There are some restaurants that make me wish I were a successful, suited and booted male banker. You know, the types where the waitresses are all all over the men, but ignore all-female tables; where there are more single malt whiskies on the menu than cocktails; and where you choose your cigar from the climate controlled cigar room. There are other restaurants that make me wish I were a lottery winner – places like El Bulli, or private dining on a Maldives island with my feet dangling in the aquamarine waters. And then there are some restaurants that just make me wish I was back home in Port Elizabeth. Dessie’s falls squarely in this category.
I have said before, when I was talking about Cobblestone Bakery, that the kind of food that my hometown does best is casual café style food. Somehow, fine dining and PE just do not work. But casual dining with flair – now that we can do, and nobody does it better that Desere Price. Desere (or Dessie) grew up in Addo and completed a three-year cookery course at the prestigious Silwood Kitchen cookery school. After that, Dessie work at Constantia Uitsig in Cape Town (which is where La Colombe restaurant is, recently named 12th best restaurant in the world!). Following a stint overseas she worked at River Bend Lodge in Addo and then celeb favourite Ellerman House in Cape Town, before returning to Port Elizabeth to open Dessie’s Fine Food and Wine.
The light and airy restaurant is to be found in the Bloomingdales Lifestlye Centre complex in Walmer, where it has recently moved to larger premises with high ceilings, cool terracotta floors, a deli section by the front door and a large deck overlookiggn the nursery. The decor is relaxed yet chic (I would give bonus points for the quirky, unmatched but proper cloth napkins!) and the menu is displayed on a chalkboard, indicating daily changes. The breakfast/brunch menu features lighter options like muesli as well as muffins and scones (sweet and savoury) and things like frittata, omelettes and eggs Benedict for those with a healthier appetite. The lunch menu offers temptations such as homemade burgers, inventive (and gorgeous) salads and sandwiches, an antipasti platter, and homemade quiches. Prices are very reasonable considering the quality of the food, ranging from about R15 to R55. The wine list includes both South African and Italian wines.
When we visited for lunch recently, Nick had the burger with Gorgonzola and caramelised red onions (top left) while I had the frittata with smoked salmon trout (top right). The burger was a spectacular example – meaty and cooked to perfection with a toasted panini-type roll instead of the usual insipid bun. The salad garnish was amongst the prettiest I’ve seen, particularly the beetroot sprouts! My frittata, too, was heavenly – fluffy, wobbly egg topped with mounds of silky salmon trout and a similarly gorgeous side salad. So often you are fobbed off with a limp lettuce leaf, a slice of tomato and a sliver of cucumber as a side salad – but not at Dessie’s! On previous visits, I have enjoyed the scrambled egg and smoked salmon trout on wholewheat toast (bottom left) for breakfast; and an Italian salad topped with generous silky folds of Parma ham and shavings of Parmesan cheese (bottom right) for lunch. In fact, nothing that I have ever had at Dessie’s has been anything less than delicious.
Coffees are good too, and if you have room left after your meal, the decadent chocolate brownies on the counter by the open kitchen are sheer temptation. My advice is to give in :) Service is friendly but can be a bit patchy – on two recent visits, once my husband’s order was totally forgotten, and once the waitress who served us simply disappeared for an age, leaving us to stare at our empty plates far longer than necessary. On the plus side, though, Dessie herself is usually on the premises which, to me, is one of the barometers of a good restaurant.
There is a small deli section by the door where you can buy such treats as verjuice, cookies and Feast de Renaissance products. And if you don’t have time to stop by the restaurant, the good news is that Dessie also does home catering - and we are talking beautiful three-course menus here, not just trays of chicken a la king! Call the restaurant to discuss the menu and prices.
Dessie’s Fine Food and Wine
Blomingdales Lifestyle Village
145 Main Road
Tel. +27 82 321 0562
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This post is part of a new series for 2010 called Sundays in South Africa. [Yes, I know it's Tuesday. Suck it up.] As the entire football-conscious world knows by now, the FIFA World Cup 2010 will be taking place for the first time ever on African soil – in my home country of South Africa! I can’t tell you how proud this makes me, or how good it is to see that all the stadiums that the naysayers said would never be built on time standing tall and proud and beautiful. The country is, of course, anticipating a huge surge in visitors and I know that many people will see the cup as a reason to visit a country they have long been meaning to visit, and use the tournament as a jumping-off point for visiting other, non-football South African destinations. With this in mind, as well as my backlog of posts about my South African trips, I will be trying to post a review of somewhere South African, or a South African recipe, every Sunday in the run-up to the tournament. I can’t pretend it is going to be a comprehensive guide to South Africa – but it will certainly be enough to give you some ideas! Click here for previous posts in the series.