exhibit A Restaurant
Up above popular restaurant Villa 47, you’ll find Exhibit A, a fine-dining and explorative food concept restaurant owned and operated by chefs Rikku Ó’Donnchü and Warwick King. Joining them are also chefs Christiaan De Jongh and Chris Morrison. As the name suggests, Exhibit A is about putting food on show; this is no ordinary dining experience, the idea is food theatre, where your palate is confronted and challenged.
Dining at Exhibit A
There are a few ways to dine at Exhibit A – the options are a 12, 7 or 5-course menu and, as with any fine-dining menu, there are additions along the way, so expect to try a lot of different dishes with a variety of textures, styles and flavours within a sitting.
Rikku and Warwick might be names that you know from their previous positions at Gåte at Quoin Rock. Exhibit A is their own creation, and while the restaurants don’t resemble each other at all in terms of looks, the menus, do share some moments of similarity in terms of being gastronomically creative, with lots of bells and whistles.
It is near impossible to cover every course of an entire tasting menu in an article, especially in a restaurant of this nature, where even the snacks on arrival take days to create and require heaps of work.
This type of food is exceptionally intricate, with sometimes in excess of 10-15 ingredients on a plate – things that we as diners often don’t even know are there.
It’s next-level complexity that can be an assuage on the senses if you allow it. Over the years I have learnt to listen to the rattling off of ingredients and processes involved but to allow the flavour, and my experience of the dish, to be the judge.
Experiential and Sometimes Explosive
As I said, when even the arrival snacks are complex, you know you are going to need to strap in for a food ride. In this case, potato ‘fossils’ are created when two paper-thin slices of potato are put together with a leaf of picked parsley in-between. This is compressed, fried and placed on a tree as decoration.
To be fair, they looked so pretty that we were only confident that they were actually meant to be eaten once we saw other diners plucking them off the tree and tucking in.
Directly after your tree has experienced its autumn season (i.e. those chips landing in your belly) the next bite is delivered. Pani puri, which is basically fried pastry balls that puff-up and become hollow and are filled with a delicate curry.
The puri are small and so are the intricate little bits and pieces that go with them but they made for a tasty mouthful to get the palate going.
The next course is a signature dish of Rikku’s and those who have dined at Gåte will recognise it. Holy Smoke is a Bao bread cigar (complete with gold ring) and a smoking edible ashtray – a delicious mind-bender whether you’ve seen it before or not. Sweetness from onion jam differentiates it from its predecessor and balances the smoky onion ash.
It’s a memorable dish that delivers on flavour and fun. It will no doubt be a talking point.
Another highlight on the menu included delicious oysters, served theatrically with smoky flair. I loved the tart vinaigrette and the crunch from finely chopped peanuts.
Another dish that reminded me of a previous experience of Chef Rikku’s food was the Caprese course. Although the dishes look nothing alike, the flavours are obviously similar and the use of ice-cold elements is reminiscent. This is not a bad thing at all though, as it is successful in its own right.
A peeled whole tomato is filled with house-made ricotta and is refreshing and delicious with herby basil.
This kind of menu really needs to be experienced for itself for it to maintain its intrigue and mystery.
To pique your interest, other novelties things along the way include the dropping of a golden egg, snoek vetkoek and marrow bones, savoury cowpea panna cotta, blue cheese fudge and brown beer ice cream. That should get you curious!
Expect to have your expectations busted – that is the idea and Exhibit A delivers on that promise.
Exhibit A Opening Hours
Lunch: Tuesday – Saturday: 12h00 – 14h00.
Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday: 18h00 – close.
12-course Tasting Menu | R1 490 pp
7-course Tasting Menu | R790 pp
5-course Tasting Menu | R590 pp
Book a table
You can book online on the Exhibit A website or via email.
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