Today marks the momentous emerging of Pure Local Insights, a series of short articles offering you an insider’s perspective on the cities they love, and the industries they’ve chosen to call home. It’s our hope that through these offerings and interviews we’ll provide you with opportunities unheard of, hidden gems yet undiscovered and insights into a secret world of Pure Local knowledge.
Our first Pure Local Insight takes the form of an interview with Giles Edwards, chef and co-owner of La Tête, the famous farm-to-fork/nose-to-tail restaurant on Bree Street. Although Pure Local likes a little luxury in our lives, what we’re really passionate about is authenticity, connection and life-changing experiences. Sometimes this can mean a million-rand mansion on the beach, but at other times it can be as simple as a surf. La Tête as an institution and Giles as its kitchen commander embody all the elements we love in a simple, down-to-earth way. This became abundantly clear early in the interview when he exclaimed that he was “the least fancy person in the world”.
Nevertheless, we proceeded with our questions and we must admit that the answers were pretty inspiring and insightful. So without further ado, here’s the interview:
Describe La Tête In one sentence:
“A sustainable eatery bringing you hearty fare.”
What first inspired you to start La Tête?
After coming back to SA from London I noticed that there were a lot of incredible fine-dining restaurants and a lot of delis. But there was nowhere in between you could go and eat a few times a week which was a special occasion every time without being encumbered by all the formalities. I wanted to create an eatery that was accessible to everyone financially and sustainably and with a menu that can be whatever you want it to be, whether it’s a light lunch or a formal romantic dinner.
What is the core philosophy of La Tête?
Sustainability is the core philosophy. My drive is to find as many local producers as possible and use their produce in a very honest way.
The idea is to showcase the produce in the way that it comes, with as little intervention as possible. The menu is an evolution, it changes based on what’s available and accessible daily. When I first came back to SA I was shocked that everywhere was still serving scallops and Norwegian salmon year-round, and so my goal became to start using produce from a square mile within Cape Town.
Nose-to-tail is something I’m passionate about and we have amazing farmers in this country, like Farmer Angus and Oak Valley and Glen Oakes Farm. But everyone’s serving belly and sirloin, while the whole carcass has so much more to offer. It feels like such a shame that we have these amazing farmers but we’re only using one part of the animal they’ve reared. So that became a big driving force behind my menu too, to use what was being wasted. That said I do use more vegetables and fish than meat on the menu as a whole.
What is your favourite thing to do in Cape Town?
Lying on the beach, either Bakoven or Clifton 1st. I spend the majority of my time in a hot and sweaty kitchen but I often have a breather between lunch and dinner service where I can plunge into the Atlantic. One of my favourite feelings is to arrive at work crusted with sea salt for the evening shift.
What is your favourite luxury activity in Cape Town?
Safari. I have a particular affinity for the Kalahari and it was also where the concept for the restaurant was born. I find the vast open spaces and wilderness immense and awe-inspiring. Obviously then there’s zero-contact with the outside world, which is something I enjoy. There’s a place called Deception Valley and there’s a small oasis in the middle of it. When they first found it they perceived there was water but there was none, it was a deception. I just loved that myth and the place is incredible. I was first inspired to visit the Kalahari by a book called Cry of the Kalahari which was co-written by Mark and Delia Owens; everyone should read that book.
When I’m not enjoying the sweet escape of isolation in the desert I like to treat myself to facials and massage treatments at any of Cape Town’s incredible spas
What are your top three favourite restaurants in Cape Town (besides your own) and why?
- The Commissary Their transformation and elevation of humble street food is very on-trend with what’s happening in the world at the moment.
- Atavola Love the wine list and the owners, the food is great. I have a young son who I like to take for lunch there on Fridays.
- Salsify The chef, Ryan Cole, is cooking his socks off at the moment. I also love their incorporation of sustainability, local produce and even foraging. Once I went down to the beach that side and saw Ryan and the gang clambering over the rocks picking off mussels and other bits, a refreshing sight.
What does quintessential Cape Town cuisine mean to you? What style/type of cooking does the Cape lend itself to?
Cape Malay curry is obviously the traditional Cape Town. Although ironically the only chefs that actually cook something South African are Jan, who lives and cooks in Nice, and Reuben.
We also have a lot of Pan-Asian cuisine going on in South Africa as a whole. It’s massive, you can’t go into any restaurant without some form of soy sauce and teriyaki popping up, everyone seems to be doing it. It’s a global trend, emerging in Australia, Indonesia etc. The top 10 restaurants in the Western Cape are all cooking Pan-Asian food.
What is your favourite South African dish?
The brain curry that they make in Durban, which I’ve had a few times. It’s a very lightly spiced curry, and if you’re into brains like I am it’s delicious. It’s a textural taste experience and one of the cultural highlights of this country, yet no-one really knows about it. I also love pickled fish, which is perhaps more accessible.
Can you think of any nostalgic South African favourite foods from childhood?
I remember when we first moved down to Cape Town, my father bought himself a little rubber duck, and we used to go crayfishing out at Kommetjie. We would spend the entire day on the boat catching crayfish. I must have been 12 or 13, and it was pretty boring for me and I always got really sunburnt and it was such an ordeal. But the next day my mother would boil up the crayfish and we would have a massive crayfish feast that made it all worthwhile. That’s a very fond memory of growing up and eating from the sea.
What’s your top tip as a Cape Town local for travellers?
Climb up the mountain and come down in a cable car. Oh, and don’t go to Long Street.
The Menu at La Tête changes daily, please find out more at their website latete.co.za