In early December, I’ll be sipping my way around South Africa’s gorgeous vineyards of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Wellington and Paarl, before kicking back in Cape Town for Christmas. So an invitation to attend The London Foodie Supper Club hosted by Stellenbosch Experience came as a lovely surprise. A night of top-class Nikkei cuisine by Luiz Hara, paired with the finest Stellenbosch wines? Erm, yes please.
The London Foodie
If you’re a foodie kind of blogger, you will no doubt have heard of The London Foodie. Luiz Hara is an Italian-Japanese Brazilian chef who left his career in the city to pursue his passion for food. That was in 2009. Seven years later and Le Cordon Bleu-trained, he’s now running some of the most sought-after supper clubs in London. And he’s received all sorts of recognition for his Washoku (Japanese cooking) and cookbook on Nikkei (South American-Japanese) cuisine.
Stellenbosch is a small town in the Western Cape of South Africa that’s famous for its vineyards, new world wine and Dutch colonial history. You only need to do a quick online search to see how pretty Stellenbosch and the wider wine region is. Think white Cape Dutch architecture fringed by lush vineyards, rolling mountains and nature reserves. I can’t wait to explore this corner of the world.
The London Foodie x Stellenbosch Experience
The night was hosted at The London Foodie’s very stylish home in Islington and was a collaboration with Stellenbosch Experience – the official ambassadors and website for the town.
Our evening started with canapés in the living room and terrace with introductions to some of the winemaker personalities and owners from L’Avenir, Jordan Wines, Waterford Estate, Kleine Zalze, Stellenbosch Vineyards and Spier Wine Farm.
With a very tasty sparkling Blanc de Blanc by L’Avenir, accompanied with leek and tofu gyozas and shichimi-flavoured popcorn (and lovely warm weather) it was a great start to the night. I used the opportunity to quiz a few of the South African visitors for tips on my upcoming trip.
Next, it was downstairs to be seated at the long table within the fantastic open kitchen and dining room. If you attend one of The London Foodie Supper Clubs, this is where all the magic happens. Luiz and his team worked like fiends in the kitchen while we mingled and guzzled.
I’ve wanted to attend a supper club for years but I was always slightly put off by the intimacy of being in a stranger’s house. Of course it helps if there are around 20+ of you – all journalists and bloggers – and an abundance of wine. But I decided to pop my supper club cherry and thanks to The London Foodie, I think I did it in style.
Before each course, one of the winemakers each shared a few words on the background and tasting notes of the wine that Luiz had paired with the food, and they moved around the tables so we could find out more.
Here’s what we ate and the marvellous wines we drank.
There were five (yes really).
Salmon, Sicilian prawn and fennel Nikkei ceviche in a passion fruit and Aji Amarillo Tiger’s Milk. (wine: kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc 2015)
‘Deconstructed sushi’ comprising of grilled scallops on rice, tobiko caviar, Nori Seaweed and a spicy creamy sauce. (wine: Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015).
‘Tuna Tataki’ of seared tuna with Yuzu-Ponzu dressing.
Chilled green tea soba noodles with fried aubergines in a cold dashi broth. (The broth was packed with flavour)
(wine: Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2014).
Our last starter was a fresh-out-the-fryer tempura of courgette flowers filled with a gorgeous soft mousse of scallop, silken tofu and lemon.
Crisp, light and just gorgeous.
The iberico pork cheeks were cooked with a daikon fondant and were slow-braised in soy sauce, sake, brown sugar and ginger.
This was accompanied by ‘Hikiki Gohan’, a Japanese rice with Hijiki seaweed, carrots and abura-age tofu in a light dashi.
And Luiz made sure we had our greens with a delicious medley of broccoli, fine green beans, sugar snaps (which I love), and asparagus in saikyo miso and black sesame sauce.
For the main course we had three different red wines: the Spier Creative Block 5 2012, Waterford Estate The Jem 2010 and Stellenbosch Vineyards The Flagship Cabernet Franc 2010.
When I didn’t think this meal could get any better, the grand finale was the most mouth-watering tarte tartin with star anise, rosemary, almonds and sarawakan cinnamon served with vanilla crème fraiche. Seriously, it was heaven, I couldn’t help but go back for more. This was served with a delicious Mellifera Noble Late Harvest 2013 to end the night on a super sweet note.
Oh, and I left with a delicious bar of Masala Chai dark chocolate from the Waterford Estate which I spent the weekend devouring. It’s dark yet not too bitter and has a really surprising texture.
The Stellenbosch x The London Foodie Supper Club blew me away. Luiz started every course with a detailed introduction on the wine pairing and creation of each dish. And the execution of the whole night was incredible. I seriously don’t know how he pulls it all off – and still manages to be a smiley host to a room full of giddy diners – he’s a true professional.
Fantastic company, fantastic wine, and the most delicious Nikkei cuisine. Sadly I can’t transport Luiz and his team to South Africa, but I can’t wait to taste these delicious wines on the very grounds where the grapes are grown. Stellenbosch here I come.