The hall­mark of cre­ativ­ity is cu­rios­ity. Al­ways ask­ing, ‘What would hap­pen if?’, Luke Dale Roberts’ team at Sal­sify at The Round­house in Cape Town, led by Head Chef Ryan Cole, is rooted in an in­quis­i­tive de­sire to explore and ex­per­i­ment

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Dis­cover Luke Dale Roberts’ glo­ri­ous new restau­rant, Sal­sify at the Round­house

There’s a pal­pa­ble, crack­ling en­ergy gal­vanis­ing the young team at Sal­sify – as well as an in­fec­tious en­thu­si­asm. With 29-year-old Ryan Cole (who worked with world-renowned Chef Luke Dale Roberts for over three years as head chef at The Test Kitchen) at the helm, the team is char­ac­terised by an im­pres­sive grace un­der fire.

‘The Test Kitchen’s like a fin­ish­ing school for me,’ says Dale Roberts, the vi­sion­ary be­hind the award-win­ning restau­rant. ‘These young chefs do two to four years there and they’re ready to fly. Ryan’s a sponge and, tech­ni­cally, he’s bril­liant. He’s also well or­gan­ised, highly cre­ative and a strong leader. He’s got all the right at­tributes.’

Four to five days a week, you’ll find Dale Roberts at The Test Kitchen, which was re­cently crowned Best in Africa and also named 50th at the World’s Best Restau­rants awards in Barcelona. More re­cent ac­co­lades are the 3-Plate Award by the JHP Gourmet Guide, as well as the SWISS Culi­nary In­no­va­tion Award. As with his other restau­rants (The Short­mar­ket Club, The Potluck Club and the newly launched, no-fuss eatery The Com­mis­sary), he’ll check in on Sal­sify ev­ery morn­ing, but he’s just there to give it a push in the right di­rec­tion and act as a sound­ing board.

There’s a nat­u­ral cre­ative flow be­tween Dale Roberts and Cole that’s been ap­par­ent since day one. ‘If you see us work to­gether, there’s such a vibe. We’ll start out talk­ing about a wa­ter glass and end up dis­cussing a cock­tail that comes down from the ceil­ing and lev­i­tates,’ says Cole, who’s fired by a febrile imag­i­na­tion. ‘Luke’s just a bril­liant chef and men­tor.’ The head chef is sup­ported by an ex­cep­tional team, in­clud­ing Gen­eral Man­ager Markus Fiedler (ex The Test Kitchen), Sous-Chef Kyle Hen­dricks and Som­me­lier Nash Kanyan­garara (no­tably from the Con­stance Moo­fushi Ho­tel in the Mal­dives).

Quick to shirk la­bels, Cole ex­plains that Sal­sify is much more than its ‘root-to-leaf’ or ‘nose-to-tail’ pi­geon-hol­ing. ‘For ex­am­ple, I’m do­ing fire-roasted as­para­gus from Tul­bagh and I’ve in­cor­po­rated parts of the sun­flower to cre­ate a hol­landaise, miso, snow and crumb. It’s an as­para­gus dish, but it’s re­ally

about the life of a sun­flower. Root-to-leaf is more about tick­ing boxes as op­posed to dis­cov­er­ing them, which is what I’m try­ing to ac­com­plish here. I’m in­ter­ested in the study of an in­gre­di­ent; find­ing new per­spec­tives on some­thing we’ve seen 1 000 times.’ Af­ter work­ing with Dale Roberts, this con­stant search for the new be­comes the norm, he ex­plains. ‘So even if we cre­ate an amaz­ing dish, we don’t want to keep on re­peat­ing it. We’re never stag­nant.’

Cole has a re­spect for sus­tain­abil­ity and sea­sonal pro­duce that was nur­tured by his fa­ther, a re­tired fish­er­man who owned a com­mer­cial boat called Mammy Blue. ‘At Sal­sify, we get all our fish from Abalobi. There’s a story be­hind it and we know where it comes from,’ he says. The mi­cro-sea­sons in the Cape also give the à la carte menu de­vel­op­ment its di­rec­tion. En­ter the enig­matic Ross the For­ager, who reg­u­larly en­light­ens Cole about in­gre­di­ents that are fleet­ingly in sea­son, such as the nas­tur­tium bud which fea­tures in his lamb tartare dish. ‘It keeps ev­ery­thing alive be­cause it forces your hand to be cre­ative,’ says Cole.

In terms of the in­te­ri­ors, Sal­sify is all about the un­ex­pected. A his­toric build­ing with a che­quered past and clas­sic op­u­lence with a nod to the Vic­to­rian era, it’s strangely com­ple­mented by edgy graf­fiti art by Louis de Vil­liers, aka Skull­boy. The tour de force form­ing a co­he­sive whole from these seem­ingly in­con­gru­ent as­pects is Dale Roberts’ part­ner and wife San­da­lene, whose com­pany Nat­u­ralis cre­ated the con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture and leather cladding for the walls.

‘The Round­house is a dif­fi­cult space to work with be­cause of its her­itage sta­tus and un­usual shape,’ she says. ‘Ini­tially, I was quite de­mor­alised. It had stip­pled walls, dead cor­ners, weird dry walling and all these reg­u­la­tions.’ Adopt­ing a shoot-from-the-hip ap­proach, San­da­lene usu­ally be­gins a project by fo­cus­ing on the walls. ‘But I couldn’t skim them, so I couldn’t use the tex­tured prod­ucts that I love,’ she says. ‘It all came crash­ing down. I’d lie awake at night and stress.’

A bolt of in­spi­ra­tion struck when New York-based De Vil­liers’ work, which she’d seen in Jo’burg, flashed through her mind. Serendip­i­tously, he’d just landed in Jo’burg for his solo show. ‘We met up and the rest is his­tory,’ she says.

And so the pieces be­gan to fall into place. Through the art, they de­cided to tell the story of The Round­house and its rich his­tory. Lord Som­er­set, Gov­er­nor of the Cape from 1814 un­til 1826, used it as a hunt­ing lodge and meet­ing place for li­aisons with Dr Barry, a cel­e­brated doc­tor who, it was dis­cov­ered upon his death, was ac­tu­ally a woman. This in­spired the 1,3m bronze sculp­ture by Otto du Plessis of Bronze Age, which takes pride of place in the restau­rant’s cen­tre. ‘The sculp­ture de­picts Dr Barry in a yoga pose called The Tree with a fe­male body and a male pheas­ant’s head, a nod to the build­ing’s hunt­ing past,’ says the artist.

Sal­sify, which seats 56, is poised to take Cape Town’s fine din­ing scene to an­other level. ‘We’re ready for some­thing new and we think the city is ready too,’ says Dale Roberts. Adds Cole, ‘We’ve got Luke’s men­tor­ship, but he’s said to us: “Guys, do you.” It’s amaz­ing, it’s scary and it’s pretty cool.’

The Round­house, Round­house Rd, Camps Bay, Cape Town. 021 010 6444 @sal­si­fy_at_the_round­house

this page A rich pal­ette of rusts and browns adds depth to the airi­ness in The Sea Room, which of­fers gor­geous views of the At­lantic Ocean and Twelve Apos­tles moun­tains. op­po­site Chef Ryan Cole is at the helm of this Luke Dale Roberts restau­rant.

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