As the southeaster releases its grip on the Cape, and summer finally segues into the mild days of autumn, there’s never been a better time to soak up the last of the sunshine at the V&A Waterfront.
With its prime position overlooking the bustling Victoria Basin and Quay Five, Harbour House Restaurant has become a firm favourite for both seafood-savvy locals and tourists discovering the seaside heart of the Mother City.
The waterfront location of this ever-popular restaurant is a fitting echo of the original Harbour House, perched on the quayside of Kalk Bay Harbour. Yet, while the Kalk Bay branch retains a more laid-back atmosphere, in the cosmopolitan Waterfront precinct, Harbour House offers a more upscale version of what is arguably Cape Town’s favourite seafood restaurant.
“The idea with Harbour House at the V&A was to have something a little more glamorous,” explains Therry Wuethrich, Brand General Manager for Harbour House. “In keeping with the location the service level is slightly more refined. We wanted to add more of a fine-dining experience to the Harbour House family.”
That level of sophistication is reflected throughout the menu, a blend of time-honoured favourites and creative new dishes that remain true to the Harbour House ethos of fresh seafood with a gourmet spin.
“The heart of the menu has been honed over the past decade and although many of the most popular dishes have been tweaked, the core of the menu has stayed the same,” explains Grant Kennedy, Executive Chef for the Harbour House restaurants. “The limelight is always on fresh fish, of course, but around that we work hard to source great seasonal vegetables that we can incorporate onto the plate.”
To ensure only the best quality seafood reaches the kitchens of the three Harbour House restaurants, the Group manages its own supply chain, and operates Seafresh – a fresh fish processing plant , working directly with local boats.
The group is also an active supporter of the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). In 2015 Sias Tabambi – Head Chef at Harbour House V&A Waterfront – was named as a SASSI Trailblazer for his commitment to seafood sustainability.
“Our Yellowtail with orange beurre blanc is one of the best sellers on the menu here. That is wonderful, because yellowtail is one of the most sustainable options on the SASSI green list,” explains Tabambi.
With the changing seasons, Kennedy and Tabambi are also hard at work preparing a menu geared towards winter months.
“We’ve looked at bringing in a fresher take on some of the seafood dishes, a few extra meat dishes and a few new desserts,” says Kennedy. “It’s not going to be a massive change, but rather a few new plates while keeping the favourites. We’re playing around with some lovely dishes using duck breast and local venison.”
The carefully curated wine list is also a perfect foil to the menu, with an impressive blend ranging from affordable brand names to iconic estates and boutique producers.
“We still cater extremely well for the broader market with a range of affordable wines, but we want to have a few more exclusive bottles on the list,” adds Wuetrich. “There are diners who prefer the more well-known brands, but we also want to provide for those who want to explore and discover wines they may not find in the supermarket.”
With the Harbour House at the V&A Waterfront attracting a more globe-trotting audience, the list here also extends to a handful of rare and exclusive labels; the likes of Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage and Dom Pérignon vintage champagne.
And there are perhaps few better places in the city to enjoy a glass of Moët & Chandon than the Harbour House Upstairs Deck.
Winter in Cape Town is famous for the crisp clear days between cold fronts, a perfect opportunity to continue soaking up the sun and harbour views from the space that was completely renovated and rebuilt in late-2016.
A further draw card is the new ‘Small Plates’ menu, tapping neatly into the global trend towards tapas-style dining.
“Sushi has always been popular upstairs, but the new menu adds a more European flair to the offering, with a range of French-inspired small plates,” explains Kennedy.
Since the menu launched earlier this year the Crudo of cured gamefish with a basil pesto, chilli and olive oil dressing has been the runaway favourite with diners, while Crispy Calamari accompanied by silky aioli is another firm favourite. A trio of salads offer lighter options, but even these are given a typically Harbour House twist.
A deep-fried soft egg is the star of the Truffle Salad of cos lettuce, avocado and potato crisp, showered with grated Parmesan. Also look out for the Endive Salad, pairing seasonal pears with honey-candied walnuts, piquant goat’s cheese and crouton crumbs.
An impressive selection of Harbour House’s signature Americanised sushi is offered alongside the Small Plates menu and daily chalkboard specials. There are also plans afoot to enclose the Upstairs Deck, making it a truly year-round venue.
Key to the success of Harbour House at the V&A Waterfront has certainly been its ability to cater for a diverse audience. While the Upstairs Deck draws in a steady stream of diners in search of sundowner cocktails and a sushi platter, the more formal downstairs setting appeals to locals and tourists looking for a special night out.
With a dearth of late-night dining options in the Waterfront, the Harbour House will also be extending its opening hours from summer 2017, keeping the kitchen open until 11pm to cater for post-movie dining and overseas guests that prefer to dine later in the evening.
Even as the mercury dips and the hearth is lit, Harbour House at the V&A Waterfront remains a must-visit culinary destination in Africa’s premier tourist attraction. Whether it’s a lighter sunset bite on the Upstairs Deck, or a romantic dinner overlooking the sparkling harbour lights, the tables are set and the chefs are waiting.
Harbour House V&A Waterfront is situated at Quay Four, Ground Floor, V&A Waterfront. For reservations call 021 418 4744 / 021 418 4748 or send an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Open from Monday to Sunday for lunch from 12m – 4pm and for dinner from 6pm – 10pm.