A little light hint of Milan in the heart of Kenilworth
Milanese chef Giorgio Nava's new Cape restaurant
At the apex of a triangle of land in Wynberg, Cape Town, sits a pretty Victorian building. On two sides of the plot are roads. One leads to Constantia and the other passes the Wynberg Military Hospital to Kenilworth. It’s at this busy intersection that Milanese chef Giorgio Nava has opened the third in his 95 Collection of Cape-based restaurants. (The others are 95 Keerom in the CBD and 95 Morgenstar in Somerset West.)The building’s high ceilings, flood of natural light and generous proportions give it the airy calmness to contrast with the busyness of the roads outside. The seating is spread across three interior rooms with a few tables in the garden. We sat in the biggest of the rooms next to the only other table of clients.
It’s hard to define the décor. There’s a mix of painted murals, wood paneling and plastic green grass lining the walls. I suspect the wood and plastic grass are excellent for acoustics: we can attest to not hearing traffic sounds.
I chose the six-course tasting menu, while my friend wanted to pick and choose from the expansive a la carte menu. We were hungry and ready to try multiple dishes.
A selection of breads was served by a courteous waiter before he opened a bottle of wine from an estate not far from the restaurant: Steenberg’s Semillon 2016. With its creamy texture and complex flavour the wine was a good companion for our diverse order.First up were three starters. With my tasting menu came l’insalata caprese (caprese salad) and from the a la carte menu we had ordered la tartare di manzo (steak tartare) and la tartare e salmon (salmon tartare). Both the tartares were delicious.The steak tartare was served cutely in the shape of a bone. Flavours were clean and the ingredients fresh. The texture of the burrato mozzarella in my salad was an interesting combination of soft and thready.Before our main meal, I was served the Carpaccio di Polpo (octopus carpaccio). I consider myself a bit of an expert (probably more of a glutton) of this dish. Usually the raw, thinly sliced carpaccio is served in a vinaigrette with little else. Here it came with diced soft tomatoes. They felt and tasted strange alongside the sharpness of the octopus. I liked it but my companion wasn’t convinced by the combination.For her main, Justine ordered the grilled linefish of the day (kabeljou) and an l’insalata di quinoa (quinoa salad). The fish was overcooked, dry and tough.We had been seduced by the salad’s description, but it didn’t work. We should have guessed that mixing pomegranate, avocado, kale, cherry tomatoes and toasted almond flakes would be too much for the palate.
From the tasting menu, I had the gnocci alla Norma (potato gnocci with a tomato, eggplant, basil, oregano sauce and mature ricotta cheese). The flavours were beautifully infused and I was thankful for the small portion as I still had the la bistecca carne (grilled spider steak with béarnaise sauce) to eat. The steak was interesting but probably more suited to a cold winter evening than a dry and hot afternoon.
We finished off with scoops of perfect sorbet and ice cream. Our clean pudding bowls are testament to how much we enjoyed these.
I popped back to the restaurant on a Saturday night to see what it would be like with more people at the tables. The garden is prettily lit with fairy lights wrapped around a tree. Inside, the two main rooms were each half-filled with middle-aged guests. The lighting was very bright inside. You wouldn’t be able to hide your age or the bad side of your face if this would help you seduce or be seduced.Overall, 95 at Parks left me with a good impression. I would happily take my grandparents or in-laws for dinner, and business colleagues for lunch.
There is nothing here that could offend anyone but a décor snob.
VIBE: Sedate and calm. You could close a business deal here.
PRICE: The six-course tasting menu is R330 per person. Starters range from R75 to R125, mains from R100 to R690 (1.2kg beef t-bone for two people), and desserts between R45 and R65.
WHAT TO WEAR: You wouldn’t be turned away in your music festival attire but you’d feel out of place.
PEOPLE WHO'LL LIKE IT: Your grandparents. And those in the hood who like good Milanese food – more special than what your local pizzeria would offer.
HOT TIP: There is a private dining room (seats 10), which is my favourite room at the restaurant: the elegant wooden table is generously sized and the walls lined with bottles of wine.
VISIT: 95 at Parks Ristorante Italiano Bar and Lounge is on 114 Constantia Main Road, Wynberg, 021-761-0247. firstname.lastname@example.org