Last week Jeanne and I were invited to La Belle Bistro & Bakery in Constantia (which is situated the Alphen Hotel next to Blanko) to try out their new lunch and dinner menu.
The night we were invited to La Belle ended up being rainy (great for the drought and I am not complaining) and very cold and all I was thinking during the car journey to Constantia was, “I hope it’s cosy when we get there”.
Jeanne and I ran from the carpark to the restaurant – because I made the decision to look pretty rather than dress practically so I was in a skirt and top with no jacket, um, silly – and opened to door to find an unexpected interior.
La Belle reminds me of a little cottage. When you walk in you are greeted by incredibly high ceilings with wooden beams, bare brick walls and a wood burning fire, the perfect location for a winter meal.
We sat in a cosy corner, and took in our surroundings. There were families having dinner together, guests from the hotel and friends catching up, making up a perfect atmosphere for a delicious dinner.
Drinks are my second favourite thing at dinner – first being dessert, obvs – as it’s a chance for me to try a cocktail or two that you will find nowhere else and, after a long day at work, it’s nice to sip on an adult drink, you know? Something cold. Something sweet. Something, alcoholic.
So Jeanne was a little boring – sorry, babe – and had a hot chocolate (or two) because it was cold (understandably), which was freaking delish. It wasn’t too sweet, making it easy to drink and easy to have a second one.
I on the other hand threw back a Strawberry Gin Smash (fresh strawberries and mint muddled with Tanqueray gin and topped with tonic water) and a Berry Margarita (Jose Cuervo tequila, berry liquor, lemon juice and fresh lime wheel served on the rocks with the glass’ rim covered in salt) – which was a surprise from the bartender. Both of which were fresh, lip-smackingly divine and moreish.
To start, Jeanne ordered the mussel pot with shallots, garlic, thyme, parsley, lemon, white wine and cream, and I had the chicken meatballs, zucchini and feta (with apricot and basil pesto).
I have never eaten a mussel in my life and when Jeanne ordered it I pulled my usual “ewwww”. Unfortunately for me and my belly I eat with my eyes and nose first, and I have never tried mussels because they have either smelled fishy or look, well, not to my liking.
Jeanne, however, got me to try a mussel on this occasion and I have to say, wow, it was absolutely nothing like I expected it to taste. It was soft, tender and full of flavour – none of which tasted or smelled like the sea. This experience has changed my view of mussels completely and I wold certainly have a mussel or two again. Well, at La Belle that is.
My chicken meatballs were out of this world. The only problem I had with the dish was that I wish there were more! Each meatball was tasty, moist and incredibly packed with flavour and the apricot and basil pesto added a bit of a salty and sweet touch which complimented the dish so well. I definitely could have done with five more!
No matter where I go I always have a main course dilemma. I never know what I want and I usually ignore my gut and go with something else that I, inevitably, don’t enjoy.
Since it’s so cold, Jeanne and I tend to be attracted to heartier and heavier dishes and we both – unexpectedly – chose steak at La Belle. I chose the mustard crusted sirloin (with thyme, garlic butter and fries) and Jeanne went with the porcini butter fillet (porcini compound butter, roast Cipollini onions, baby button mushrooms potato puree).
To be honest, just from a “we could have tried a completely different dish/meat” point of view, we should have both had something different. But, we are glad we didn’t because both our steaks were so freaking amazingly good. They were both so tender – the fillet was like marshmallow – and had completely different textures, flavours and were cooked to perfection – as they should be.
My opinion would be – to those who like steak – just go with the cut you enjoy most and let the chef do they rest! You won’t regret it.
Like I said at the very beginning of this review, dessert is by far my favourite part of any meal. My sweet tooth is pretty much out of control and I don’t care. I ensure at every meal that I leave space for dessert, even if it means I leave a little bit of my main course on my plate.
So, what did I have? (and I say “I” because Jeanne ate all of her dinner and had no room whatsoever for anything sweet which means, yes, I ate it all by myself. Every single morsel of it, too). The molten chocolate cake, obviously.
Anything to do with chocolate is okay with me, and I had my eye on that molten chocolate cake from the moment I opened the menu. And yes, I open it and read it from the back to the front (like always).
Needless to say it didn’t disappoint, and I will be lusting over it until our next visit. It was perfectly molten, perfectly chocolatey, perfectly perfect. And I would have it over and over again if I could. Yum!
La Belle is a warm, welcoming little spot perfect for winter dinners with the one you love, a family feast or a catch up with mates. The cracking fire really made the atmosphere that much more perfect and it was lovely to be surrounded by other diners who were there to eat good food and spend time with loved ones.
The food in my opinion is definitely worth going to Constantia for, and I can only imagine how fully booked it will be in Summer as I can certainly see La Belle being a must-visit spot for cocktails and brunch or an early dinner.
I have already recommended La Belle to numerous friends and family members and have had a request to book my family – who are coming from overseas for our wedding in October – a table so they can get in on all the yumminess I have constantly banged on about since visiting.
Find La Belle’s full menus here. Book yourself a spot and try something delicious.