Opal Lounge is sexy, sexy, sexy. The new owners have spared absolutely no expenses in fitting the place out and have created an atmosphere that makes it easy to forget you are a few metres away from the hectic nightlife of Kloof Street. Split into two main eating rooms, the restaurant celebrates the Chinese Revolution, displaying beautiful wooden carvings, ancient weapons, sculptures of warriors and document boxes. Walls are painted striking red and rich blue, with high wingback chairs, couches and console tables staggered throughout. I was blown away.
I arrived early and kicked things off with a dry Martini. Browsing through the bar menu, I was already getting pretty excited. No signs of peanuts or pretzels here! Instead there are things like pea mousse with chorizo crisps and salmon fingers with beetroot jam. The bar had certainly been set high for dinner.
Now, with restaurants as grand as this one my main concern is the food not being able to match expectations that are created by the decor. Too often restaurateurs spend all their money on creating a stunning venue, only to forget about the basics. I'm glad to say that, on my visit, Opal Lounge's food - for the most part - stood up to the challenge.
Things didn't get off to the best start when I ordered a bottle of wine and was told it was unavailable, only to order a starter that was also apparently unavailable. Eventually we got our replacement wine (Groote Post Shiraz, 2004) which was a very capable substitute and my starter of scallops served with a chorizo puree and a mini guava roll. The flavours worked well enough but if I tell you my scallops were the size of a R2 coin that is being generous. In his defense, the chef tried to compensate by giving me more of them however this made presentation look scruffy. The other starter at our table was a mushroom tortellini with a truffle dressing. The menu did say there was a goats cheese stuffing, but I didnt see any. I was actually glad, as the dish was perfect the way it was. The cheese might well have been too much.
For mains I went with almond-crusted venison which, on the night, was springbok. It was sensational, served with braised red cabbage and an apricot chutney. The Princess had a beef fillet with a pumpkin seed crust and the strange-sounding bolognaise jus. It was every bit as good as mine and would not have been out of place at a more celebrated restaurant (La Colombe, Jardine etc). By now we were both full and decided to share a dessert. After eating the tiramisu brulee I was bummed we hadn't each gotten one. It was sublime.
So, there you have it. The food is (perhaps unnecessarily) complex with foams, spooms, bubbles, gels etc. The flavours do deliver however. The bar area is awesome and the cocktail menu better than most. It is definitely worth arriving a bit early to walk around and admire the art (which, by the way, is for sale). There is also a beautiful little courtyard which I can see myself spending a good bit of time in come summer.
Find them at 30 Kloof Street (the old Manolo premises) or call them on (021) 422-4747.