When I was invited to media dinner at Purple Rayn, a new guesthouse in Constantia, I had a preconceived idea of what to expect. Rolling green lawns – possibly enhanced by a tinkly little fountain – set out before a quaint Dutch gable cottage stuffed to the brim with Carrol freakin’ Boyes. Never in a million years could I have guessed what I was in for… Purple Rayn turned out to be a hulking mansion huis. An angular, modern, multi-level building so big that it could easily pass for a freshly built shopping mall.
Decor-wise, the purple palace is a very eclectic mix. The owner’s large ball gown collection hangs from the walls. Glass-topped, chrome-legged office desks serve as dining tables and large round mirrors with gold Baroque-style frames press up against face brick. It’s all a little bit weird, but I like it. Crazy Constantia is a refreshing change from Stuffy Constantia, provided you’re not a stuffy person.
As far as food goes, Purple Rayn knocks it out the park. The Executive chef is Warren Carney and if his name rings a bell it’s because he once worked his magic for Madame Zingara and Kloof Street House. He created the Asian-inspired menu that was served to us in the Phantom Room, one of two restaurants on the property. There’s also a sushi bar plus a cocktail bar and a more casual bar on the roof that overlooks the Constantia Valley. Oh! And did I mention that Purple Rayn also has a spa? The place just goes on and on. But ja. Let’s get back to the food.
First up, we we’re given cold plates that kicked off with bread and mayo (R45). Sounds lame, right? But this was fancy pants deconstructed mayo you had to mix up yourself before slathering it onto melt-in-your-mouth ‘toast’ that was kind of like the savoury version of shortbread. So far so yum! We were then impressed further by a magnificent ostrich tataki (R95) served with tasty splodges the menu described as ginger, coriander, coffee and caramel.
I totally wanted more ostrich (carnivore for life, yo!) but then the Diwali oysters (R95 for two) arrived. What tops a Diwali oyster? I have no idea. Ginger again? Something pickled? Whatever it was it was good. Oysters are one of my favourite foods and I think they’re perfect on their own. The idea of adding multiple toppings has always struck me as being unnecessary, but in this case the Diwali oysters can stay. My hot date (my lovely Aunt Rosy) is also a firm believer that oysters shouldn’t be fiddled with and even she, the world’s biggest stickler, is now a convert.
Moving on, let’s talk hot plates. Being a spoiled cow (as well as super old), means I’ve had quite few quails in my day but the yakitori quail (R90) was the best I’ve eaten in years. It was crispy on the outside but succulent on the inside, tender but not fatty. It would’ve been a treat to eat sommer so, but was enhanced by a relish of ginger, cucumber, pickled daikon and salmon roe served in a mortar dish that you could mix up yourself using a pestle. It’s sparked an embarrassing quail fetish, I’m afraid. Where else can I get quail in Cape Town? Tell me. I want quail. Quail! (Isn’t it a lovely word? I now want to sit at a table with a giant serviette obnoxiously tucked into my collar, rhythmically slamming heavy silver cutlery on the table and wailing ‘Quaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiillll!’ until someone brings it to me. Like, I legit want to do that. Also, can you tell I’m writing this while on lots of painkillers? Never mind. Look at the quail!)
The sweet & sour chickpea dhal and paratha was also a major crowd pleaser. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I love pretty much all Indian food and these flavours hit the spot. The dish is also generously sized (despite looking small in the pic) and, at just R55, is definitely the menu’s best value in terms of cash vs fullness. If you go be sure to order it. It’s delish!
For me, the only so-so dish was the ramen noodles (R75). The broth just didn’t zing and I suddenly wished I was back in South East Asia, slurping up the real deal for less than R20 a pot.
To finish, we got to try all three desserts – ginger honeycomb cheesecake; white chocolate ice cream, miso sesame and orange; and coconut passionfruit, mango and raspberry panna cotta (R65) each. Full disclosure – my recollection of these is hazy ‘cos the super attentive waiters kept topping up my bubbly and I could only manage a tiny bite of each and most enjoyed the white chocolate ice cream because I’m addicted to sesame brittle. But ja, that was me done. I was completely stuffed. Unless they suddenly brought out more quail. Or oysters. Or ostrich. Or the Indian thing! Flip, you guys. So many of the dishes were very, very good.
If you’re looking to experience something quite different from the norm that’s typical to Constantia, pull into Purple Rayn.
P.S. I called my aunt. She can’t remember the dessert properly either. Oops. But a very nice excuse to come back.