It’s summer in Cape Town, which for most people means sunshine and sandals. For foodies, summer brings with it the promise of something much more delicious as the country’s top chefs reveal their updated summer menus. If, like me, your summer activities are largely based around food then you’re going to want to start making a list of all the must-try summer menus Cape Town’s top eateries have to offer. If you want your list to begin with a bang, I’d like to suggest starting your seasonal menu exploration with Upper Union’s exciting new summer menu.
Just in time for the summer season, Upper Union’s Chef Amori has updated her menu in line with her seasonally led, locally sourced approach to cooking. As always, she has drawn inspiration from around the globe, creating a series of vibrant, flavourful and utterly moreish dishes.
The menu is all about complex flavours and spices and pays homage to bites from the Middle East across to eastern Europe and all the way down to Peru, ending with a generous dollop of local flare. It’s a menu with a strong focus on bright, light and fresh ingredients, while still delivering Chef Amori’s signature abundant, bold, spice-driven flavours.
This season, the kitchen has been particularly focused on interesting and unusual techniques, with the team exploring various fermentation, pickling and preservation techniques which now feature across the menu. Expect to find the punchy tastes the likes of torshi sheer, bread and butter pickles and pineapple amba woven throughout the menu.
“This new season is all about light, bright and vibrant flavours, it is also about our constant striving to explore and learn as much as we can. The team and I have loved delving into the world of fermentation and preservation, and I think those components really shine on this menu,” says Chef Amori.
Guests can choose between the new Seasonal Chef’s Shared Menu or go it alone and select from a range of new small plates that have been added to the a la carte menu. New dishes on the a la carte menu include the Beetroot Moutabal, a Chicken and Duck Pastilla, as well as a selection of bonbons made for Upper Union by the chocolatiers at Short & Sweet.
A taste of the new Seasonal Chef’s Shared Menu
The Seasonal Chef’s Shared Menu offers two options; the Pasture Menu for meat eaters and the Garden Menu for plant-based diners. I had a chance to experience the Pasture Menu in its entirety but also snuck a few bites from the plates of fellow diners enjoying the Garden Menu.
If you’re the type of foodie who loves to be surprised by interesting flavour combinations and novel cooking techniques, then this new offering is a must-try. The menu is innovative and playful in a way that is sure to delight your inner food nerd and your tastebuds.
For summer, returning guests will be thrilled to know that Upper Union’s much-raved-about Kubaneh bread course remains on the menu, served along with mebos, extra virgin olive oil and Cream of The Crop’s makhana butter. Not just another bread course, this is bread and butter elevated to legendary status.
After the excitement from the bread course dies down it’s time for a starter of fresh Sea Bass ceviche served with pineapple amba, tiger’s milk and green papaya or, if you’d prefer, Ox Tongue with Worcestershire gel, bread & butter pickles, and horse radish. With its bright, fresh flavours, the Sea Bass was my favourite of the two dishes, but that also didn’t stop me from enjoying the tart, sweet and sour bursts of flavour in the Ox Tongue dish. If you’re dining with a few friends, then I would suggest ordering one of each to share so you have the opportunity to experience both starters.
Next up is a mains of tender Picanha Rump Steak with waterblommetjie and nasturtium chimichurri and accompanying sides of in-house made feta, a celery herb slaw, globe artichoke, allium confit and salt-baked beetroot. The combination of these dishes together makes for an exciting main course you’ll be thinking about for weeks to come.
The steak is perfectly complemented by this flavour-packed array of side dishes that each stand alone as perfect dishes in their own right. The salt-baked beetroot is surprising in all the best ways and will have you excited about the thought of eating beetroot again. For cheese lovers, the Sheep’s milk feta with garlic torshi, seer & mulberry molasses, and its accompanying celery herb slaw will knock your socks off. The globe artichoke was another exquisite vegetable-centric flavour bomb that threatened to steal the show from the carnivorous multi-course menu.
The meal ends with a taste of nostalgia in the form of a Popcorn and Polenta Sugar Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich filled with ‘Corn Flakes’ and ‘Frosties’ ice cream and topped off with an in-house-made caramel ice cap. If that doesn’t sound like your jam, then you can opt for the classic flavour combinations in the Madagascan Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut Dacquoise served with raspberry sorbet.
The Ice Cream Sandwich is a grown-up version of every child’s dream dessert. If you grew up gorging yourself on sugar-coated Frosties ice cream desserts topped with hardened Iced Cap caramel sauce, then this dessert will ace the nostalgia of both. The dessert not only offers the highly satisfying sensory thrill of shattering hardened caramel sauce with your spoon before digging in, but it also elevates beloved flavours of a South African childhood into a stunning sweet end for the arguably more refined adult palate.
Upper Union will be serving this new menu throughout the season, the restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner (the restaurant will close for the 25th & 26th of December 2023 and the 1st of January 2024).
The Pasture menu is priced at R650 per person (minimum 2 people sharing) while the Garden menu is R550 per person (minimum 2 people sharing). Visit the Upper Union website to book now.
After years of working as an Editor and writer for popular websites like Joburg’s Darling, Cape Town’s Darling and Joburg.co.za, Crystal left her sanity and an established career in lifestyle journalism behind to follow her dream of creating a website for the intellectual and discerning woman. Today she spends her time chasing the thrill of being the first to know about ‘the next big thing’. She’ll try anything once and has been known to put her body, hair and health on the line – all in the name of research.