Salsify at The Roundhouse, Markus Fiedler, Ryan Cole, Luke Dale Roberts Picture: Andy Lund
Salsify – Markus Fiedler, Ryan Cole, Luke Dale-Roberts. Pictures: Andy Lund

Chef Luke Dale-Roberts and Ryan Cole are the powerhouse behind fine dining eatery Salsify at the The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, Cape Town.

First a quick heads-up on the definition of Salsify (Sal-suh-fee): A root vegetable with an oyster-like flavour, popular in old French and modern British cuisine.

“I love Salsify, it’s the most unassuming of vegetables, with it’s ugly and rather unfortunate looking exterior, but it is absolutely amazing to work with, full of taste surprises and so versatile”, says Head Chef and operating partner Ryan Cole of Salsify, an addition to the Dale-Roberts empire which opened its doors in October 2018.

salsify reservations roundhouse

New directions

“I think it’s important to honour the legacy of The Round House and to do it justice with seriously good quality food and service”, says Ryan, who adds that Salsify is offering fine dining without the snobbery. “We want to really push boundaries of flavour and technique but we’re not trying to be a Test Kitchen, we will develop our own signature and style as we go”.

In reference to the restaurant’s name, a focus on ‘root to leaf’ dining is one of the elements of dishes that are on the menu, and there is a strong focus on fish (“my father was a career fisherman and my brother is one too, it’s in my DNA”, adds Ryan) and a waste-not-want-not nose-to-tail approach features too. “Cape Town has such amazing produce and we make the most of what our suppliers can source – I’m especially excited about the micro seasons we experience in the Cape and the produce that’s only available for a few weeks at a time.”

Talent show

The Test Kitchen was crowned Best in Africa and has also been named 50th at the World’s Best Restaurants awards in Barcelona.

Ryan has worked alongside Luke at The Test Kitchen as Head Chef, and when the opportunity for a new eatery at the historic Roundhouse arose, there was no question as to who would be heading things up.

“Ryan is a quick-minded natural talent, he’s one of the best technical chefs I’ve ever worked with and I trust him implicitly”, says Dale-Roberts, who plays an integral role in the new endeavour, but who is equally determined to give 29-year-old Cole autonomy in flexing his culinary muscles: “it’s part of the process of growing as a chef, I’m ready to let key members of the team take the reins in different places. I want the team here to grow into the space, to develop their own culinary handwriting and to make it something completely different to The Test Kitchen or Pot Luck Club”.

After various apprenticeships Ryan made his way to London in his early 20s, where he worked for years under some of the UK’s rising stars. Back in the Cape in 2015, a chance meeting with Luke and an invitation to come and see how things worked at The Test Kitchen led to Ryan’s entry into the Dale-Roberts’ way of work, and so his course was set. “Chef and I are always talking and we think the same way about a lot of things, he’s an incredible mentor, he’s always open to new flavour combinations and ideas, then he pushes you to make it the best it can be, it’s an amazing way to work and grow”, says Ryan.

Salsify at The Roundhouse - GM Markus Fiedler, Chef Ryan Cole Luke Dale Roberts Picture Andy Lund

Designed for the times

Salsify occupies the upper level of the historically significant Round House, and is dressed by Luke’s wife and design partner Sandalene in a way that honours its historic past.

On entering Salsify guests will be drawn in by graffiti by street artist Louis de Villiers, aka Skull Boy. This and a 1.3m bronze sculpture by  sculptor Otto du Plessis, named Salsify, is no doubt cause for conversation.

The building dates back to 1786 when it was first built as a round guard house, then later used as a hunting lodge for Sir Lord Charles Somerset. Over time The Roundhouse was also used as a home, a hotel with two ballrooms, tea room and restaurant.

“The Roundhouse has always been something of an anomaly, it’s shape is unusual, it’s had a pretty chequered past and there’s a romance to it that fuels people’s fascination with it, a restaurant that pushes boundaries just makes sense for it”, says Luke. The restaurant’s main dining areas are situated in the inner and outer rings of The Roundhouse.

There are huge, faded vintage Persian rugs set on the original faded oak floors, beautiful antique pieces are upholstered in jewel-coloured velvets and bring an undeniable sense of luxe to the space, while modern upholstered chairs in a mix of patterned velvets and fabrics emphasise the marriage of old world and new – we’re beyond playing things safe, we want people to be interested in wanting to know more about everything they see and taste”, says Sandalene.

It’s clear that Ryan, together with his polished team including GM Markus Fiedler (ex Test Kitchen) and Sommelier Nash Kanyangarara are able to take fine dining in Cape Town to new heights. “We’re ready for something new and we think the city is ready too”, says Luke.

What: Salsify fine dining
Where: Salsify The Roundhouse in Camps Bay
Salsify bookings: Open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner
Salsify reservations: Online via Bookings are open one month in advance from 8.30am. No email reservations. Info: +27 (021) 010 6444
Salsify hashtag: #salsifyroundhouse