The Old Biscuit Mill
Malika Van Reenen's Cape Town
Malika Van Reenen is Executive Chef at Signal Restaurant, located on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront at, five star boutique hotel, Cape Grace. Under her leadership, Signal has developed a distinctive menu that combines local produce, creativity and the rich culinary heritage of South Africa. I spoke to Malika about food and wine on the Cape and asked her, firstly, about her time in the culinary trade: “I’ve been cooking professionally for fifteen years including my time at Cape Grace, where I’ve now been for just over four years. What I love most about the hospitality industry is that it’s like fashion, always changing and constantly evolving, which means you’re continually kept on your toes, always trying to keep up with trends, introducing new menus, improvising on classic cooking methods, and making sure guests are getting dishes produced using the finest produce.”
“South Africa has evolved dramatically on the culinary scene when I think about what was on offer when I started working in the industry and looking at what we have available now, the amazing produce we have access to, and how there is always a proud new artisan supplier showing up to introduce their prized possessions, be it cheese, charcuterie, the finest cold pressed olive oil or gorgeous honey.”
I wondered how pivotal this local produce is to the way that Malika cooks: “Sustainability is the all important buzz word affecting everything we do and therefore I try and source the majority of the produce I use locally. Everyone is a lot more aware of what they’re eating, where it’s coming from, and the conditions under which it’s produced. This takes me to our collection of fresh produce markets which have popped up all over the show in the last couple of years. With these markets boasting fantastic fresh goods, it makes shopping and cooking even more of a pleasure.” Malika names “Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay as well as the Old Biscuit Mill in Salt River” as her favourite markets to shop at.
Malika explained that, for visiting food and wine connoisseurs, the area’s winemakers are also a must visit. “We have splendid wine farms and we’re totally spoilt for choice. With most of the farms being in rather close proximity, what is amazing is the extent of how vastly the terroir differs, but luckily for us, this only offers us more of a variety. I love the Constantia area, with Groot Constantia being one of my many favourites. About forty five minutes to an hour drive out of Cape Town, you’ll approach Stellenbosch and a bit further on be welcomed to Franschoek where you’ll find beautiful wine farms and some of the best restaurants in the Western Cape.”
I asked Malika how, at Signal, she takes advantage of the proximity of these vineyards: “We’ve introduced a series of “vintage wine and dines” which we host once a moth during the winter period…This entails a lavish evening of a selection of wines from the featured wine estate with the emphasis on the vintages. There are sometimes up to ten different wines on one evening and each vintage is paired with a course on a menu specially created for the evening. Hamilton Russell Vineyards, which is in the Hemel-en –Aarde Valley, is the dinner coming up at the end of July and they’re always on the last Thursday of the month. Guests will indulge in a vertical tasting of Pinot Noir from 2005-2009, five amazing Pinots all served consecutively with an individual dish paired to each vintage. Whilst that is going be phenomenal, I do have a very sweet tooth, so the course I’m most looking forward to is the Caramelia Lime Namalaka with poached pear, a crunchy praline and pop corn ice cream which is beautifully paired with the 2011 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay."
I couldn’t end without asking Malika where she eats during her time off. Her Cape Town dining recommendations are: “The Kitchen in Woodstock for yummy sandwiches and rustic salads for a quick pop in during the day; and Chef Pons in Gardens, Cape Town, for a budget friendly Asian dinner. The Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill in Salt River is really special for an amazing lunch or dinner and to admire and appreciate the chefs’ creativity. Myoga at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands is owned by, my favourite chef and mentor, Mike Bassett; the food is always amazing.”
- Malika Van Reenen is Executive Chef at Signal Restaurant at the Cape Grace Hotel. Cape Grace is one of South Africa’s most renowned and loved hotels located on its own private quay in the vibrant V+A Waterfront. Showcasing elegant and chic historic Cape inspired interiors, the 120 custom designed rooms and suites have spectacular views looking out towards Table Mountain and the International Marina. Guest experiences include a rooftop spa with African inspired treatments, complimentary 10km transfers in the city bowl area and a fabulous on-site boutique dedicated to diamonds, platinum and tanzanite. The celebrated whisky and wine bar, Bascule, houses over 400 varieties of whiskies right on the harbour, and Signal, its fine dining signature restaurant provides an authentic taste of the freshest South African cuisine. www.capegrace.com
- Markets: bayharbour.co.za and theoldbiscuitmill.co.za
- Restaurants: The Kitchen; Chef Pons; The Test Kitchen; and Myoga