Salt is another restaurant I’ve been wanting to try since they opened but have been put off by some negative reports regarding service and value. Also, the two occasions I tried to book, they were full. Now that the novelty has worn off and winter has culled the patronage, I was able to book a table at short notice without difficulty. The disadvantage of dining at Salt in winter is that the sun sets early and extinguishes the lovely view of the sea. Situated in the Ambassador Hotel in Bantry Bay, Salt used to be a bar called On The Rocks. An average bar name made clever by virtue of the fact that is was indeed situated on the rocks of Banty Bay, a location which affords a stunning view of the sea (when it is light).
The foyer of the Ambassador underwent a major revamp including the conversion of On The Rocks into a very stylish restaurant and bar. A guest cannot be unimpressed when entering the restaurant. The decor is modern, yet stylish and characterful. The interesting chairs and couches in the bar demand one’s attention and the lighting is bright enough to infer cleanliness but dim enough to create a lovely warm ambiance.
Unbeknown to me, Salt released their new menu only a few days before my visit. So for those who have already been, you will still be interested to read about the food. Each menu item was so enticing, we struggled to select one and ended up having starters because we couldn’t resist. Several people in the party ordered the duck quesadillas (R75)which were great, although not what I thought a quesadilla was. They were close enough and tasty enough to stifle any queries regarding the appropriateness of the description. I had the soup (R50) which was mussel, bean and tomato with chorizo. The soup was tasty (anything with chorizo is tasty) but not mind blowing. It came in a very interesting bowl, which took up a lot of space but provided very little soup. All five diners selected different mains and hopefully nobody was watching the frenzy of food swapping after the food arrived as we were so eager to taste the different dishes. I can’t remember all the accompaniments, which is what really made the dishes sound so appealing. The Salt Pie (R110) served with a homemade chutney and a side salad will apparently differ each day. This was a chicken pie but made with spring roll pastry instead of puff pastry, which made it much lighter. The Norwegian Salmon (R130) came on a bed of parmesan potato (it was supposed to be potato gratin, but it was unavailable for some reason) with a topping of pesto. I thought the pesto migh overpower the fish but it was a very mild pesto and complimented it beautifully. The fish of the day was Silver Fish (R115), served on beans in a tomato based sauce with chorizo. I wasn’t that excited about the beans. The chicken dish (R100) was served with masala lentils and was quite tasty. An additional side veg (R15) turned out to be an excellent call as they were the nicest steamed vegetables I’ve had in a while. There was a good selection, they were cut in big pieces and not overcooked. I had the venison (R130) which was Blesbok that day, also served on parmesan potato. I couldn’t really taste the parmesan, which was probably good because my meat had a very mild flavour too. It was tender and prepared to my specifications but it wasn’t exactly a taste extravaganza. Everyone was impressed with their food, except me, mine was just good. But I was impressed with everyone else’s food so next time I will choose better.
We didn’t have any desserts, but they also looked very interesting and all priced around R55. I notice they also have a tapas/bar menu which had some nice sounding options to accompany a sundowner or post work drink.
As you have probably noticed by now, Salt is not cheap. I don’t think I will be able to justify a main as well as a starter next time I visit. The next time I go will be in summer so that the view will add value to the experience. The winelist is also expensive. There are some not very appealing options between R100 and R200 but most wines that caught my eye were around R250. I stumbled upon the Dalla Cia 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve priced at R150. The relatively low price caused me some uncertainty, but knowing Georgio Dalla Cia’s prior involvement at Meerlust, I thought it would be worth the risk. I don’t know if they priced it correctly but it is a stunning wine. Everyone at the table was delighted with it. All wines are available by the glass too.
The service was excellent. Our waitress was very patient and accommodating while me made numerous enquiries and requests. Her knowledge of the menu was strong even though it was a new menu and the food was served very promptly (I had previously heard complaints about the slowness of the kitchen). All in all, a very pleasant dining experience which I look forward to repeating as soon as I have saved up again.
Ambassador Hotel, 34 Victoria Road
021 439 7258