This article first appeared in the Sunday Times SA on 9 September 2018
Julia Hattingh is a conversation ambassador and all in the name of food, glorious food. At Reverie Social Table, the d’hôte style dining concept she introduced in the Cape Town suburb of Observatory three years ago, it’s best to drop your mobile phone into the deep recess of a handbag, forget about Instagramming your plate and focus on the company, because being chez Julia is a chance to engage with new people, make eye contact and dine the old fashioned way.
Citing the late great Bruce Robertson and American Charlie Trotter as among her first sources of culinary inspiration, this well-travelled 31 year old’s journey has taken her from the acclaimed Waterkloof Restaurant in Stellenbosch to Lucas Carton in Paris where she spent a year. After a period at Holden Manz in Franschhoek, she ventured solo fulfilling her career ambition to have her own place and has never looked back. Julia has always loved throwing dinner parties so thought, “why not do it every day-good food, good wine in a relaxed atmosphere, and a comprehensive dining experience.”
The Reverie dinner menu changes every three weeks and dishes are typically crafted to complement the wines on offer – we were served a stunning selection by Hermanuspietersfontein – with Julia unpacking the finer points of her pairing choices before each course. Lunch, Tuesdays to Fridays, sees at least one menu item changing daily with the same superb wines on offer as per what’s on the list for the night. Julia’s recent attendance at MAD in Copenhagen, an assembly of brilliant and influential figures from the cooking world, provided an invigorating boost in community, ethics and innovation. Ethical sourcing and sustainability are at the core of the Reverie ethos with an emphasis on local flavours and farm fresh ingredients. Dishes have a definitive South African identity and Julia’s innovation is inspiring. Take the dessert inspired by Christina Tosi of Milk Bar USA fame- a matcha white chocolate cremeux, with kumquat jam and sorbet, orange blossom marshmallow and the piece de resistance, a crisp “compost cookie” made from dried apricot, almond, oat and white chocolate- dreamy. The stuffed nasturtium with puffed grains, green oil and the utterly perfect egg yolk was matched with a glass of the Kat Met Die Hout Been (cat with the wooden leg), and the Skoonma (mother in law) shiraz, well suited to the Cape Malay-spiced mussel bobotie, finished off with a sultana custard and funeral rice cracker.
Julia’s passion for family and friends emanates as she busies herself in the kitchen assisted by her team of ladies and sous chef Melissa, and all the while, Innocent the solo waitron hovers graciously to make sure every need is met.
A seat at the Reverie Social Table is a meeting of cultures, heritage and a celebration of culinary camaraderie where fine fare and good company is all that matters.
www.reverie.capetown for lunch and dinner reservations.