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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Kos & Wyn | Food & Wine > Rubrieke | Columns > Paul Murray: Murray's Food Trails

The Belthazar Trail

Paul Murray - 2006-08-17

Dining at Belthazar is a rich experience. It's not just about sitting down and enjoying your meal in the company of friends. It's that too. But it's much more. This amazing and unique Cape Town Waterfront dining spot allows the patron to play off its many talents.

And talented it is!

It admits to having a wharf warehouse feel about it. Stacked, exposed wine cases from South Africa's wine estates reach the top of the ceiling. There are 600 fine wines to choose from, including rare vintages.

At the same time it fosters a formal feel, with absolutely outstanding and the friendliest front-of-house, floor and back-up service. Attention to detail to the table décor is evident in the layout, and white linen table cloths and serviettes set the tone.

Romantic diners love the terrace lit by hurricane lamps, overlooking the aesthetic and energetic harbour, place of entry to Cape Town's strong maritime past.

The movement of lights, liners, tug-boats and ferries dazzles, and keeps the energy pumping.

During the day the Venetian light reflecting against the buildings off the water is Bernini's dream! The polychrome of the buildings and the various styles of architecture provide a view that is echoed in the words of Hemingway when he said of the view, “See Naples and die!”

Although the magic setting of Belthazar and its name call to mind one of the three magi who journeyed to Bethlehem 2006 years ago (the other two being Melchior and Gaspar) the spelling is different. He was Balthazar. This is Belthazar. Belthazar was the last in the line of the Chaldean kings of Babylon, the gateway city to the interior. It's appropriate that Belthazar should be positioned right there, on the quay of the Waterfront, gateway to the Cape interior, South Africa and Africa!

Unique in South Africa is Belthazar's wide selection of 178 wines served by the glass. So you can flit in and out of two or three of your favourite cultivars or estates – you don’t have to stay with one. The wines are stored in a designer Vinoteque with dual temperature and humidity controls for red and white wine, served in the exclusive Riedel glassware. Riedel enhances the bouquet and taste of specific wines. There is a sommelier on the restaurant floor, at your service, all the time.

Belthazar has introduced revolutionary nitrogen-infused gas technology from the USA, retaining the perfect condition, fresh aroma, colour and flavour of the wine after it has been opened.

It's as if you can tailor make your own wine, there is such a huge variety.

The same applies to your choice of meat, if you have a predilection for the finest beef. Belthazar uses only the finest A-grade grain-fed Karan beef. Karan beef is from the cross between the Brown Swiss, a breed native to the high-lying hills and mountains of Switzerland, and the Sahiwal, originally from the dry Punjab region which lies along the Indian-Pakistani border. The meat of this crossbreed is renowned for its juiciness and taste.

At Belthazar the carcass is hung for three days, after which the fillet, sirloin and rump are "wet-aged", whilst with the T-bones they are "dry-aged" for a minimum of 29 days.

The in-house butcher will cut your meat to your specifications.

Patrons with a preference for seafood indulge in export quality Mozambican shellfish and the freshest South African seafood.

There is a variety of South African game to go with the deeper, richer reds, such as the Capaia from the stable of Capaia Winery, established in 1997 by Alexander Baron and Ingrid Baroness von Essen. Capaia 2004 got 4,5 points from the South African Wine Guide John Platter in 2006, and Capaia 2003 got 5 stars - the highest possible rating - in the June 2005 issue of the South African Wine magazine. The critic said of it: "... Ripe and smooth, gentle yet gutsy. Gorgeous."

The story of Capaia in South Africa is a fairytale in itself.

The production of the special Selection Alexander von Essen led to a close association with South Africa, leading to acquisition by the von Essens of the De Hoop wheat farm, dating back to 1725, near Philadelphia, a few kilometers north of Cape Town. The unobstructed view of Table Mountain and a southerly trade wind from the Antarctic combine the two essential characteristics for a successful wine: science and art. The winery has been designed in accordance with the state of the art in viticulture and viniculture.

The name Capaia is a blend of Cape and Ornellaia, the wine-growing estate in Tuscany. Capaia is wine from the Cape at its best. Had Napoleon been alive he would have included it in his selection of favourite South African wines. After all, he was the Emperor of the Cape!

Belthazar has a further surprise. Its brother restaurant is Balducci's, the award-winning eating establishment at the V & A Waterfront also overlooking the harbour. Attentive service, an understated European grace and an outstanding menu make it a perennial popular eatery which has become a landmark among Cape Town eateries.

One of the surprises is not the Balducci Levitation!

Balducci's is suitable not just for dinner but also for lunch and breakfast. Its fine selection of luxury breakfasts suit the healthy yet indulgent breakfast person. Light meals come in many forms and sizes, such as the delectable Prawn and Avocado Salad, or the Caesar or Caprese. Pastas are as good as you get in Italy, especially the Seafood, Carbonara, Cajun Chicken, Ravioli, Meat Lasagna or Prima Vera.

There's a sister restaurant too. Brian Berkman in the Cape Times, Cape Town's morning daily, endorsed the sushi at Balducci's Royal Sushi Bar as “The best sushi I have ever tasted”. At Balducci's Royal Sushi Bar they want you to fall in love with their sushi and so the pakke sushi chefs will say: "Yorshi kaata de suka", which means, “Please enjoy your food.”

At places like these, it's hard not to!

Tel: +27 21 421 3753/56
Fax: +27 21 421 3748
Email: info@slickrestaurants.com
Website: www.belthazar.co.za

Tel: +27 21 421 6002/3
Fax: +27 21 421 6010
Website: www.balduccis.co.za

Tel: +27 21 421 6002/3
Fax: +27 21 421 6010
Website: www.balduccis.co.za