Hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of Cape Town traffic and bright city lights is a secret piece of France, a beautifully paved garden surrounds a grand rustic water fountain. A wall of giant green trees keeps the secret of this tranquil retreat.
The solid wooden doors peaking through the archway entice you into La Maison,as you walk through you are greeted by warmth, not only of the wooden floors and warmly wallpapered walls, or the fire that dances in the traditional fireplace; but more importantly by a sea of waves and smiles. Smiles that pick you up from the door and carry you all the way to your table, waves of smiles that rhythmically continue to bring courses of food and drink to your table and stop by throughout the evening to see if there is anything else they can assist you with.
If your experience at La Mouette is anything like the one that we had then you will carry some of that warmth home when you leave at the end of an incredibly pleasant evening.
There is a simple brilliance to the food, in which you will find many of the more common ingredients combined in ways you may have neverconsidered and presented in a way that has you licking your lips from the start.I mean, warm chocolate tart, with peanut butter ice cream and caramelized popcorn, what more can I say?
To my surprise La Mouette has found a way of making fine dining more accessible to us folk that thought fine dining was just for the elite. Not only in terms of both their style and pricing, but they have also made it more inviting. They have created a culture whereby we can sit with the best of them and just be ourselves without putting on any heirs and graces; and yet deliver food and service that you would expect to see at the finest of French restaurants in Paris.
Whilst I enjoyed the August tasting menu (which left me wanting a full course of everything and 5 courses of their deserts), my wife, who is more sensitive than a princess to a pea, requested courses that were gluten and wheat free.As if La Mouette did not already have enough in their favour, we were delighted to see them produce a gluten free menu, and cater for all of her other intolerances (Husband excluded).
So what is the secret to Capes no longer best kept secret?
The answer can only be Chef Henry and his wife Mari that has clearly been anointed with the gift of hospitality.
We had the privilege of meeting Chef Henry (a recent guest on the well-known TV program Masterchef South Africa) and wanted to get to know him a little better.Especially considering we had something in common, it turns out that we both grew up in the same place in the UK, and both had the same tastes in women, well, South African women. As evidenced by our wives.
Interview with Chef Henry of La Mouette
How and where did you meet your wife?
We meet in the UK, I was working as the head chef in Kensington Place restaurant and Mari was PA to the general manager. It was love at first site.After 2 years we had enough of the grey weather and headed for the sun.
Where did you passion for food come from?
It started at a young age, I was inspired by my mum who loved to cook at home; she also enjoyed cooking when we took holidays in France
What was your first job?
I took my first job at the age of 14 washing pots in a restaurant called the Juice House in Lincoln (UK)
Tell us your journey from pot washer to one of South Africas most respected Chefs at the age of just 33?
I left Lincoln at the age of 19, worked in a restaurant in leads, then moved to France for 2 years where I worked at a 2 Michelin star restaurant, it was there that I picked up a lot of the French techniques from some of the chefs that I worked with.I then spent some time in Australia before moving to London and spending the next 10 years working at different restaurants.The last 2 years being at Kensington Place.
Well that answers my next question, who is your favorite Masterchef judge?
Yes, Pete of course.
What impacted has being invited onto Masterchef had on business for you?
Its doubled! People now have to book in advance much more.
So when you are not cooking where is your favorite restaurant to eat at?
The Pot Luck Club owned by Luke Dale Roberts
Where is the best meal that you have ever eaten?
The best meal Ive had is in Paris at Alain Ducasses place
One thing that really impressed me was your gluten free menu, not all restaurants cater for dietary requirements, what has encourage you to do so?
We like to cater for everyone, so that they can all enjoy fine dining and not just have to eat the same boring food. If you give us 24 hours notice we can even prepare a vegan tasting menu for you.
What are your plans for the future?
Well, we are toying with the idea of opening a tapas bar upstairs, this would be for an even more relaxed dining experience. However that really is something in the longer term, this is still such a big project for the time being.
Are you involved in any projects that raise up future talent in South Africa?
We work with some charitable organizations who take kids from underprivileged families and put them through an intense course before sending them to us. We have some working in our kitchen now.
“It was truly a pleasure to get to know such a humble man as Chef Henry, he has a passion for food and for creating an environment in which everybody can also enjoy such a passion. It is evident in the fruits of all of the team at La Mouette that both he and his wife Mari invests time into raising up hospitable people with a standard of excellence they serve with a smile!!!!!”
For more information please visitlamouette-restaurant.co.za